Businesses

Comcast Confirms Plan To Buy 21st Century Fox and Control of Hulu (arstechnica.com) 6

Comcast is reportedly preparing an offer to buy major portions of 21st Century Fox, which would give it majority control of Hulu and other media properties. Ars Technica reports: Walt Disney Company already has a $52.4 billion all-stock deal to buy the 21st Century Fox properties. But Comcast was rumored to be lining up $60 billion in financing in order to make a hostile bid for the Fox assets, and Comcast's announcement today confirms it. Comcast "is considering, and is in advanced stages of preparing, an offer for the businesses that Fox has agreed to sell to Disney," Comcast's announcement said. Comcast is working on the offer in preparation for shareholder meetings in which the Disney/Fox deal will be considered.

The Fox properties for sale do not include assets such as the Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, and Fox Broadcasting Company. Those properties would be spun off into a company being referred to as "New Fox," and Comcast would acquire 21st Century Fox after the spinoff. The Fox sale to either Disney or Comcast would include 21st Century Fox's film and television studios; cable entertainment networks; the Fox Sports Regional Networks; and international properties including Star in India and Fox's 39-percent ownership of Sky across Europe. The sale would also include Fox's 30-percent stake in Hulu, the popular online video streaming service. Comcast already owns 30 percent of Hulu, so a deal with Fox would give the nation's largest cable company majority control over the online video provider.

Businesses

Elon Musk To Fight Fake News, Rate Journalists' Credibility Via a Site Called 'Pravda' 60

Elon Musk took to Twitter today to announce his next project: a site called "Pravda" that ranks journalists' credibility and fights fake news. "Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication," tweeted Musk. "Thinking of calling it Pravda..." Musk continued: "Even if some of the public doesn't care about the credibility score, the journalists, editors & publications will. It is how they define themselves." A subsequent Twitter poll (exposed to mostly Musk followers) reveals that most people believe "this would be good."

Accredited journalist Mark Harris replied to the Tesla and SpaceX CEO with a copy of a Statement and Designation by Foreign Corporation form that names the Pravda Corp. "Er, he's not kidding folks," Harris tweeted. "I noticed that one of Musk's agents had incorporated Pravda Corp in California back in October last year. I was wondering what it was all about..."

GeekWire has catalogued a string of replies between Musk and Twitter users who are supportive/unsupportive of his plans.
Facebook

Facebook Asks British Users To Submit Their Nudes as Protection Against Revenge Porn (betanews.com) 94

Mark Wilson writes: Following on from a trial in Australia, Facebook is rolling out anti-revenge porn measures to the UK. In order that it can protect British users from failing victim to revenge porn, the social network is asking them to send in naked photos of themselves. The basic premise of the idea is: send us nudes, and we'll stop others from seeing them .
Transportation

Uber Shutting Down Self-Driving Operations In Arizona After Fatal Crash (azcentral.com) 33

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Arizona Republic: Uber is shutting down its self-driving car tests in Arizona, where one of the cars was involved in a fatal crash with a pedestrian in March, the company said Wednesday. The company notified about 300 Arizona workers in the self-driving program that they were being terminated just before 9 a.m. Wednesday. The shutdown should take several weeks. Test drivers for the autonomous cars have not worked since the accident in Tempe, but Uber said they continued to be paid. The company's self-driving trucks have also been shelved since the accident. Uber plans to restart testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh once federal investigators conclude their inquiry into the Tempe crash. The company also said it is having discussions with California leaders to restart testing.
Security

Personal Records of Nearly 1 Million South Africans Leaked Online (iafrikan.com) 17

Tefo Mohapi, reporting for iAfrikan: Barely a year after South Africa's largest data leak was revealed in 2017, the country has suffered yet another data leak as 934,000 personal records of South Africans have been leaked publicly online. The data includes, among others, national identity numbers (ID numbers), e-mail addresses, full names, as well as plain text passwords to what appears to be a traffic fines related online system. Working together with Troy Hunt, an Australian Security consultant and founder of haveibeenpwned, along with an anonymous source that has been communicating with iAfrikan and Hunt, we've managed to establish that the data was backed up or posted publicly by one of the companies responsible for traffic fines online payments in South Africa. "I have a new leak which might be worthwhile, the database leak contains 1 million records of personal information of South African citizens. Including Identity numbers, cell phone numbers, email addresses, and passwords. I am aware of the website this was leaked from," said our source upon initial contact.
Government

