EU Warns Tech Giants To Remove Terror Content in 1 Hour -- or Else ( 153

The European Union issued internet giants an ultimatum to remove illegal online terrorist content within an hour, or risk facing new EU-wide laws. From a report: The European Commission on Thursday issued a set of recommendations for companies and EU nations that apply to all forms of illegal internet material, "from terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement. Considering that terrorist content is most harmful in the first hours of its appearance online, all companies should remove such content within one hour from its referral as a general rule.â The commission last year called upon social media companies, including Facebook, Twitter and Google owner Alphabet, to develop a common set of tools to detect, block and remove terrorist propaganda and hate speech. Thursday's recommendations aim to "further step up" the work already done by governments and push firms to "redouble their efforts to take illegal content off the web more quickly and efficiently."

Twitter Asks For Help Fixing Its Toxicity Problem ( 155

Engadget: Twitter has come under a lot of fire in recent years for issues ranging from not doing enough to stop harassment on its platform to allowing foreign actors to sow political discord. In the past, the company has tweaked its tools, giving individuals more options when it comes to controlling what they're exposed to online, as well as updated its guidelines a handful of times. But today, Twitter announced it's trying out another route -- asking people outside of the company to propose ways that it can promote healthy, open and civil conversations online. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted today that the company isn't proud of how some have taken advantage of its service, specifically calling out troll armies, misinformation campaigns and bots. And he added that Twitter has been accused of apathy, censorship and political bias as it has attempted to fix its problems.

Stars Billions Of Years Old Drop Big Clue To Early Universe ( 20

Astronomers have picked up a radio signal from the moment the lights went on in the universe billions of years ago, and they've discovered some surprises embedded in it. No, not aliens, but potential evidence of something just as mysterious and elusive. From a report: Using a sensitive antenna only about the size of a table in the Australian desert, scientists managed to isolate the very faint signal of primordial hydrogen, part of the cosmic afterglow from the Big Bang. But the ancient signal from this basic building block of the universe also carries the imprint of some of the first light from the very first stars ever. "This is the first real signal that stars are starting to form, and starting to affect the medium around them," Alan Rogers, a scientist at MIT's Haystack Observatory, said in a statement. "What's happening in this period is that some of the radiation from the very first stars is starting to allow hydrogen to be seen. It's causing hydrogen to start absorbing the background radiation, so you start seeing it in silhouette, at particular radio frequencies." Rogers is a co-author of a paper on the work published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Snap Said To Skip Bonuses, Combat Morale Slump After Rough Year ( 16

An anonymous reader shares a report: On Wednesday, Snap (parent company of messaging service Snapchat) sent employees a survey asking a broad set of questions to understand what they're happy about, what they want to improve, and what they want to say, anonymously, one year after the company's initial public offering. Grievances will be aired. Just last month, the company reported revenue that beat Wall Street's projections for the first time, causing the stock to surge 47 percent. Internally, the picture isn't as celebratory. The year involved a complete rethinking of the advertising business, an exodus of top executives, a broadly critiqued redesign of the Snapchat photo-sharing application and stiff competition from Facebook's Instagram, leaving the shares close to their IPO price. While Snap topped Wall Street's estimates last quarter, employees were told they didn't beat internal goals -- and wouldn't be getting cash bonuses, according to people familiar with the matter.

Snap's internal targets weren't defined for employees, but that wasn't a surprise at a company where Chief Executive Officer Evan Spiegel tightly controls aspects of the business he cares about -- especially the spread of information, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. There is a sense among employees that since going public, Snap has only become more beholden to the one shareholder who matters: Spiegel.


Equifax Identifies Additional 2.4 Million Customers Hit By Data Breach ( 15

Credit score giant Equifax said on Thursday it had identified another 2.4 million U.S. consumers whose names and driver's license information were stolen in a data breach last year that affected half the U.S. population. From a report: The company said it was able confirm the identities of U.S. consumers whose driver's license information was taken by referencing other information in proprietary company records that the attackers did not steal. "Equifax will notify these newly identified U.S. consumers directly, and will offer identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services at no cost to them," the company said.

Your Love of Your Old Smartphone Is a Problem for Apple and Samsung ( 120

The smartphone industry has a culprit to blame for slumping sales: Its old devices remain too popular. From a report: Flashy phones of yesteryear, particularly Apple's iPhones and Samsung's Galaxy S handsets, are getting refurbished, and U.S. consumers are snapping them up. Many shoppers are balking at price tags for new phones pushing $1,000, and improvements on latest launches in many cases haven't impressed [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. As more people hold on to devices longer, new smartphone shipments plunged to historic lows at the end of 2017. "Smartphones now resemble the car industry very closely," said Sean Cleland, director of mobile at B-Stock Solutions, the world's largest platform for trade-in and overstock phones, based in Redwood City, Calif. "I still want to drive a Mercedes, but I'll wait a couple of years to buy the older model. Same mentality." Another trend borrowed from the car industry that has helped consumers get around sticker shock: leasing. Instead of buying new phones, Sprint and T-Mobile allow subscribers to effectively lease them, allowing them to trade up for the latest device. That option, though, hasn't yet gone mainstream.

