Instagram launches selfie filters, copying the last big Snapchat feature

Today Instagram Stories adds a more subtle and mature but error-prone copycat of Snapchats beloved augmented reality selfie filters. The eight initial face filters, as Instagram calls them, work exactly like Snapchat, and let you add virtual koala ears, nerd glasses, a butterfly crown or wrinkle-smooth makeup to yourself and friends in photos or videos.

TechCrunch got an exclusive hands-on demo of the filters, which are easier to use and dont distort your face as much, but dont track your movements and stay properly positioned on you face as well as Snapchats. You can watch our hands-on demo video below, and follow along and watch our interview with Instagrams VP of Product Kevin Weil today at TechCrunch Disrupt in our post:Instagram on copying Snapchat This is the way the tech industry works

The face filters are the last major Snapchat Stories feature missing from Instagram after it cloned Snaps slideshow-sharing format, overlaid creative tools, disappearing Direct messages and more. Without a compelling reason for new users to pick the original Snapchat Stories over the Instagram Stories clone, Instagram could thereby widen the gap by adding to its 200 million daily Stories users that already outnumber Snapchats 166 million total users, and further slow down Snaps growth rate that led it to lose 25 percent of its share price value after it announced weak earnings last week.

Face filters and three more features roll out to all users today via an iOS and Android app update. An eraser tool will let you remove drawings you added to an image, though it cant Photoshop out objects from the original image like Snapchats Magic Eraser. Instagrams new Rewind mode plays videos in reverse, just like one of Snapchats oldest filters.

The most original new Instagram feature is the ability to type a hashtag and add it to your Stories posts as a sticker, just like a location sticker. When viewers tap on these stickers, theyll be taken to the Instagram hashtag page showing other public, permanent posts with that hashtag. Eventually, though, you could imagine the ability to search Stories by hashtag, or watch a Hashtag Story compiled from all the publicly visible Stories with that label. Instagram actually just started testing Location Stories.

Instagrams new eraser, rewind mode and Stories hashtags

Face filters for adults too

Theres a lot of exciting work being done around augmented reality, an Instagram spokesperson said when asked about the app copying Snapchats face filters. Weve heard from our community that they want more creative ways to share everyday moments and engage with friends. With face filters, they have more tools than ever at their fingertips, and all in one place.

While that dodges the question a bit, the last part is revealing. Instagram wants to be the one-stop shop for visual communication, no matter your age. Instagrams spin on Snapchats selfie masks is designed to make them simple and less wacky so they appeal to users beyond teens. If youre not into Stories, you can also use Face Filters with Instagram Direct and Boomerang, as well as images you might want to post to the main feed.

Instead of needing to know you tap on the screen to activate face filters like in Snapchat, Instagram steals that access point so its intuitive for veteran mask users, but also adds a Smiley button to reveal the tray of 8 filters along the bottom of the screen.

The designs and specific filters were built by the Instagram team, says the Instagram spokesperson. But referring to the AR startup Facebook acquired last year, they noted that The underlying technology uses MSQRDs imaging technology and proprietary technology from Facebooks applied machine learning teams.

Instagram wouldnt share whether the available filters will expand, rotate or come and go, but theydid say well be bringing more face filters to the community on a regular basis. Heres a brief overview of the initial set:

  • Gold Crown A Caesar-style golden wreath around you head, this filter is subtle and universal enough to be a good introduction to filters.
  • Koala This cute filter adds a Koala nose and ears that raise in surprise when you open your mouth, though it falls short of being as adorable as Snapchats iconic puppy filter.
  • Nerd Glasses This one swirls math equations around your head, can appear on two people at once and features glasses that slip down your nose if you tilt forward.
  • Bunny Another attempt at beating Snapchats puppy filter, these ears raise in surprise when you open your mouth, and react to gravity by folding over if you learn side to side.
  • Butterfly Crown Instagrams attempt at Snapchats Coachella-favorite flower crown puts a wreathe of butterflies on your head that flitter off as you move.
  • Ice Crown You exhale steam as snowflakes flurry around with this ice crown.
  • Peacock Giant purple feathers in the foreground shield you from view until theyre pulled aside to reveal you, when you lean forward, looking like a 1930s flapper.
  • Makeup Instagrams final face filter washes a golden hue over you, smoothing your wrinkles so you look more beautiful.

Overall, the filters are meant to subtly augment your face rather than completely cover it or change its shape like some of Snapchats more aggressive filters do. While that makes them less playful and noticeable, theyre also more artful and mature something that adults might actually use.

For now Instagram wont allow Sponsored Face Filters, but those could come eventually to rival Snapchats similar ad unit. With all the most popular Snapchat Stories features successfully cloned, the smaller things left include adding 3D augmented reality objects to the world around you.

Now things should get more interesting as Instagram will have to do more innovating as its run out of stuff to copy.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/16/instagram-face-filters/

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Ransomware attack ‘like having a Tomahawk missile stolen’, says Microsoft boss

Brad Smith says Wannacry attack that locked up to 200,000 computers in 150 countries is a wake-up call amid fears more will be hit as week begins

The massive ransomware attack that caused damage across the globe over the weekend should be a wake-up call for governments, the president of Microsoft has said.

Security officials around the world are scrambling to find who was behind the attack which affected 200,000 computer users and closed factories, hospitals and schools by using malicious software that believed to have been stolen from the US National Security Agency.

Europol, the pan-European Union crime-fighting agency, said the threat was escalating and predicted the number of ransomware victims was likely to grow across the private and public sectors as people returned to work on Monday.

But Brad Smith, Microsoft presidents and chief legal officer, said on Sunday that it was the latest example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments was such a problem.

Smith, whose companys older system software such as Windows XP was exploited by the ransomware, wrote in a blog post : The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call, Smith wrote. We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits.

An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.

Cyber security experts said the spread of the virus dubbed WannaCry had slowed but that the respite might only be brief amid fears it could cause new havoc on Monday when employees return to work.

New versions of the worm are expected, they said, and the extent and economic cost of the damage from Fridays attack were unclear.

Its going to be big, but its too early to say how much its going to cost because we still dont know the magnitude of the attacks, said Mark Weatherford, an security executive whose previous jobs included a senior cyber post with the US Department of Homeland Security.

The investigations into the attack were in the early stages, and attribution for cyber attacks is notoriously difficult.

US President Donald Trump on Friday night ordered his homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, to convene an emergency meeting to assess the threat posed by the global attack, a senior administration official told Reuters.

Senior US security officials held another meeting in the White House situation room on Saturday, and the FBI and the National Security Agency were working to help mitigate damage and identify the perpetrators of the attack, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The NSA is widely believed to have developed the hacking tool that was leaked online in April and used as a catalyst for the ransomware attack.

