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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Apr 2018

 Image result for Jack Dorsey twitter

  • A group of Twitter shareholders is urging the company to prepare a report on the steps its taking to combat fake news and other abuses of its service.
  • The shareholders are also urging the company to include in the report the financial and other regulatory risks it faces from such abuses.
  • The request comes in the form of a shareholder proposal; the company’s board of directors opposes the measure, saying the company is already doing and disclosing enough, concerning such fake news and other abuses.

Arguing that Twitter isn't taking the problems of fake news and hate speech seriously enough, a group of the company's shareholders are urging it to report back to investors on what steps it's taking to combat misinformation and other abuses of its service.

The New York State Retirement Fund and Arjuna Capital have filed a shareholder proposal that would encourage Twitter to put together a detailed report about how well it's doing enforcing its social network's terms of service, the company disclosed in a regulatory document on Wednesday. The shareholders are also urging the company to include in the report the possible financial and other risks it faces from fake news and similar controversies.

"Shareholders are concerned that Twitter’s failure to address these issues proactively has created regulatory, legal, and reputational risk," the investors said in their proposal. "We believe Twitter has an obligation to demonstrate how it manages content to prevent violations of its terms of service. Yet, disclosures have been inadequate."

For its part, Twitter's board of directors urged the company's investors as a whole to reject the proposal. The company has not only made numerous updates to its service and policies over the last year or so to address and reduce abuses, it says, it's been transparent about disclosing them. Providing more information to the public about such efforts could give "a roadmap for those bad actors who are seeking to evade abiding by our terms," the board said.

"Our board of directors believes that this proposal is not in the best interests of Twitter or our stockholders, and unanimously recommends that you vote 'against' this proposal," the board said in its written response to the shareholder proposal in the regulatory document.

Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, has been in the sights of regulators over the last year, following reports that Russian-backed groups hijacked those companies' services to spread propaganda and other misinformation in an alleged attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. Twitter has also come under criticism for the abundant amount of hate speech posted on its service, and the numerous cases of harassment of particular users.

In their proposal, the retirement fund and Arjuna Capital listed some of the more notable incidents, and quoted both regulators and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey himself saying the company wasn't doing enough to battle offensive and illegal posts. The company hasn't seemed to be able to get ahead of the problem, they said.

Twitter's "content policies appear reactive, not proactive," the said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., is among those policymakers who has scrutinized Twitter and other social networks over the Russian-linked propaganda campaign.Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

As a result, they noted, regulators are stepping in — or threatening to do so. Germany has already put in place a new law that threatens to fine social networks if they don't quickly remove illegal posts, and US lawmakers are considering new regulations themselves, the proposal noted.

For its part, Twitter's board said that compared with last year, the company is "taking action" on 10 times as many accounts that violate its policies is suspending thousands more accounts each day than before. It's also provided regular updates to the public and policymakers about its investigation into the abuse of its service during the 2016 election, the board said.

"We [...] believe in being transparent with respect to our rules and how we enforce them, and have made significant progress in reporting out to all of our users on our progress," the board said.

In addition to the shareholder proposal, Twitter's regulatory document revealed that it paid Dorsey $0 last year. He didn't receive a salary, bonus, stock-based compensation, or any other compensation.

Instead, he "declined all compensation," according to the report.

However, the company paid Ned Segal, its new chief financial officer, $14.3 million in total compensation. Segal, who took the job in August, received a pro-rated salary of $165,385; a signing bonus of $300,000; a restricted stock award worth $13.8 million; and $1,500 in contributions to his retirement account.

Meanwhile, the document revealed that the median Twitter worker makes $161,860 in total compensation, including salary, bonus, stock grants, and retirement account contributions.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Apr 2018

Image result for wetherspoons

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon has used Twitter to tell its 44,000 followers that it is quitting social media.

The firm's head office and 900 pubs will quit the micro-blogging site, and also Instagram and Facebook, with immediate effect, it said.

The pub chain linked the move to bad publicity surrounding social media including the "trolling" of MPs.

Chairman Tim Martin told the BBC that society would be better off if people cut the amount of social media use.

The firm said its decision had also been influenced by concerns regarding the "misuse of personal data" and "the addictive nature of social media".

"We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business," said Mr Martin.

He told the BBC he had always thought the idea that social media was essential for advertising was untrue.

"We were also concerned that pub managers were being side-tracked from the real job of serving customers," he said. "I don't believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever."

The chairman said that it had consulted its pub mangers before making the move, and "90-to-95% felt using social media was not helping the business".

Mr Martin told BBC Radio 5 Live that he thinks coming off social media would be good for society in general.

He said that if people "limited their social media to half an hour a day, they'd be mentally and physically better off".