[...] Second-hand phones long found their way to Africa, India and other developing markets. But now, U.S. buyers represent 93% of the purchases made at second-hand phone online auctions run by B-Stock, compared with an about-even split between the U.S. and the rest of the world in 2013. Samsung and Apple together sell more than one out of every three phones globally and capture about 95% of the industry's profits. U.S. consumers, spurred by two-year carrier contracts and phone subsidies, were upgrading every 23 months as recently as 2014, according to BayStreet Research, which tracks device sales. Now, people are holding onto their phones for an extra eight months. By next year, the time gap is estimated to widen to 33 months, BayStreet says.


Desktop PC Shipments Dip Below 100m/Year ( 54

Desktop PC shipments dipped below 100 million in 2017 and there's worse to come across the personal computing device market according to analyst firm IDC. From a report: The company on Wednesday published a summary of its Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker for 2017's final quarter in which it totted up shipments for the year across all forms of PC and slate-style tablets. The headline figure was a 2.7 per cent year-over-year decline. The firm said "commercial PC renewal momentum remained as the main catalyst in a market that was also tempered by lackluster demand for legacy form factor devices and component shortages." There was a little good news in 2017 with growth in notebook sales, as they grew more strongly than in any year since 2012, but the overall picture was poor.

Best Buy To Close All 250 of Its Smaller, Mobile Phone Stores ( 15

Best Buy is planning to close all of its roughly 250 smaller-format mobile phone stores, CEO Hubert Joly said to employees Wednesday in an internal memo, which was reviewed by CNBC. From a report: The stores, which are about 1,400 square feet in size compared with Best Buy's bigger boxes of 40,000 square feet, are scheduled to close by the end of May, he said. The mobile stores are almost exclusively located within malls, with a few scattered throughout open-air strip centers. "We feel good about the opportunity to retain customers and transition them to another one of our sales channels," Joly wrote to workers. "85 percent of existing standalone Mobile stores are within three miles of a Big Box store."

AI Cheats at Old Atari Games By Finding Unknown Bugs in the Code ( 45

An anonymous reader shares a report: AI research and video games are a match made in heaven. Researchers get a ready-made virtual environment with predefined goals they can control completely, and the AI agent gets to romp around without doing any damage. Sometimes, though, they do break things. Case in point is a paper published this week by a trio of machine learning researchers from the University of Freiburg in Germany. They were exploring a particular method of teaching AI agents to navigate video games (in this case, desktop ports of old Atari titles from the 1980s) when they discovered something odd. The software they were testing discovered a bug in the port of the retro video game Q*bert that allowed it to rack up near infinite points. As the trio describe in the paper, published on pre-print server arXiv, the agent was learning how to play Q*bert when it discovered an "interesting solution." Normally, in Q*bert, players jump from cube to cube, with this action changing the platforms' colors. Change all the colors (and dispatch some enemies), and you're rewarded with points and sent to the next level. The AI found a better way, though: "First, it completes the first level and then starts to jump from platform to platform in what seems to be a random manner. For a reason unknown to us, the game does not advance to the second round but the platforms start to blink and the agent quickly gains a huge amount of points (close to 1 million for our episode time limit)."

Even With Double the Subscribers, Spotify Says Apple Will Always Have an Edge Owning the App Store ( 25

On Wednesday, Spotify filed for a direct listing in the U.S., sidestepping the traditional IPO process, and now we're starting to see some of the true financial guts of the company -- and some of the significant risks it faces from challenging services from Apple and Google. From a report: Apple, for example, charges apps a percentage of revenue for subscriptions processed through the App Store. Apple Music, meanwhile, will always deliver Apple 100 percent of the subscription revenue that it receives from subscribers (sans record fees and all that kind of stuff, of course). Apple, too, has a direct integration with its iOS devices and also a huge amount of brand recognition, even though Spotify is a massive service. Spotify says it has 159 million monthly active users and 71 million premium subscribers, while Apple has 36 million paying subscribers as of February 2018. Spotify said, "In addition, Apple and Google also own application store platforms and are charging in-application purchase fees, which are not being levied on their own applications, thus creating a competitive advantage for themselves against us. As the market for on-demand music on the internet and mobile and connected devices increases, new competitors, business models, and solutions are likely to emerge."

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