The original attack lost momentum late on Friday after a security researcher inadvertently took control of a server connected to the outbreak, which crippled a feature that caused the malware to rapidly spread across infected networks.

Infected computers appear to largely be out-of-date devices that organisations deemed not worth the price of upgrading or, in some cases, machines involved in manufacturing or hospital functions that proved too difficult to patch without possibly disrupting crucial operations, security experts said.

Marin Ivezic, cyber security partner at PwC, said that some clients had been working around the clock since the story broke to restore systems and install software updates, or patches, or restore systems from backups.

Microsoft released patches last month and on Friday to fix a vulnerability that allowed the worm to spread across networks, a rare and powerful feature that caused infections to surge on Friday.

Code for exploiting that bug, which is known as Eternal Blue, was released on the internet in March by a hacking group known as the Shadow Brokers. The group said it was stolen from a repository of NSA hacking tools. The agency has not responded to requests for comment.

Hong Kong-based Ivezic said that the ransomware was forcing some more mature clients affected by the worm to abandon their usual cautious testing of patches to do unscheduled downtime and urgent patching, which is causing some inconvenience.

He declined to identify clients that had been affected.

The head of the European Union police agency said on Sunday the cyber assault hit 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries and that number would grow when people return to work on Monday.

At the moment, we are in the face of an escalating threat. The numbers are going up, I am worried about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn (on) their machines on Monday morning, Europol director Rob Wainwright told Britains ITV.

Monday was expected to be a busy day, especially in Asia which may not have seen the worst of the impact yet, as companies and organisations turned on their computers.

Expect to hear a lot more about this tomorrow morning when users are back in their offices and might fall for phishing emails or other as yet unconfirmed ways the worm may propagate, said Christian Karam, a Singapore-based security researcher.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/15/ransomware-attack-like-having-a-tomahawk-missile-stolen-says-microsoft-boss

LikeFolio is an app for understanding the stock market via Twitter

Image: bloomberg/getty images

When Donald Trump tweets, the stock moves.

Twitter’s influence on the stock market isn’t breaking news (traders used Twitter data to predict Brexit, the 2016 election and other societal moves), but a new app is trying to put that knowledge into the hands of more people not just bankers and professional stocker traders.

LikeFolio, released this week, uses Twitter data and mobile notifications to keep people on top of how the market could be moving.

For example, a user can choose to sign-up for a section of the app called “Sharks,” which includes big-name investors. Users will then receive a notification if one of the listed investors tweets about a public company:

Just because O’Leary tweeted about Snapchat ($SNAP on the New York Stock Exchange) doesn’t mean the stock is going to move one way or another. But it can have an effect.

Twitter itself actually does a good job of keeping track when they believe a tweet directly impacts the market. The company started a blog series this month called “Finance Tweets of the Month.”

The blog’s first post, written by Mark Dimont, a product manager for Bloomberg Terminal news applications (with an introduction by Twitter’s Head of Global Financial Data Jared Podnos), points to Elon Musk’s tweet, “Stormy weather in Shortyville,” from April.

Musk is “informal, blunt and not afraid to talk stocks,” Dimont wrote.

“We have seen the way Donald Trump tweets and Elon Musk tweets have moved the market,” said Andy Swan, the founder of LikeFolio. “One of the purposes [of the app] is to bring investing to people who are kind of interested but not ready to go yet. For us it’s about making that connection to real life. You have more insight than you think.”

Swan has been running LikeFolio for almost four years, where he specializes in connecting social data and consumer behavior with stocks. His company provides research for companies and a unique API that is used by hedge funds and other financial firms.

The new app has some Wall Street credentials through a sponsorship by the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. Clients can access “premium channels,” such as accounts of certain fund managers and even some influencers like Oprah.

Image: likefolio screenshots

Social media is where many consumer conversations are happening. We want to help decipher the chatter to provide a source of insight, helping investors make more informed decisions,” John Hart, managing director, trading and product development at TD Ameritrade, said in an emailed statement.

“The LikeFolio Influencer Alerts app is a natural and novel extension to our suite of social tools,” he continued.

This partnership is the first time TD Ameritrade has been involved in an app like this one that provides social alerts. The brokerage firm already had an existing relationship with Swan and LikeFolio from other social data work.

LikeFolio is not making any money off of investors’ decisions. Instead, TD Ameritrade is holistically sponsoring the effort. LikeFolio and TD Ameritrade are not providing any financial advice for individuals within the app.

“We dont want a conversation of whether you should pay down your student loans or invest in stocks,” Swan said, “but once youre ready this is a cool way to introduce yourselves to the market. It’s not just Wall Street life.”

Swan said this is only the first iteration of the app. He plans to add more channels, such as topical ones based on what is in the day’s news.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/12/app-stock-twitter-data-likefolio/

Twitter CFO thinks WH press briefings via Twitter are a great idea!

As President Trump continues to degrade our democracy and diminish the freedom of the press, Twitters CFO/COO Anthony Noto sees a marketing opportunity.

Trump issued a thinly veiled threat this morning on Twitter, saying that maybe he should cancel the century-old tradition of daily White House press briefings, offering instead to issue written responses for the sake of accuracy.

Of course, there are countless (actually countless, cough Sarah Huckabee Sanders cough) reasons why the White House press briefing is critical to the coverage of the President and his ability to communicate with the public. To name just a few, live press briefings allow the media to push back on false statements, ask questions, get clarifications, and allow the public to watch these exchanges live.

But with Trump, in particular, the removal of the daily press briefing is even more dangerous. Trump, armed with his two Twitter accounts, has already used social media more than any other President, and his Twitter feed seems to purposefully undermine and circumvent the media.

The threat to cancel White House press briefings in exchange for written, prepared responses is laughable. Except for the fact that it makes me want to cry.

You cant blame the guy for asking. Twitter is just starting to get its groove back, and from a business perspective, a Twitter-ized WH press briefing would be a huge win for the company. But it certainly looks like opportunism (or worse, ignorance) on the part of Noto and Twitter to send this tweet.

Chris Sacca tweeted a response to Noto:

In terms of the well-being of the United States of America, which relies on a free press and some level of transparency between the WH and the media, a Twitter-based WH press briefing is actually rather dangerous.

Just as the government itself operates with a level of checks and balances, the media offers another set of checks and balances for the White Houses relationship with the public. The press briefing, while flawed, is a critical piece of that. Moving the interaction to Twitter would turn the press into just another account clamoring for the Presidents attention. Which is exactly what he wants.

So, yeah have a great Friday!