US Government Can't Get Controversial Kaspersky Lab Software Off Its Networks (thedailybeast.com) 74

The law says American agencies must eliminate the use of Kaspersky Lab software by October. But U.S. officials say that's impossible as the security suite is embedded too deep in our infrastructure, The Daily Beast reported Wednesday. From a report: Multiple divisions of the U.S. government are confronting the reality that code written by the Moscow-based security company is embedded deep within American infrastructure, in routers, firewalls, and other hardware -- and nobody is certain how to get rid of it. "It's messy, and it's going to take way longer than a year," said one U.S. official. "Congress didn't give anyone money to replace these devices, and the budget had no wiggle-room to begin with."

At issue is a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) enacted last December that requires the government to fully purge itself of "any hardware, software, or services developed or provided, in whole or in part," by Kaspersky Lab. The law was a dramatic expansion of an earlier DHS directive that only outlawed "Kaspersky-branded" products. Both measures came after months of saber rattling by the U.S., which has grown increasingly anxious about Kaspersky's presence in federal networks in the wake of Russia's 2016 election interference campaign.

United States

NYC Transit Boss Unveils Sweeping 10-Year Subway Modernization Plan (nbcnewyork.com) 39

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping plan to modernize the city's subway system over the next 10 years. From a report: The proposal, which new New York City Transit President Andy Byford called "Fast Forward," centers on overhauling the mass transit network's signaling system -- some of which dates back to the early 20th century -- 30 years sooner than current Subway Action Plan.

But it won't come without a good bit of pain: sources told News 4 that Byford's plan would require entire lines to be taken out of service during overnight and weekend hours for extended periods. Byford -- who took over the task of running the city's subways and buses earlier this year -- said in an MTA meeting Wednesday that the work would be split into two five-year chunks. Over the first five years parts or all of the 4,5, 6, E, F, M, R, A, C, E and G lines would receive modern signaling systems. That would include the entirety of the Lexington Avenue line, which carries the 4, 5 and 6 trains and is the most-used mass transit line in the United States.

Social Networks

President Trump Can't Block People On Twitter, Court Rules (knightcolumbia.org) 251

Reader drunken_boxer777 writes: US District Judge Buchwald issued a 75-page ruling today clearly articulating why Donald Trump cannot block Twitter users, as it violates their First Amendment rights.

"Turning to the merits of plaintiffs' First Amendment claim, we hold that the speech in which they seek to engage is protected by the First Amendment and that the President and Scavino exert governmental control over certain aspects of the @realDonaldTrump account, including the interactive space of the tweets sent from the account. That interactive space is susceptible to analysis under the Supreme Court's forum doctrines, and is properly characterized as a designated public forum. The viewpoint-based exclusion of the individual plaintiffs from that designated public forum is proscribed by the First Amendment and cannot be justified by the President's personal First Amendment interests."
Further reading: Bloomberg.
PlayStation (Games)

Next PlayStation Is Three Years Off, Sony Says (wsj.com) 66

Don't hold your breath for the fifth-generation PlayStation. From a report: Sony wants to spend three more years readying its next videogame move [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], the head of the PlayStation business said Wednesday. That would mark a slight slowdown in the six-to-seven-year update cycle for the console since the first one in 1994. The PlayStation 4 went on sale in 2013 and has sold more than 79 million units. [...] Speaking to a small group of reporters, Tsuyoshi "John" Kodera, who took over last October. said the network-services side of PlayStation is changing the way Sony thinks about product introductions. "We need to depart from the traditional way of looking at the console life cycle," he said. "We're no longer in a time when you can think just about the console or just about the network like they're two different things."
AI

UK Military Fears Robots Learning War From Video Games (bbc.com) 56

Robots that train themselves in battle tactics by playing video games could be used to mount cyber-attacks, the UK military fears. From a report: The warning is in a Ministry of Defence report on artificial intelligence. Researchers in Silicon Valley are using strategy games, such as Starcraft II, to teach systems how to solve complex problems on their own. But artificial intelligence (AI) programs can then "be readily adapted" to wage cyber-warfare, the MoD says. Officials are particularly concerned about the ability of rogue states and terrorists to mount advanced persistent threat attacks, which can disable critical infrastructure and steal sensitive information.
United States

The US Military is Funding an Effort To Catch Deepfakes and Other AI Trickery (technologyreview.com) 63

The Department of Defense is funding a project that will try to determine whether the increasingly real-looking fake video and audio generated by artificial intelligence might soon be impossible to distinguish from the real thing -- even for another AI system. From a report: This summer, under a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the world's leading digital forensics experts will gather for an AI fakery contest. They will compete to generate the most convincing AI-generated fake video, imagery, and audio -- and they will also try to develop tools that can catch these counterfeits automatically. The contest will include so-called "deepfakes," videos in which one person's face is stitched onto another person's body.

