Twitter admits there were many more Russian trolls on its site during the 2016 U.S. presidential election

Congress isn’t going to be happy.

Twitter revealed on Friday that trolls tied to the Russian government spread far more disinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential election than the company first reported — and pledged to notify hundreds of thousands of users who had seen that content.

The update comes as Twitter continues to face criticism on Capitol Hill that it has failed to fully confront the scourge of Kremlin propaganda — and neglected to respond to the demands of lawmakers who are probing Russia’s meddling on popular social media sites.

Ahead of a series of congressional hearings last year, Twitter initially said it had discovered 2,200 accounts tied to the Internet Research Agency, a troll army connected to the Russian government. On Friday, though, Twitter said it had actually identified 3,814 accounts related to the IRA.

Also last year, Twitter calculated that there were roughly 36,000 bots originating out of Russia — and tweeting about the election — as Americans headed to the ballot box. By Friday, though, Twitter said it had found an additional 13,000 bots, bringing the total tally of automated accounts tweeting about the presidential race to more than 50,000.

And Twitter revealed for the first time on Friday that Russian propaganda — content that sought to stir social and political unrest in the United States — reached scores of its users. The company said it would notify 677,000 people in the United States who had followed one of these suspect accounts, or retweeted or liked their content. Twitter said it would do so by email.

In announcing its findings, Twitter sought to stress that Russian disinformation only amounted to a small portion of the tweets shared regularly on its platform. And it stressed that it had taken steps to prevent such abuse as another election — a 2018 race to determine the composition of Congress — fast approaches. That includes a series of previously announced changes to the way it displays political ads.

But the news is sure to infuriate federal lawmakers, who repeatedly have needled Twitter during the course of their investigation into Russian influence.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, for one, blasted Twitter in September for a “deeply disappointing” response to his questions about the election. When the company later appeared with its tech peers, Facebook and Google, at a series of congressional hearings on the issue, lawmakers from both parties demanded that Twitter take more aggressive steps to prevent such manipulation of its platform in the future.

This year, the company completely blew a deadline by which it was supposed to respond to written questions it was sent by congressional investigators. And for months, Twitter had ignored public demands by lawmakers like Sen. Richard Blumenthal that it notify users who had seen or interacted with such Russian propaganda. Only this week did Twitter finally acknowledge that it would take that step.

This time, Twitter might face additional criticism: It released its latest findings in a blog post published at 5 p.m. on a Friday — a news dump that comes as the U.S. Congress barrels toward a potential government shut down

Recode – All

Apple ups U.S. manufacturing fund to $5 billion, expects to create 20,000 new jobs over 5 years

Building on prior announcements of its plans to invest in U.S. manufacturing and job creation, Apple today announced that it will increase its Advanced Manufacturing Fund from $ 1 billion to $ 5 billion, create 20,000 new jobs, and contribute over $ 350 billion to the U.S. economy over the next five years.

Made public just ahead of its February 1 earnings call, Apple’s new plan anticipates over $ 30 billion in U.S. capital expenditures over the next five years, including the opening of a new Apple campus in a new location, initially housing technical support for customers. Over $ 10 billion of the expansion will be used on U.S. data centers, including a new facility in downtown Reno, Nevada, a recently announced location in Iowa, and centers in five other states.

Details of the expanded $ 5 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund were sparse, but Apple notes that it “support[s] innovation among American manufacturers and help[s] others establish a presence in the US.” It’s possible that the expanded fund will be used to help finance previously discussed Foxconn manufacturing locations within the U.S.

Apple also noted that it will be expanding initiatives to teach software coding to students, as well as programs focused on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). The plan calls for new programs to support teachers and teacher training, as well as more funding for Apple’s ConnectED program, which teaches app coding skills to students in historically underserved communities.

Apple – VentureBeat

A bill to put more self-driving cars on U.S. roads is stuck in the Senate

California’s own senator isn’t convinced the technology is ready.

An ambitious attempt by U.S. lawmakers to put more self-driving cars on the country’s roads has stalled out in the Senate, where some Democrats are raising new doubts about the technology.

For a few senior party lawmakers, the fear is that these computer-driven vehicles aren’t yet ready for major roadways or might be susceptible to cyber attacks. So they’re standing in the way of a Senate vote on the bill, demanding changes that they say are essential to protect riders’ safety.

Chief among the critics is Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose state of California is a home base and critical testing ground for companies like Uber, Tesla and Google.

In December, Feinstein sounded off in early opposition to lawmakers’ self-driving car bill. And in an interview Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, the Democratic lawmaker doubled down — stressing that she is “apprehensive as to whether we’re ready” for a world in which highly autonomous sedans share the road with humans.

“It seems to me that you have to have a period of time where these cars are put on roads, but not necessarily heavily impacted California freeways that are going 65 to 75 miles an hour,” she said. “That’s my view, and I’m a driver, and I know I wouldn’t feel very comfortable.”