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/12/twitter-cfo-thinks-wh-press-briefings-via-twitter-are-a-great-idea/

Apples Watch can detect an abnormal heart rhythm with 97% accuracy, UCSF study says

According to a study conducted through heartbeat measurement app Cardiogram and the University of California, San Francisco, the Apple Watch is 97 percent accurate in detecting the most common abnormal heart rhythm when paired with an AI-based algorithm.

The study involved 6,158 participants recruited through the Cardiogram app on Apple Watch. Most of the participants in the UCSF Health eHeart study had normal EKG readings. However, 200 of them had been diagnosed with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heartbeat). Engineers thentrained a deep neural network to identify these abnormal heart rhythms from Apple Watch heart rate data.

Cardiogram began the study with UCSF in 2016 to discover whether the Apple Watch could detect an oncoming stroke.About a quarter of strokes are caused by an abnormal heart rhythm, according to Cardiogram co-founder and data scientist for UCSFs eHeart study Brandon Ballinger.

Cardiogram tested the deep neural network it had built against 51 in-hospital cardioversions (a procedure that restores the hearts normal rhythm) and says it achieved a 97 percent accuracy in the neural networks ability to find irregular heart activity.

So far this is just a study built on a preliminary algorithm but it holds promise in trying to identify and prevent stroke in the future. Atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormal heart rhythm, causes 1 in 4 strokes. Ballinger says two-thirds of those types of strokes are preventable with relatively inexpensive drugs.

And more people, including older populations most prone to stroke risk, are starting to use wearable technology such as Fitbit or the Apple Watch, which can double as heart monitors. Including algorithms trained to identify heart problems could help save lives in some of these more at-risk populations.

It should be noted mobile EKG readers have also made great strides in the past few years. The Mayo Clinic teamed up on a study involving AI and AliveCors version of an EKGreader, which sticks onto the back of a smartphone and uses the Kardia app to determine abnormal heart rhythm, and determined it was as good as other EKG devices used in the doctors office. The Mayo Clinic felt so strongly about this study it invested in AliveCors latest $30 million round.

In the meantime, Cardiogram and UCSF will continue its eHealth study and plan to further validate its deep neural network against multiple gold standards, incorporating the results into the Cardiogram app itself, and investigating the ability to detect health conditions beyond atrial fibrillation, according to Cardiogram.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/11/apples-watch-can-detect-an-abnormal-heart-rhythm-with-97-accuracy-ucsf-study-says/

Facebook culls tens of thousands of fake accounts ahead of UK election

Facebook has revealed that it has purged tens of thousands of fake accounts in the U.K. ahead of a generalelection next month.

The BBC reported this non-specific figure earlier today, with Facebook alsosaying it is monitoring the repeated posting of the same content or a sharp increase in messaging and flagging accounts displaying suchactivity.

Providing more detail onthese measures, Facebook told us: These changes help us detect fake accounts on our service more effectively including ones that are hard to spot. Weve made improvements to recognize these inauthentic accounts more easily by identifying patterns of activity without assessing the content itself. For example, our systems may detect repeated posting of the same content, or an increase in messages sent. With these changes, we expect we will also reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts.

Facebook has previously been accused of liberal bias bydemoting conservative viewsin its Trending Topics feature which likely explains why its so keen to specify thatsystems its built totry tosuppress the spread of certain types of inauthentic content do not assess the content itself.

Another fake news-relatedtweak Facebook says it has brought to the U.K. to try to combat the spread of misinformationis to take note of whether people share an article theyve read with itsrational being that if a lot of people dont share something theyve read itmight be because the information ismisleading.

Were always looking to improve News Feed by listening to what the community is telling us. Weve found that if reading an article makes people significantly less likely to share it, that may be a sign that a story has misled people in some way.In December, we started to test incorporating this signal into ranking, specifically for articles that are outliers, where people who read the article are significantly less likely to share it. Were now expanding the test to the UK, Facebook said on this.

The companyhas also taken out adverts in U.K. national newspapers displayingtips to help people spot fake news having takensimilar steps in France last month prior to its presidential election.

In a statement about its approach to tackling fake news in the U.K., Facebooksdirector of policy for the country, Simon Milner, claimed the companyis doing everything we can.

People want to see accurate information on Facebook and so do we. That is why we are doing everything we can to tackle the problem of false news, he said. We have developed new ways to identify and remove fake accounts that might be spreading false news so that we get to the root of the problem. To help people spot false news we are showing tips to everyone on Facebook on how to identify if something they see is false. We cant solve this problem alone so we are supporting third party fact checkers during the election in their work with news organisations, so they can independently assess facts and stories.

Fakebook?

A spokesperson told us that Facebooks how to spot fake news ads (pictured below) are running in U.K. publications, including The Times, The Telegraph, Metro and The Guardian.

Tips the companyis promoting include being skeptical of headlines; checking URLs to viewthe source of the information; askingwhether photos look like they have been manipulated; and cross-referencingwith other news sources to try to verify whether areport has multiple sources publishing it.

Facebook does not appear to be running these ads in U.K. newspapers with the largest readerships, such as The Sun and The Daily Mail, which suggests the exercise is mostlya PR drive bythe company to try to be seen to be taking some verypublic steps tofight the fake news political hot potato.

The political temperature on this issue is not letting up for Facebook.Last month, for example,a U.K. parliamentary committee said thecompany mustdo more to combat fake news criticizing itfor not responding fast enough to complaints.

They can spot quite quickly when something goes viral. They should then be able to check whether that story is true or not and, if it is fake, blocking it or alerting people to the fact that it is disputed. It cant just be users referring the validity of the story. They have to make a judgment about whether a story is fake or not, arguedselect committee chairman Damian Collins.

Facebook has alsobeen under growing pressurein the U.K.for not swiftly handling complaints about the spread of hate speech, extremist and illegal content on its platform andearlier this monthanother parliamentary committee urgedthe government to considerimposing fines on it and other major social platforms for content moderation failures in a bid toimpose better moderation standards.

Add to that Facebooks specific role in influencing theelections, which again will be facing scrutiny later today when the BBCs Panorama program screens an investigationof how content spread via Facebookduringthe U.S. election and the U.K.s Brexit referendum including considering how much money the social networking giant makes from fake news.

The BBC is already teasingthis spectacularly awkward clip of Milner being interviewed for the program, where he is repeatedly asked how much money the company makes from fake news and repeatedly fails to provide a specific answer.

Facebook declined to respond on this when we asked for comment on the programs claims.

Safe to say, there are some very awkward questions for Facebook here (as there has been for Google too, recently, relating to ads being served alongside extremist content on YouTube). And while Milner says the company aspires to reduce to zero the money it makes from fake news, its clearly not yetin a position to say itdoes notfinancially benefit from the spread of misinformation.

