Tim Cook Hits Back at Critics over Apple Jobs in America

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has hit back at critics who claim that the company is abandoning American workers in favor of foreign manufacturing operations. In an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Wednesday, Cook explained that the tech giant is constantly ploughing money into the American economy. He suggested that […]
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Critics Love HomePod’s Sound but Rap Its Smarts

Critics have begun weighing in on Apple’s HomePod smart speaker, and they’re loving the device’s sound but don’t have much affection for its smarts. The HomePod’s sound outclassed top-shelf competitor SonosOne, according to Matthew Panzarino. “The HomePod was the ‘best’ sounding. It’s nuanced and subtle with great separation and clarity across all kinds of music,” he wrote. “The One, for instance, had decent mid range but an overly bright high-end with just the out of the box calibration.”

Why are scientists filing lawsuits against their critics?

Scientific disputes traditionally have been settled by time and experiment, but lately researchers are using the judicial system to resolve what appear to be fundamentally scientific issues, or to defend themselves against critiques of their work. The latest such case was filed by Mark Jacobson, a climatologist at Stanford University, who wants $ 10 million from the first author and publisher of a recent critique of his work.

Jacobson’s paper, which he co-wrote with colleagues, was called “Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes.” In it, he argued that computer models show the U.S. could switch to a completely green energy grid by about 2055. It was…

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The New York Times is getting blasted by media critics for its portrait of a white supremacist

How can media organizations best introduce readers to disturbing views?

The New York Times is getting some severe online backlash from media figures this weekend after it attempted to portray how ordinary people in America’s communities could harbor white supremacism.

On Saturday, The Times published an story online headlined ‘A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland’ that details the relative pedestrian existence of Tony Hovater in New Carlisle, Ohio. The story aimed to unpack how Hovater’s disturbing views on race do not dominate his life or turn him into a universal pariah in his community — a noble journalistic attempt to try to add texture and complexity to an ascendant group of American voters of whom many readers don’t have first-hand exposure.

But the reaction to the piece has been sharp and unsparing. Critics in the media have been arguing that the piece “normalizes” the neo-Nazi ideology and gives the story’s protagonist too much ink in the nation’s most prominent newspaper to spread his viewpoints.

Here’s just some of the reaction online:

The author of the story, Richard Fausset, tried to explained his mission in a companion ‘Times Insider’ published alongside the profile. Fausset acknowledged that he had not found all the answers in his quest to understand what motivated Hovater’s radicalism, but he still wanted to offer readers a snapshot of what it is like to speak with an avowed white supremacist.

“Sometimes all we can bring you is the words of the police spokesman, the suspect’s picture from a high school yearbook, the acrid stench of the burned woods,” wrote Fausset. “Sometimes a soul, and its shape, remain obscure to both writer and reader.”

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Governments in 30 countries manipulated media online to silence critics, sow unrest or influence elections

The latest report on internet freedom by Freedom House finds online discourse in the United States is suffering.

It isn’t just Russia that’s spreading disinformation on Facebook, Google and Twitter in a bid to stir political unrest and silence critics around the globe.

A new report from Freedom House released Tuesday found that governments in 30 countries — not just the Kremlin, but also the regimes in Turkey, Venezuela and the Philippines — are now “mass producing their own content to distort the digital landscape in their favor.”

In Sudan, for example, the government maintains a virtual cyber army that has infiltrated Facebook, WhatsApp and other services in order to spread its leaders’ messages. In Venezuela, government forces “regularly used manipulated footage to disseminate lies about opposition protesters or the media, creating confusion” ahead of its last election.

The watchdog found that these efforts to manipulate information online — by governments or other forces — may have affected 18 countries’ elections, “damaging citizens’ ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate.” That included the U.S., where Russian-sponsored trolls fueled conflict around controversial debates like immigration, gun control and gay rights.

“The use of paid commentators and political bots to spread government propaganda was pioneered by China and Russia but has now gone global,” said Freedom House president Michael Abramowitz in a statement. “The effects of these rapidly spreading techniques on democracy and civic activism are potentially devastating.”

The conclusions came as part of Freedom House’s annual evaluation of global internet freedom, which found — once again — that government restrictions on their citizens’ internet use generally is on the rise.

Their report focused its efforts on 65 countries, studying their approach to online discussion and regulation between June 2016 and May 2017, and Freedom House awarded each government an internet-freedom score.

The lowest rating still belongs to China. Freedom House once again lamented the country’s historic, unrivaled limits on online speech, its penchant for hacking opponents and media organizations alike, and its willingness to imprison critics of Beijing’s leaders. Elsewhere, governments pursued their own new restrictions on online activity. For example, nine countries over the past year sought to block live video streaming for the first time, often to “halt real-time coverage of antigovernment demonstrations.”