He added: "I find most people I know waste their time on it. A lot of them say they know they waste their time on it, but they struggle to get off it."


Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent:

It has become received wisdom that a social media presence, used for everything from customer support to promoting the brand, is now a vital tool in the marketing strategy of any business big or small. So why does JD Wetherspoon feel it can do without one?

The pub chain has certainly put plenty of effort into it until now, with hundreds of different Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. But the truth is that none had won much of a mass following - and those who ran the accounts were not doing a very good job. A tweet pushing fish and chips on Good Friday got just three re-tweets.

Managing an effective social media strategy and making sure staff running so many accounts stick to company policy is a very time consuming and expensive business. Perhaps for Wetherspoons all of this effort has become more trouble than it is worth.


The chairman reassured its followers that it would "still be as vocal as ever", but would instead use its magazine and website as well as the press for news updates.

He said customers could also get in touch with them by speaking with their local pub manager.

"It's becoming increasingly obvious that people spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and struggle to control the compulsion," Mr Martin added.

The pub chain currently has more than 100,000 Facebook followers and more than 6,000 on Instagram.

Asked whether Wetherspoon's move could start a business trend, Mr Martin said he hoped not.

"Currently we've got a massive commercial advantage because everyone else is wasting hours of their time," he said.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Apr 2018

Image result for instagram logo

Yesterday we reported that Instagram lacked data portability, knocking the app for the absence of an equivalent to Facebook’s Download Your Information too. Now an Instagram  spokesperson tells me “We are building a new data portability tool. You’ll soon be able to download a copy of what you’ve shared on Instagram, including your photos, videos and messages.”

This tool could make it much easier for users to leave Instagram and go to a competing image social network. And as long as it launches before May 25th, it will help Instagram to comply with upcoming European GDPR privacy law that requires data portability.

Instagram has historically made it very difficult to export your data. You can’t drag, or tap and hold on images to save them. And you can’t download images you’ve already posted. That’s despite Instagram now being almost 8 years old and having over 800 million users. For comparison, Facebook  launched its Download Your Information toolin 2010, just six years after launch.

We’re awaiting more info on whether you’ll only be able to download your photos, videos, and messages; or if you’ll also be able to export your following and follower lists, Likes, comments, Stories, and the captions you share with posts. It’s also unclear whether photos and videos will export in the full fidelity that they’re uploaded or displayed in, or whether they’ll be compressed. Instagram told me “we’ll share more details very soon when we actually launch the tool. But at a high level it allows you to download and export what you have shared on Instagram” so we’ll have to wait for more clarity.

If Instagram does offer uncompressed downloads of the same image quality as it shows on its app, the Download Your Information tool could make unofficial third-party export apps like InstaPort obsolete. That would be a win for users since these apps are sometimes run by unscrupulous developers who could misuse your content or the Instagram login credentials you need to use them.

Portability could facilitate the rise of legitimate competitors to Instagram, or at least let users back up their content on an image storage app or their own computer. But still, it’s Instagram’s social graph and the data it’s gathered about your interests that help it tune its algorithm to show you the most relevant posts. This personalization moat can leave rivals with similar features unable to provide a similar level of service.

If Instagram wanted to truly level the playing field, it would let you export your social graph in a privacy-safe format that would let users find and follow those same people on a different app. But the announcement of this data portability tool is a much-needed first step to unlocking Instagram’s content vault.

Source: techcrunch.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Sat 14th Apr 2018

The beauty of crypto currency is also its downfall.

Crypto is seen as ‘putting the people back in control’. Banks are the bad guys here, with their high fees and paltry interest rates.

That and the fact that they can disappear in a puff of smoke and take all your money with them.

Crypto puts you in the driving seat.

You’re in charge. Cut out the banks. At least, that’s the idea.

Here’s the problem:

If £5000 went missing from your bank account today, you’d call them. You’d head to your nearest branch with your angriest face on.

If £5000 goes missing from your crypto account, there’s nobody to call.

You’ve cut out the middle man. You’re in charge now.

And crypto is pretty easy to hack. Millions of pounds worth of digital currency has been stolen, because most people don’t understand how to make something secure.

Whether you’ve got a pile of Bitcoins in your digital wallet is not really the point here.

You’ve got passwords and logins for real banks on your computer, and credit card details saved, and all sorts.

Stuff that you really don’t want to get hacked.

Everyone assumes that they’re not going to get hacked, until they do. Everyone assumes that their money is in their bank, until it’s not.

I don’t want to sound alarmist, but hacking has become a lot more sophisticated in the last few years, if you haven’t had someone look at your set up in a while, don’t keep putting it off!