And while its also truethat some traditional media outlets have or canbenefit from spreading falsity earlier this year, for example, The Daily Mail wasitself effectively branded a source of fake news by Wikipedia editors who voted to exclude it as a source for the website on the grounds that the information it contains is generally unreliable theissue with Facebook goes beyond having an individually skewededitorial agenda. Its about a massively scalable distribution technology whose corephilosophy is tooperate without any preemptive editorial checks and balances at all.

The point is, Facebooksstaggering size, combined with the algorithmic hierarchyof its News Feed, whichcancreate feedback loops ofpopularity, means its productcan act as anamplification platform for fake news. And for all The Daily Mails evident divisiveness, itdoes not controla global distribution platform thats pushing close to two billion active users.

So, really, its Facebooks unprecedented reach and power that isthe core ofthe issue here when youre considering whether technology might be undermining democracy.

No other media outlet has ever come close to such scale. And thatswhy this issueis intrinsically bound up withFacebook becauseitforegrounds the vast power the platform wields, and the commensurate lack of regulation in how it appliesthat power.

Ads in national newspapers are therefore really best viewed as Facebook trying to influence politicians, as lawmakers wake up to thepower of Facebook. So maybe there should be an eleventh tip in Facebooks false news advert: Consider the underlying agenda.

In the U.K., Facebook says that it is working with local third-party fact-checking organizationFull Fact, and with the Google News Lab-backed First Draftorganization, to work with major newsrooms to address rumors and misinformation spreading online during the UK general election echoing the approachit announced in Germany in January, ahead of German elections thisSeptember although the effectiveness of that approach has already been questioned.

Facebook says full details of the U.K. initiativewill be announced in due course. The U.K.s surprise General Election called by Prime Minister Theresa May late last month, despite her previously stated intentnot to call an election before2020 presumably caught the company on the hop.

With just one month to go until polling day in the U.K. it remains to be seen whether Mays election U-turn also caught the fake political news spreaders on the hop.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/08/facebook-culls-tens-of-thousands-of-fake-accounts-ahead-of-uk-election/

Simplify your email inbox (and life) with these easy tricks

"Oh hell yeah, an email from Bob!"
Image: Getty

We’ve all been there. Missing that one important email because your inbox is cluttered with garbage.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Thankfully, there are numerous tricks you can use to make sure that you see the emails you want to see, when you want to see them. While the specifics of your digital streamlining will vary depending on your email provider of choice, that’s OK! We’re here to break it all down for you, nice and easy like.

Gmail

Google’s Gmail offers up numerous options to flag important incoming emails, and even employs one of them by default. The default flag is called an “importance marker,” and it’s slapped on an email after Google’s fancy algorithms have used a variety of factors to determine that it’s worth giving a damn about.

Those factors include, but are not limited to, practical considerations like “who you email, and how often you email them,” “which emails you open,” and “which emails you reply to.”

If Google does decide an email is worthy of an importance marker, you’ll see what looks like a little rightward-facing arrow in your inbox pointing to the message in question. If you only want to see emails marked in this way, search “is:important” in your inbox search bar.

But what if this default option isn’t a good fit? What if Gmail’s importance markers miss your actually important stuff and only serve to confuse you?

That’s totally cool, because there are more tools in the Gmail toolshed.

Such a special email.

Image: Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Your first step after deciding to ditch importance markers should be to disable the feature. You can do this by logging into your account (via browser) and clicking on the gear icon in the upper-right corner. Next, select “settings” and then click “inbox.” Scroll down to “importance markers” and select “no markers.”

That’s it. You’re free of Google deciding what emails you should read, and, conversely, what you should ignore.

The magic of filters

That means it’s time to set up your own filters. The obvious one it to mark specific people as being really important: Your boss, your partner, your best friend, or your lawyer are people whose emails you wouldn’t want to miss.

The steps to mark specific senders as important are relatively straightforward. First, type the person’s email address in your browser search bar. After you search for them, select the “more” drop-down menu then choose “create filter.” The next part looks tricky, but if you’ve made it this far into this story you can definitely manage. Make sure the important email address is in the “from” field, and then select “create filter with this search.”

The next screen gives you the option to have Gmail star future message from that sender, mark them as important, or to make sure those messages stay out of the spam folder. For truly important people, we recommend you check all three.

Image: mashable/gmail

Don’t forget to hit “create filter,” and you’re done.

Easy, right? Now you’ll never miss another vital email in your Gmail account (jk you totally still will every now and then, but that’s because you’re a human being).

Outlook Mail

Microsoft makes it easy to designate emails as deserving of special attention, and goes one step further by allowing you to automatically pin messages to the top of your inbox.

That’s right, whenever that email from your mom comes in it will stay front and center.

To turn on auto-pin, search for an email from said mom (she’s bound to have sent you at least one) and, once you have it open, click on the “more commands” ellipsis in the toolbar. Next, choose “create rule” and make sure the condition for “it was received from” is both selected and has your mom’s name in it. Then, remove any conditions that don’t apply and then click the “move the message to folder” drop-down menu. After selecting “pin the message,” don’t forget to hit “OK” in the upper-left hand corner.

You have now mastered the Outlook Mail pin.

To designate a specific sender as important you can follow the same pinning steps up until the last part, and instead of selecting “pin the message” just choose the “mark the message” “with importance” option.

Boom. Easy. Kinda.

Yahoo! Mail

The first, and perhaps most important step you should take when using Yahoo! Mail is to stop using Yahoo! Mail (we only sort of kid). If you like the interface for whatever reason, or just don’t want to give up that totally sick “yournamecool@yahoo.com” handle then there are some measures you can take to prioritize messages from the all stars in your life.

Run, don’t walk, away from your Yahoo! Mail account.

Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Start things off by creating a new folder in your inbox and titling it something like “Boss Baby.” Next, make sure emails from any important people are automatically sent to that folder.

It’s simple enough to do: Open an email from one of your very Boss Baby-like friends or colleagues and select the “more” drop-down menu.

Now, click on “filter emails like this.” The “from” field should include the address of your special person (you can add more than one address in the field), and, when you’ve added all the appropriate email addresses, choose your folder labeled “Boss Baby” from the “then move the message to this folder” drop-down tab. Lastly, click “save” and you’re good to go!

You still have a Yahoo! Mail account, but at least it’s modestly organized now.

The ugly truth

The reality of email these days is that even with the above steps, stuff you actually give a hoot about is still going to get lost in the mix. With that in mind, the best approach is might actually be to have multiple email accounts (I have five that I use regularly, and several other throwaways).