In the U.S., Freedom House also sounded a note of alarm: It concluded that internet freedom in the U.S. had declined since the previous year, due in no small part to Russia’s election meddling.

Before and after Election Day, Kremlin-tied trolls had purchased ads and created profiles on Facebook, Google and Twitter, seeking to create chaos, rile up protesters and shift media coverage away from then-candidate Donald Trump. Those efforts are now the subject of scrutiny on Capitol Hill — and soul-searching in Silicon Valley — as lawmakers look to prevent Russia or another foreign power from meddling in U.S. politics ahead of the next election in 2018.

“While the online environment in the United States remained vibrant and diverse, the prevalence of disinformation and hyperpartisan content had a significant impact,” Freedom House found.

The watchdog also attributed its new skepticism about U.S. internet freedom to heightened harassment of American journalists online, not to mention efforts by the Trump administration, including a controversial — and quickly abandoned — attempt to unmask some of its prominent critics on Twitter.

Freedom House said internet freedom in the U.S. could be threatened even further as a result of the government’s ongoing attempt to undo its existing net neutrality rules. The regulations require internet providers to treat all web traffic equally.

At the same time, Freedom House also offered a subtle warning to regulators — in the U.S. and elsewhere — who are considering new laws in an attempt to thwart misinformation or other online ills.

By the watchdog’s estimate, 14 countries seeking to stop malicious bots and other nefarious activities on the web introduced rules over the past year that “actually restricted internet freedom,” perhaps unwittingly. That includes Germany, which instituted a new law in June 2017 that requires the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter to take down content flagged as offensive in a way that “lacks judicial oversight.”

“When trying to combat online manipulation from abroad, it is important for countries not to overreach,” said Sanja Kelly, who oversees the production of the Freedom of the Net report, in a statement.

“The solution to manipulation and disinformation lies not in censoring websites but in teaching citizens how to detect fake news and commentary,” Kelly continued. “Democracies should ensure that the source of political advertising online is at least as transparent online as it is offline.”

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Facebook’s chief security officer let loose at critics on Twitter over the company’s algorithms

Stamos is a key player in Facebook’s effort to understand Russian election meddling.

Facebook executives don’t usually say much publicly, and when they do, it’s usually measured and approved by the company’s public relations team.

Today was a little different. Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, took to Twitter to deliver an unusually raw tweetstorm defending the company’s software algorithms against critics who believe Facebook needs more oversight.

Facebook uses algorithms to determine everything from what you see and don’t see in News Feed, to finding and removing other content like hate speech and violent threats. The company has been criticized in the past for using these algorithms — and not humans — to monitor its service for things like abuse, violent threats, and misinformation.

The algorithms can be fooled or gamed, and part of the criticism is that Facebook and other tech companies don’t always seem to appreciate that algorithms have biases, too.

Stamos says it’s hard to understand from the outside.

“Nobody of substance at the big companies thinks of algorithms as neutral. Nobody is not aware of the risks,” Stamos tweeted. “My suggestion for journalists is to try to talk to people who have actually had to solve these problems and live with the consequences.”

Stamos’s thread is all the more interesting given his current role inside the company. As chief security officer, he’s spearheading the company’s investigation into how Kremlin-tied Facebook accounts may have used the service to spread misinformation during last year’s U.S. presidential campaign.

The irony in Stamos’s suggestion, of course, is that most Silicon Valley tech companies are notorious for controlling their own message. This means individual employees rarely speak to the press, and when they do, it’s usually to deliver a bunch of prepared statements. Companies sometimes fire employees who speak to journalists without permission, and Facebook executives are particularly tight-lipped.

This makes Stamos’s thread, and his candor, very intriguing. Here it is in its entirety.

  1. I appreciate Quinta’s work (especially on Rational Security) but this thread demonstrates a real gap between academics/journalists and SV.
  2. I am seeing a ton of coverage of our recent issues driven by stereotypes of our employees and attacks against fantasy, strawman tech cos.
  3. Nobody of substance at the big companies thinks of algorithms as neutral. Nobody is not aware of the risks.
  4. In fact, an understanding of the risks of machine learning (ML) drives small-c conservatism in solving some issues.
  5. For example, lots of journalists have celebrated academics who have made wild claims of how easy it is to spot fake news and propaganda.
  6. Without considering the downside of training ML systems to classify something as fake based upon ideologically biased training data.
  7. A bunch of the public research really comes down to the feedback loop of “we believe this viewpoint is being pushed by bots” -> ML
  8. So if you don’t worry about becoming the Ministry of Truth with ML systems trained on your personal biases, then it’s easy!
  9. Likewise all the stories about “The Algorithm”. In any situation where millions/billions/tens of Bs of items need to be sorted, need algos
  10. My suggestion for journalists is to try to talk to people who have actually had to solve these problems and live with the consequences.
  11. And to be careful of their own biases when making leaps of judgment between facts.
  12. If your piece ties together bad guys abusing platforms, algorithms and the Manifestbro into one grand theory of SV, then you might be biased
  13. If your piece assumes that a problem hasn’t been addressed because everybody at these companies is a nerd, you are incorrect.
  14. If you call for less speech by the people you dislike but also complain when the people you like are censored, be careful. Really common.
  15. If you call for some type of speech to be controlled, then think long and hard of how those rules/systems can be abused both here and abroad
  16. Likewise if your call for data to be protected from governments is based upon who the person being protected is.
  17. A lot of people aren’t thinking hard about the world they are asking SV to build. When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.
  18. Anyway, just a Saturday morning thought on how we can better discuss this. Off to Home Depot. FIN