Rather predictably, the technology has already been used to generate a number of counterfeit celebrity porn videos. But the method could also be used to create a clip of a politician saying or doing something outrageous. DARPA's technologists are especially concerned about a relatively new AI technique that could make AI fakery almost impossible to spot automatically. Using what are known as generative adversarial networks, or GANs, it is possible to generate stunningly realistic artificial imagery.

Security

Backdoor Account Found in D-Link DIR-620 Routers (bleepingcomputer.com) 92

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Security researchers have found a backdoor account in the firmware of D-Link DIR-620 routers that allows hackers to take over any device reachable via the Internet. Discovered by Kaspersky Lab researchers, this backdoor grants an attacker access to the device's web panel, and there's no way in which device owners can disable this secret account. The only way to protect devices from getting hacked is to avoid having the router expose its admin panel on the WAN interface, and hence, reachable from anywhere on the Internet.
Science

Legend of Loch Ness Monster Will Be Tested With DNA Samples (apnews.com) 67

The stories seem as tall as the lake is deep. For hundreds of years, visitors to Scotland's Loch Ness have described seeing a monster that some believe lurks in the depths. But now the legend of "Nessie" may have no place left to hide. From a report: A New Zealand scientist is leading an international team to the lake next month, where they will take samples of the murky waters and conduct DNA tests to determine what species live there. University of Otago professor Neil Gemmell says he's no believer in Nessie, but he wants to take people on an adventure and communicate some science along the way. Besides, he says, his kids think it's one of the coolest things he's ever done. One of the more far-fetched theories is that Nessie is a long-necked plesiosaur that somehow survived the period when dinosaurs became extinct. Another theory is that the monster is actually a sturgeon or giant catfish. Many believe the sightings are hoaxes or can be explained by floating logs or strong winds.
Security

Cyber Firms Warn on Suspected Russian Plan To Attack Ukraine (reuters.com) 62

Jim Finkle, reporting for Reuters: Cisco Systems on Wednesday warned that hackers have infected at least 500,000 routers and storage devices in dozens of countries with highly sophisticated malicious software, possibly in preparation for another massive cyber attack on Ukraine. Cisco's Talos cyber intelligence unit said it has high confidence that the Russian government is behind the campaign, dubbed VPNFilter, because the hacking software shares code with malware used in previous cyber attacks that the U.S. government has attributed to Moscow. Cisco said the malware could be used for espionage, to interfere with internet communications or launch destructive attacks on Ukraine, which has previously blamed Russia for massive hacks that took out parts of its energy grid and shuttered factories. Head of Ukraine's cyber police said on Wednesday that the agency is aware of new large malware campaign, and that it is working to protect Ukraine against possible new cyber threat.
AI

Microsoft Also Has An AI Bot That Makes Phone Calls To Humans (theverge.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: At an AI event in London today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showed off the company's Xiaoice (pronounced "SHAO-ICE") social chat bot. Microsoft has been testing Xiaoice in China, and Nadella revealed the bot has 500 million "friends" and more than 16 channels for Chinese users to interact with it through WeChat and other popular messaging services. Microsoft has turned Xiaoice, which is Chinese for "little Bing," into a friendly bot that has convinced some of its users that the bot is a friend or a human being. "Xiaoice has her own TV show, it writes poetry, and it does many interesting things," reveals Nadella. "It's a bit of a celebrity."

While most of Xiaoice's interactions have been in text conversations, Microsoft has started allowing the chat bot to call people on their phones. It's not exactly the same as Google Duplex, which uses the Assistant to make calls on your behalf, but instead it holds a phone conversation with you. "One of the things we started doing earlier this year is having full duplex conversations," explains Nadella. "So now Xiaoice can be conversing with you in WeChat and stop and call you. Then you can just talk to it using voice." (The term "full duplex" here refers to a conversation where both participants can speak at the same time; it's not a reference to Google's product, which was named after the same jargon.)

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