It sounds like a pain, but it’s not really. Almost everyone reading this likely has at least two different email accounts (work and personal) already. Try breaking out your personal accounts into themed groups. One account could be tied to all your social media accounts, a second tied to your friends, family, and banking, and yet another for any service or list that you need to sign up for. Then, within each account, go ahead and follow the steps outlined earlier in this piece.

This approach will take you a while to set up, but it is oh so sweet when you have it dialed in. And when you finally do, you can rest easy knowing that no notification from Facebook will ever again drown out that email from Grandma.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/07/email-tricks-simplify-inbox-utility/

Third parties have always been the key to Amazons smart home domination plans

For Amazon, hardware has always been a means to an end. From the Kindle e-reader to the Fire tablets to its TV offerings, the company has always treated the space as something of a loss leader even with its most popular offerings. Amazon has found success in pricing devices much closer to cost than the competition something a company can only really get away with if it plans to make up for things somewhere down the road, like, say if youre in the content selling business.

The Echo line is no different, of course. The goal of the hardware hub is simple: to seed living rooms with its smart assistant and become an essential part of the connected home. The desktop-mounted devices were a first step toward getting Alexa into the world, and while the company has made it clear it isnt done with the Echo line (as evidenced by the recent launch of the Look), its ready to let other companies do the heavy lifting.

The actual success of the Echo line took most (likely Amazon included) by surprise. The company never likes to give out exact numbers when it comes to hardware, but by all accounts, the products have been a massive success. Over the holidays, it noted that it had sold 9x as many Echo devices as it had the previous year, only saying that the number was in the millions.

But the next phase in Amazons master plan has been rolling out for the past year-and-a-half, as the company has not only embraced third-party hardware makers its actively engaged them. Last week, Amazon joined component company Conexant to announce the release of the AudioSmart Development Kit for Alexa Voice Service a second devkit aimed at streamlining the process of bringing Alexa voice functionality to their devices.

The day prior, smart appliance maker Ecobee announced that the Amazons smart home assistant would be a part of its products in a big way, moving forward. It would start with a new version of the companys connected thermostat built using an earlier version of the Conexant dev kit. Later in the year, it will be bringing the functionality to connected light switches, with the semi-ominous goal of weaving the power of voice into the walls of entire households.

The thermostat marked something of a departure from many Alexa-enabled devices before it, in that it wasnt simply the addition of an Alexa skill to an existing product. Nor was it a desk-mounted device designed to compete directly with the Echo line. Only a few of its voice-enabled functions actually pertain to thermostat features. The other 12,000 or so essentially make the product an Echo surrogate, silently waiting for its wake word.

Its proof of concept for the company that Alexa is just as good outside the Echo. More to the point, its the tip of a growing trend in which third-party manufacturers help spread the Alexa gospel. Its no coincidence, of course, that Ecobee was a $35 million recipient of Amazons Alexa Fund, a VC campaign that believe[s] experiences designed around the human voice will fundamentally improve the way people use technology. And, you know, promoting the companys own titular assistant a bit along the way doesnt hurt, either, right?

Amazon happily tosses out a number from RBC that puts Alexa on 128 million devices by the end of 2020 (with roughly half that number sold that year). It seems like a stretch at the current rate, but adoption certainly does appearto be snowballing a particularly impressive feat given that the fact that unlike Siri and Google Assistant, the product didnt have smartphones as a jumping off point.

Though, in recent months, the assistants success has been large enough in North America that a handful of smartphone markers have eschewed Googles offering in favor of Amazon, which is no doubt something of a sweet revenge for a company that failed so publicly in its own attempt to launch a smart home offering.

But while Echoes will likely continue to see for some time, thanks in part to regular refreshes of the line, Amazon is working on its own planned obsolescence. The more the functionality is baked into third-party products, the less need users will have for their own standalone Echo devices. And thats perfectly fine for Amazon.

The Echo line has done its job better than Amazon could have imagined, putting the company well ahead of Apple and Google with regards to penetrating the smart home. For millions of users, the Echo will be their first dip in the waters of the connected home. They purchased an Echo because of the neat tricks they say on TV or the recommendation of a friend. The fact that it can control the high tech smart lights they had their eye on is just a bonus.

Amazon has done the hard work of getting Alexa out into the world. The next couple of years, the burden of follow through will be on the many hardware partners looking to the cash in on Alexas success. And on Apple and Google, who have a lot of catching up to do.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/06/amazon-echo-world-domination/

Automation poses a high risk to 1.2m Scottish jobs, report says – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images

Nearly half of Scottish jobs could be carried out by machines in just over 10 years’ time, a report has warned.

The Institute for Public Policy Research Scotland said 46% of jobs – about 1.2 million – were at “high risk” of automation in the period up to 2030.

The think tank’s research says that, by then, adults are “more likely to be working longer, and will often have multiple jobs”.

It said skills qualifications “should be reviewed”.

IPPR Scotland said changes were needed so people can get more training and career support when they are mid-way through their working life.

The think tank wants to the see the establishment of an Open Institute of Technology to achieve this, saying this could bring about “improved rates of career progression, pay and productivity, starting in low-skill sectors”.

It also recommends the establishment of a new unit to tackle what it calls the “progression gap” – poor levels of career progression which can hold back low-skilled workers.

Skills system

It said it suspected this problem was “related to the attainment gap at school” and added that addressing the issue would “work to tackle rates of in-work poverty and drive social mobility in Scotland”.

It put forward the recommendations in its Scotland’s Skills 2030 report, which said: “The world of work in 2030 will be very different to that in 2017. People are more likely to be working longer, and will often have multiple jobs, with multiple employers and in multiple careers.

“Over 2.5 million adults in Scotland (nearly 80%) will still be of working age by 2030. At the same time, over 46% of jobs (1.2 million) in Scotland are at high risk of automation.

Image copyright AFP

“We will therefore need a skills system ready to work with people throughout their careers.

While qualifications levels “have been steadily improving and are higher than levels in the UK as a whole”, the report said that Scotland “continues to have lower rates of in-work progression” than the UK as a whole, while pay rates have reduced in real terms and are behind those for the UK.

It added that there is a “clear gap in mid-career provision, which employers are not addressing”.

The think tank suggested that skills qualifications “should be reviewed to ensure they remain fit for their purpose” and also called for the Scottish government to consider how business tax allowances could be used to encourage investment in skills by employers.

‘Clear gap’

IPPR Scotland director Russell Gunson said: “Scotland urgently needs to design a skills system better able to work with people already into their careers to help them to retrain, re-skill and respond to world of work of 2030.”

He added: “Scotland has a really strong record on skills in many ways, and in this report we find that Scotland is the highest-skilled nation in the UK.

“However, our system has a clear gap in that we don’t have enough provision for people who have already started their careers, and employers are not investing to fill this gap.