In California, though, Google search giant’s self-driving car division, Waymo, racked up roughly 636,000 miles’ worth of rides on local roads just last year. In a sign of the stakes, the company even paid Feinstein a visit in Washington, D.C., this week to try to pitch her on the technology.

“People need to be assured, and they need to be assured over time,” Feinstein told Recode. “And you can’t just dump something on a freeway and have people looking over saying, ‘My God, there’s no driver.’”

Members of Congress first set their sights on autonomous vehicles this spring, beginning in the House. Lawmakers there specifically sought to help tech giants and automakers obtain special exemptions so that they could test droves of new experimental vehicles around the country — without adhering to the same safety standards that apply to older cars. Their bill, called the Self-Drive Act, won swift, broad approval from House Democrats and Republicans alike.

But the Senate has squabbled a bit more over its own proposal, the AV START Act. Since last fall, chamber pols have raised a litany of objections, from the protections afforded to driver data collected by cars to the effects they might have on the trucking industry.

And when architects like Republican Sen. John Thune sought to bring the bill up for a speedy, final vote, some skeptical Democrats and Republicans intervened to hit the brakes, placing official holds on the measure that prevented it from being considered and approved.

Among those expressing skepticism at the time was Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who told Recode in a statement that autonomous-driving technology is still “an emerging and unproven technology.”

“As it stands, this bill does not include enough protections to keep drivers, passengers and pedestrians safe,” he said in December, “but I’m hopeful we can strengthen these safeguards while allowing for limited testing and continued innovation.” His office did not comment this week as to whether the senator remains opposed.

Last month, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey similarly raised a formal objection with the bill. And on Thursday, an aide to the Democratic lawmaker said he still has his doubts — and aims to “strengthen provisions in the bill related to automotive defects, cyberattacks, and consumer privacy, especially on the privacy provisions.”

Despite those setbacks, the authors of self-driving car legislation said this week that they’re hopeful. “We’re willing to work with people who have objections, and address their concerns, if it can be done in a way that doesn’t undermine the purpose and the basic framework of the legislation,” Thune told Recode in an interview.

But even he acknowledged that the toughest roadblock of all might be Feinstein.

“I don’t know if she’s asked for anything in particular; she just doesn’t like the bill,” he said of his Democratic colleague on Wednesday.

Recode – All

New report says T-Mobile had fastest average LTE speeds in the U.S. at the end of 2017

Today OpenSignal gave us an update on how AT&T and Verizon’s networks have been faring one year after launching unlimited data plans, and there’s some T-Mobile news sprinkled in there, too. OpenSignal reports that while AT&T and Verizon saw their LTE download speeds decrease in the months after launching unlimited plans, those speeds began to stabilize near the end of 2017. Verizon’s speeds even began to creep back up. However, AT&T and Verizon’s LTE download speeds … [read full article]

The post New report says T-Mobile had fastest average LTE speeds in the U.S. at the end of 2017 appeared first on TmoNews.


Apple will pay $38 billion U.S. repatriation tax on $245 billion in overseas profits

A small surprise was nestled in the middle of Apple’s announcement of a $ 350 billion contribution to the U.S. economy today: Apple confirmed that it will repatriate the giant pile of cash it has held overseas. According to the release, Apple expects to pay approximately $ 38 billion in U.S. repatriation taxes, which means that it will be using a special corporate tax break to repatriate approximately $ 245 billion in profits created outside the country.

Prior to the passage of the reduced 15.5 percent tax rate, Apple faced a 35-40 percent cost to bring overseas profits back into the United States — a tax burden it was unwilling to bear. Including both federal and state taxes, Apple might have been expected to pay up to $ 100 billion in taxes on $ 250 billion of overseas profits.

Apple’s plans to bring the foreign cash back into the United States have been underway for some time. In September 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook openly spoke of the company’s expectation that it would rapidly receive a tax cut from whomever the next president was, and that the company would likely repatriate the cash in 2017.

In April 2017, the White House floated a reduced repatriation rate of 10 percent, which Congress subsequently increased in its late December tax bill. Apple waited for the new rate, and nearly $ 60 billion in savings, to bring the cash back into the United States.

Despite hopes that Apple might immediately announce all of its plans for the massive windfall, potentially including a giant-sized acquisition, the company did not specify how it will use the repatriated cash. Instead, it focused on the $ 38 billion tax payment, noting that a “payment of that size would likely be the largest of its kind ever made,” and that the tax will be part of its $ 350 billion contribution to the U.S. economy over the next five years.

Update at 1:20 p.m Pacific: Bloomberg reports that Apple will give employees below “director” level a one-time bonus of $ 2,500 in restricted stock units, “following the introduction of the new U.S. tax law.” The grants will be issued to “most employees worldwide in the coming months.”

Apple – VentureBeat