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White House: Yes, the president blocks critics on Twitter

Yes, the president does block critics on Twitter. That's what the latest legal filing related to President Trump's Twitter activities has revealed. If you'll recall, seven individuals filed a lawsuit claiming Trump is violating the First Amendment by…
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‘The Emoji Movie’ got dumped on by critics. These are the best lines from their reviews.

Who could have possibly predicted this was a bad idea, except everyone?

If film critics are to be believed, the new star-studded animated film “The Emoji Movie” is one of the worst films of the summer. Which should come as no surprise to anyone who saw the trailer …

… or saw the cringeworthy marketing for the movie tying it to the definitely-not-for-kids Hulu adaption of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”:

But, alas, “The Emoji Movie” — which will forever remain on the IMDb pages of T.J. Miller, Patrick Stewart, James Corden, Maya Rudolph, Anna Faris and Sofía Vergara — still made it to theaters, which means professional movie reviewers still had to go see it. And while we can only imagine the pain of sitting in a dark theater having to write words about a film about, well, emojis, we thank them for these terrifically, deliciously, painful reviews:

  • The Verge: “This is a movie about how words aren’t cool, but you can still expect a girl to fall at your feet in response to mild wordplay. Please keep up. Or throw whatever device you’re reading this on into the ocean. Send me a postcard; tell me what it’s like to be free.”
  • Vox: “It’s amazing that we can put a man on the moon but movies like this still somehow get made.”
  • The A.V. Club: “The ‘plot’ is really an excuse to hop from one app to another; there are stops in the lands of Candy Crush, WeChat, Just Dance, Instagram, Spotify, and (for the kids!) Dropbox.”
  • Entertainment Weekly: “There is an awareness pulsing through this movie, as it pulses through our own lives, that so much of what once seemed like progress was the opposite of progress, that our dreams of a better tomorrow were always leading us to a miserable today.”
  • The New York Times: “For a long time, Hollywood has been propagating the idea that the panderingly, trendily idiotic can be made to seem less so, by polishing it up with bright shiny gloss and enlisting engaging talented performers and writers. I can’t be entirely certain of this, but I would say ‘The Emoji Movie’ takes this notion to the outer limits of credibility.”
  • Vulture: “Not once does this film rise above the level of humor of literally any real-world use of a simple upside-down-face emoji (whose meaning I tend to translate as ‘Wheeee, life is a horrible hall of mirrors and I am powerless to do anything but smile about it.’) If only my review of this film could be an upside-down-face emoji.”
  • RogerEbert.com: “A work so completely devoid of wit, style, intelligence or basic entertainment value that it makes that movie based on the Angry Birds app seem like a pure artistic statement by comparison.”
  • Village Voice: “We’re lying if we grown-ups try to pretend that this one’s not on us … kids didn’t create the pixelated and thoroughly dumbed-down society this movie has been introduced into, like some sort of trippy, multicolored cinematic virus.”

At the time of this writing, “The Emoji Movie” has a 6 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a full one percent ahead of Sean Penn’s “The Last Face.” Which, come to think of it would be a pretty good name for the inevitable “Emoji” sequel.

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The first iPhone: What the critics said 10 years ago

Apple released its iPhone to the public on June 29th 2007, to the delight of both critics and fans. Finally, Steve Jobs’ newest toy would see its official release and cease dominating the tech headlines. Ten years later, however, not much has changed. A decade later and the iPhone is in more consumers’ hands than any other phone. When it released on June 29th 2007 the first iPhone was sold for $ 499, and within three months Apple would sell 1.5 million more. Not everyone was so excited about the iPhone though. Here’s former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer outright dismissing the…

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Lawyers claim Trump can’t block his critics on Twitter

While we withhold the right to moderate and maintain standards of discussion in our comments because they are a private space, does the President of the United States have a different standard to meet? The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia…
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