“To respond to the huge changes facing Scotland around demographic, technological and climate change – and of course Brexit – we’re going to have to focus on retrofitting the current workforce to provide them with the skills they need, to deliver the inclusive economic growth we wish to see.

“Our report makes a number of recommendations to help Scotland plot a path through these challenges, to reform the skills system in Scotland, to help to secure an economy that delivers fairness and reduces inequality.

‘Relentless pace of change’

“Without reform of the skills system we could see changes to the economy harm whole sections of population, and whole communities, leaving many behind.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “Our Labour Market Strategy recognises that Scotland’s workforce is highly educated, flexible and adaptable. It’s already responding well to the challenges of the 21st Century.

“We know the pace of technological change will be relentless in the years ahead, but we are confident there will be opportunities, as well as challenges, for a country with Scotland’s fundamental economic strengths.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39830113

Apple patent shows how an iPhone could quickly dispel water from its speaker

Image: lili sams/mashable

Your next iPhone may be able to spit out water using sound.

Apple’s latest patent, published on Thursday details a mechanism to essentially blast out excess water from your iPhone’s earpiece or speaker.

Why would you want this? To keep your precious iPhone dry and prevent liquid from damaging any internal components, of course.

The patent describes two parts of a meshing screen cover, a “hydrophobic portion to resist the entry of liquid” and a “hydrophilic portion to aid in the removal of liquid” in the iPhone’s audio chambers.

To monitor the liquid removal process a tone or acoustic signal may be generated by the speaker,” which will help detect and remove the liquid. This is like an existing feature on the Apple Watch Series 2 called “Eject Water Mode,” which also blasts out water through its tiny speaker using sound. You can see how it works with Apple Watch 2 in the video below:

Obviously, the Apple’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are already water-resistant, but there’s currently no mechanism for removing water from the speakers, microphone or the lightning port. You just have to let them dry out on their own. A feature like the one described in the patent could speed up that process.

Since the technology is only a patent, there’s no guarantee if it’ll ever make it into an iPhone. But we’ve got our fingers crossed.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/05/apple-iphone-water-eject-patent/

Facebook beats in Q1 with $8.03B revenue, faster growth to 1.94B users

Facebook had another strong quarter, beating estimates to start 2017. It scored $8.03 billion in revenue and $1.04 GAAP actual EPS in Q1compared to $0.87 EPS estimate. It earned that from 1.94 billion users, up from 1.86 billion last quarter, growing at a faster 4.3 percent compared to 3.91 perecent last quarter.

Steady Growth, Strong Profits

At this rate Facebook should hit 2 billion total users in Q2.Daily active users reached 1.28 billion, up from 1.23 billion last quarter. While fake news, video violence, and copying Snapchat have all been fixtures of the Facebook news cycle, its user growth actually grew during the time period. Facebook added 3 million monthly users in the lucrative but saturated US & Canada market, though the Asia-Pacific region was the big driver, where Facebook added 43 million users.

The company told investors that Facebook is no longer reporting non-GAAP expenses, income, tax rate, and earnings per share (EPS). That means it will be more prominently disclosing stock-based compensation in its expenses, which is important since tech companies like Facebook pay employees lots of stock that vests over time to keep them from leaving.

[Correction: TechCrunch and several other publications wrongly compared the new GAAP actual EPS with the non-GAAP analyst estimate, since Facebook no longer reports non-GAAP financials. Since Facebooks GAAP actual EPS was $1.04 compared to the analyst estimate of $0.87, Facebook actually beat the street this quarter, rather than having mixed results as we originally reported.]

Facebook beat analyst estimates on revenue, which were $7.83 billion. Facebook had closed the market earlier today down 0.68 percent at $151.80. Shares dropped 2.37 percent in after-hours trading. Todays report shows that running out of News Feed ad space hasnt prevented Facebook from continuing to grow its revenue.

Mobile now counts for 85 percent of Facebooks ad revenue, compared to 84 percent last quarter, accounting for $6.7 billion in ad revenue. Facebook earned $3.06 billion in profit in Q1, up 76% year-over-year while revenue grew 49% year-over-year. Facebook managed to slow the decline of its games payments business, with it earning $175 million in Q1 compared to $180 million last quarter and $195 million in Q3. Facebook stopped reporting mobile-only users.

Headcount grew to 18,770 people, up 38 percent YOY. Facebooks total costs were $4.7 billion, giving it a 41% operating margin, down from 52% margin last quarter.

Facebooks focus on the developing world with apps like the 200 million-user Facebook Lite, recently rolled-out Messenger Lite, and new Instagram offline mode are paying off. Average revenue per user in the Rest Of World region hit $1.27, up 40% in a year.

Zuckerberg On Leapfrogging Snapchat

During the earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg gave an overview of Facebooks work on its new mission to build community that the CEO described in his humanitarian manifestoin February. Progress includes getting people to join community groups, launching Community Help for organizing disaster and crisis relief, and launching Townhall to connect people to their elected representatives.

One important piece of news from the call was the first indication of the performance of WhatsApp Status, the Facebook-owned messaging apps Snapchat Stories clone. Zuckerberg said WhatsApp Status now has 175 million daily users just 10 weeks after launch, making it larger than Snapchat as a whole.

But Zuckerbergs most electric comments came when he characterized Facebooks progress in visual communication and augmented reality versus competitors. While he didnt name Snapchat, the comparison was implied when he said (emphasis mine):

I think we were a little bit late to the trend initially around making cameras the center of how sharing works. But I do think at this point were pretty much ahead in terms of the technology that were building, and making an open platform I think is a big step forward. A lot of people are using these products across our family of apps. And I would expect us to continue leading the way forward on this from this point on.

The CEO seems bullish on outside developers helping Facebook to produce a wider ranger of AR content than Snap can itself. When asked about monetizing AR, Zuckerberg brought up how object recognition could enable floating Buy buttons on real world things.

Another significant point from the call was Facebooks growing emphasis on long-form video and purposeful viewing, rather than the short-form video people spontaneously discover in the feed today. Efforts to thwart ad blockers have also succeeded, with CFO David Wehner saying Facebook served 32% more ad impressions in Q1 2017 versus Q1 2016.

Scandals Dont Slow Facebook

eMarketer estimates that Facebook will generate $36.29 billion in net digital ad revenue in 2017, up 35% from last year. That would give it the second largest share of the global online ad market with16.2%, behind Googles 33%. 45% of Facebook ad revenue is expected to come from the US. While Facebook doesnt break out Instagram financials, eMarketer expects it to earn $3.92 billion in global ad revenue, or 12.3% of Facebooks ad revenue.

Advertisers continue to report positive results from their ads on Facebook, but they remain concerned about things like fake news and the measurement glitches that Facebook has revealed says eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson. How the company addresses these and other concerns will be a key factor that determines whether revenue growth continues as strongly in the next few quarters and years as it has in the recent past.

Q1 saw Facebook spin up several new products that could turn into serious money-makers for the social network. Following the success of Instagram Stories, Facebook continued its efforts to clone Snapchat with the launch of Messenger Day, Facebook Stories, and WhatsApp Status. These clones could dampen growth for Snapchat while eventually sucking in marketing dollars from the ads it will likely insert between Stories as it does on Instagram.

Competing with LinkedIn, Facebook launched job opening posts that can be turned into ads. Facebook began testing ad breaks inside of recorded videos as well as Live broadcasts, and will keep 45% of the ad revenue while paying creators 55%.

But Facebook saw trouble with Oculus, paying $300 million (plus $200 million from Oculus founders) to Zenimax after losing a lawsuit about stolen intellectual property. Co-founder Palmer Luckey left the company, and Oculusreduced the price of its Rift headset amidst slow sales of tethered VR hardware across the industry.

The biggest story of the quarter was Facebooks on-going struggles to fight fake news and offensive content. Its begun working with outside fact checkers, hired a former New York Times product manager to run news product, made banned content reporting easier, and today announced it will hire 3000 people to speed up vetting of flagged content. Yet even that controversy hasnt seemed to slow down the social juggernaut.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/03/facebook-q1-2017-earnings/

Ultrahaptics raises $23 million for its invisible touchless interfaces

As huge tech companies continue to dump money into VR and AR technology lookingto convince us digital objects in front of us are actually real, theyre still having a tough time figuring out how to make them feel real.

Ultrahaptics is working on a technology that uses ultrasound waves to construct 3D objects in the air that users can feel. The startupis looking to use this tech to build touchless interfaces that go beyond conventional hand-tracking, allowing users to flip invisible switches and turn dials mid-air while feeling haptic feedback so they can tell when theyre completing an action.

The Bristol, England-based company announced in a blog post today that it has secured $23 million (17.9 million) in a Series B round offunding.Dolby Family Ventures, Woodford Investment Management, Cornes and the IP Group participated in the round. Ultrahaptics has raised nearly $40 million to date.

The company has some interesting initiatives when it comes to virtual reality input, but another one of the main areas theyre currently seeking customers is in the automotive space, where theyre working with partners to bring Ultrahaptics tech into the dashboards of cars so drivers can control interfaceswith hand gestures.I had a chance to demo an Ultrahaptics solution a couple of months ago and, whileits pretty clear that the company is stillin the early stages of finding use cases for its tech, its definitely an interestingsolution to some tired problems.

While technologies like hand-tracking have been the augmented reality control input du jour, one of itsbiggest issues is the lack of tactile feedback. Ultrahaptics hopes that their solution can meet some of the needs of the VR and AR industries, whether its by attaching a device to a headset or keeping it as more of a tabletop experience.

The company currently has a Touch development kit available for developers looking to build on their ultrasound platform. Ultrahaptics is looking to ship an update this quarter that givesdevs a library of sensations to integrate into their interfaces.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/03/ultrahaptics-raises-23-million-for-its-invisible-touchless-interfaces/

Facebook shares dip from high as investors fret over costs, future profit

The worlds biggest online social network is searching for new advertising features to supplement main revenue streams that it expects to cool off this year

Facebook reported surging quarterly profit and revenue on Wednesday, helped by its fast-growing mobile ad business. But its shares dipped from a record high in after-hours trading as investors showed some nervousness about future earnings.

The worlds biggest online social network, which is nearing the five-year anniversary of its initial public offering, is searching for new types of advertising features to supplement its main revenue streams that it expects to cool off this year.

Facebooks shares fell 2.4% in after-hours trading to $148.12. They had closed at an all-time high of $153.60 on Tuesday.

Chief financial officer David Wehner said on a conference call after the companys earnings announcement that ad revenue growth was expected to come down significantly over the rest of 2017, repeating prior company warnings that it was hitting a limit in ad load, or the number of ads it can squeeze onto users pages before upsetting them.

Wehner gave similar warnings about ad load in November and in February, although a slowdown has not materialized.

New products, such as ads that play in the middle of videos or appear on Facebooks Messenger app, could fuel growth, but Wehner and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday those plans were still in early stages.

At the same time, the company said expenses would continue at a high level, growing 40% to 50% this year over 2016 levels and putting a squeeze on future profits.

As we look into 2017 and beyond, there are going to be a number of initiatives we believe are valuable to the community and to the company in the long term that are going to be net negative on our operating margin, Wehner said.

Facebooks spending contributed to the drop in share price after hours, said Josh Olson, an Edward Jones analyst.

Investors were hoping for some indication that we would see some relief as the year progressed, and we still could. I think that expense guidance range, left unchanged, is probably what is weighing on shares, Olson said.

Facebook said quarterly profit in the first three months of 2017 rose 76.6% year-over year to $3.06bn and total revenue went up 49% to $8.03bn.

The company is expected to generate $31.94bn in mobile ad revenue globally in 2017, up 42.1% from a year earlier, according to research firm eMarketer.

That would give Facebook a 22.6% share of the worldwide mobile ad market, with archrival Google of Alphabet projected to be the leader with a 35.1% share, according to eMarketer.

Facebook continued its march toward the 2 billion user threshold, saying it had some 1.94 billion people using its service monthly as of 31 March. That was up 17% from a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected monthly active users of 1.91 billion, according to financial data and analytics firm FactSet.

Net income attributable to Facebook shareholders rose to $3.06bn, or $1.04 per share, in the first quarter from $1.73bn, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier.

Mobile ad revenue accounted for about 85% of the companys total advertising revenue of $7.86bn in the first quarter ended 31 March, compared with about 82% a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected total ad revenue of $7.68bn, according to FactSet.

Earlier in the day, Zuckerberg said the company would add 3,000 people over the next year to monitor and remove murders, suicides and other inappropriate material from its network, which have become a threat to Facebooks valuable public image.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/03/facebook-shares-dip-mark-zuckerberg-ads

‘We sold our home to build a social network’ – BBC News

Image copyright Meffu Graphics
Image caption Perry, Mollie, Sam and Lisa Hughes are determined to succeed in the social media market.

The Hughes family in Manchester have quit their jobs and put everything they own into building a social network aimed solely at sports fans. But can they take on the giants?

“We see ourselves sitting at the top table with the big boys,” says father Perry Hughes confidently.

“We don’t think we’re taking on the competition.”

It might sound optimistic to put your family business in the same league as the multi-billion dollar social networks but the Hughes family certainly have the passion to give it a go.

Their big idea is GameDay Xtra, which has the bold ambition of hosting a page for every single sports team and player in the world – with even the humblest of leagues able to share their own news.

Son Sam, 21, has suspended his university studies and works through the night on the project. Daughter Mollie, 18, handles the social media side.

GameDay is purely for sports fans, the family say.

Image copyright GameDay Xtra
Image caption The family hope to include all sports.

Members get live news feeds of sporting events, form their own groups and networks, follow games play-by-play, and in future will also be able to play bespoke interactive games themselves within the site.

“Super fans” will also be able to run the team or player pages of their choice if the real deal doesn’t snap up their own page themselves.

The family say it currently has a few thousand members and will open for broader membership in August this year.

“We saw an opening in the market,” says Sam, who is also an eSports video game player.

“It’s good to work with family. We’re all hard working, committed to the project.”

Perry Hughes admits the family “panicked” when Facebook launched its Sports Stadium for sports fans in January 2016 but these days he does not consider them to be GameDay’s rivals.

In fact two Facebook execs have joined the closed trial, he claims.

“When we saw what they did [with Stadium] we laughed,” he says.

There are five planned “phases” for the platform, and the family are secretive about what those will be.

Phase two will be only unleashed once they have one million members because the licensing is going to be expensive, Mr Hughes says.

“Phase three will be: ‘what have they built!'” he teases.

Image copyright Gameday Xtra
Image caption The website is still being tested.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, financing the idea has proved to be the biggest challenge.

“We went to a lot of investors. They said the scale of the project was too big,” said Mr Hughes.

“We sold the house, the cars, everything. We ran out of money twice.

“We all gave up our jobs and committed totally to this. At times it’s been lonely.

“When you put all your money into one project you are keeping an eye on everything.”

They have now secured significant funding from a Russian backer, whom they decline to identify.

The family are also coy about how they plan to make money from GameDay but hint that it will be similar to Facebook and Instagram’s business model.

“We will be carrying some ads – but we don’t want to end up with loads of videos and so on,” said Mr Hughes.

“This is not about ‘build it, sell it and move on’. We think we are going to change the way media is done.”

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Facebook’s Sports Stadium also targets sports fans.

Emma Sinclair MBE, tech entrepreneur and investor, said she admired their ambition but was “unconvinced” that the platform could live up to the family’s expectations.

“Sports fans are already likely using one or more of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat. That’s in addition to text, Whatsapp, email. And they will no doubt have their favourite sports hubs too relating to teams they support and commentators they follow,” she said.

“There’s a lot of competition and noise out there and for a start-up on a small budget, competing with giants and established players for attention is an expensive and ambitious job.

“As an angel investor and with the little information I have to hand, I am currently unconvinced that this site has the capacity to disrupt the market and come out on top as a key hub for sports fans as things stand.

“This being a site in beta however, I hope they prove me wrong and I wish them luck.”

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39744294

Judge argues net neutrality violates the free speech rights of internet providers

In perhaps the most absurd attack on net neutrality yet attempted, a federal judge argues that the rules established in 2015 by the FCC violate the first amendment rights of internet service providers. Fortunately, this line of reasoning is as ineffectual as it is mistaken.

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the net neutrality order last year; it was a significant victory for proponents. But because not every judge weighed in on the decision, there was a petition for another hearing en banc, meaning with all judges present.

The decision issued today rejected that petition on numerous grounds, though not unanimously. Judges Janice Brown and Brett Kavanaugh attached lengthy dissenting statements.

It is Judge Kavanaugh who makes the first amendment argument. He relies on a court decision from 1994 involving Turner Broadcasting in which cable TV providers were found to exert (and deserve) free speech rights when choosing programming to air; they could not, the court found, be required by law to carry certain shows or promote the views of certain people.

It was a good decision and still timely, but in attempting to apply it to net neutrality, Kavanaugh immediately loses the plot:

Internet service providers and cable operators perform the same kinds of functions in their respective networks. Just like cable operators, Internet service providers deliver content to consumers. Internet service providers may not necessarily generate much content of their own, but they may decide what content they will transmit, just as cable operators decide what content they will transmit. Deciding whether and how to transmit ESPN and deciding whether and how to transmit ESPN.com are not meaningfully different for First Amendment purposes.

This is, of course, wrong on several counts. If youd like to know exactly why, the majority opinion in the courts ruling (PDF) goes through it in detail. But briefly summarized:

  • Cable operators advertise an editorially curated selection of programming. ISPs advertise indiscriminate access to all internet content.
  • ISPs do not decide what information they will transmit. In many cases they have no way of knowing what information they are transmitting.
  • ISPs in fact enjoy safe harbor and other rules because they are indiscriminate providers of access, and could be held liable if they approved content deemed illegal, infringing, etc.

Kavanaugh also takes a trip down the slippery slope, suggesting that having designated broadband providers for special regulation, the next stop is Google, Facebook and TechCrunch well, he didnt mention it by name, but its implied. The conflation of telecommunications provider with edge provider, social media and press outlet is extremely disingenuous.

Judge Brown shows a similar unfamiliarity with the fundamentals of internet service in her dissenting statement. She wishes to make it plain that under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, from which the FCC derives much authority, information services are explicitly excluded from common carrier regulation like the 2015 net neutrality rules.

And its true! But like Kavanaugh, Brown immediately undermines her own position with a baffling misunderstanding of the facts:

Unsurprisingly, the Acts definition of information service fits broadband Internet access like a glove. [G]enerating, acquiring, storing, or making available information via telecommunications is what users do on social media websites like Facebook. See id. 153(24). [T]ransforming or utilizing information via telecommunications is what users do on YouTube. See id. [A]cquiring, storing, and retrieving information via telecommunications is what users do with email. See id. The offering of a capability for engaging in all of these activities is exactly what is provided by broadband Internet access.

The things she lists (with the possible exception of email for those still on, say, an @comcast.com address) are all accomplished by services that operate totally independently of internet providers. Her argument is the equivalent of saying that telephone lines can look up any fact, because you can call the New York Public Library. Its like saying the US Postal Service has a huge selection of vacuums to choose from, because they deliver from Amazon.

Internet providers do not generate, acquire, store, transform, utilize or retrieve information. They take information that has been generated, acquired, stored, transformed, utilized or retrieved by others and transmit it. That is their defining characteristic, and the capability that they offer as a product.

Tellingly, the majority opinion skips over this self-destroying argument to address a more salient one about the nature of an important Supreme Court decision granting the FCC power to classify broadband providers how it chooses. The explanation is clear and helpful, and only 10 pages long if youre interested. You can read the ruling here.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/01/judge-argues-net-neutrality-violates-the-free-speech-rights-of-internet-providers/