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 11th Apr 2018

Image result for zuckerberg

Part of The Cambridge Analytica scandal

Mark Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony for Wednesday’s congressional hearing has been posted online. The seven-page statement starts with an apology from Zuckerberg, who says Facebook failed to take a broad enough view of its responsibilities. “That was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” he says. “I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Zuckerberg will be testifying before the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday after he faces another hearing in the Senate on Tuesday. This testimony covers a lot of familiar ground, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the Russia-linked Internet Research Agency’s misinformation campaign. As Josh Constine at TechCrunch points out, it does offer some new information about the Russia-linked APT28 hacking group. Facebook says it detected and shut down accounts related to APT28 over the summer of 2016.

The real meat of Wednesday’s hearing will come from Zuckerberg answering lawmakers’ questions about privacy, election interference, and Facebook’s future. But this testimony will set the stage for that showdown.

Mark Zuckerberg House of Representatives testimony, April 11th by Adi Robertson on Scribd

Source: theverge.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 10th Apr 2018

Image result for youtube music video

YouTube's music video for the hit song Despacito, which has had over five billion views, has been hacked.

More than a dozen other artists, including Shakira, Selena Gomez, Drake and Taylor Swift are also affected. The original clips had been posted by Vevo.

Despacito has been removed, but its cover image had shown a group of people wearing masks and pointing guns.

The hackers, calling themselves Prosox and Kuroi'sh, had written "Free Palestine" underneath the videos.

Several of the clips remain live at time of writing.

Both YouTube and the music video hosting service Vevo have been contacted for comment.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 10th Apr 2018

Image result for telephone handset with messaging

Decoys spend hours conversing with individuals on messaging apps, with transcripts then printed off and handed to police as evidence

Evidence from so-called paedophile hunter groups was used to charge suspects at least 150 times last year, a BBC investigation has found.

A Freedom of Information request, sent to every police force in England and Wales, showed a seven-fold increase in the use of such evidence from 2015.

Twenty-nine of the forty-three forces approached (67%) provided data.

Despite this, the National Police Chiefs Council say the groups' tactics present "significant risks".

Tracked down

The online groups use what they call "decoys" to pose as underage children and wait to be contacted by adults.

They then converse privately with adults and identify those attempting to groom young people.

Individuals are then tracked down, the confrontation is often streamed live on social media and police are called.

Presentational grey line

A 'decoy' - 'Sarah' of Predator Exposure

"They [the targets] are always made aware of the child's age at the start of the chat, so there's no misconception about how old the child is," Sarah said.

"We class ourselves as child protectors - if a potential predator is talking to my decoy, they aren't talking to a real child, that's the way I look at it."

Sarah told the BBC she spent hours replying to messages which often contain explicit language, photos and videos.

"I set a new decoy up one night, by the next morning I had had 180 friend requests, mostly from men," she said.

"We're only touching the tip of the iceberg, it's right across social media. Even if we just take 20 out, those 20 aren't going to be child rapists."

Presentational grey line

It is thought about 75 active "paedophile hunter" groups are operating across the UK.

Police warn the groups' actions may interfere with surveillance operations and "evidence" they gather may be illegally obtained and therefore excluded from a prosecution.

One group, Predator Exposure, was founded in Leeds in 2016 and claims to have supplied evidence leading to the conviction of more than 20 sex crime offenders in the past 12 months.

Image captionA recruitment event was held in a pub in Bradford to find volunteer "decoys"

Speaking at a volunteer recruitment day at a pub in Bradford, ex-convict Phil Hoban, who started the group, said: "The police can say 'we don't like you doing this, we don't like you doing that', but we're going to continue."

Mr Hoban served 15 months in prison in 2005 for his part in a robbery where a cash machine was stolen in East Yorkshire.

He said his group, which has seven members, staged the enrolment drive for new "decoys" in order to deal with the growing demand.

Potential volunteers were told the role would take up a great deal of spare time and an interest in child protection was required.

Presentational grey line

The data

Each police force in England and Wales was asked by the BBC to say how many people had been charged after evidence was given by paedophile hunters, with 29 out of 43 able to give three years' worth of figures.

The supplied data showed a greater than seven-fold rise in two years - from 20 in 2015 to 150 in 2017.

Of the police forces that responded, almost half (47%) of the cases of the crime of meeting a child following sexual grooming used evidence from so-called paedophile hunting groups in 2017.

The data only confirms that the evidence was used in some part. It does not suggest that the vigilantes' actions were solely responsible for charges being brought.

Presentational grey line

Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson, of West Yorkshire Police, urged those who are involved in paedophile hunter groups to bring them evidence but to then "let us deal with it".

"It does present significant risks when these groups confront individuals, first of all for themselves - these are often very high-octane, emotional situations," she said.

"There's significant risk involved for the individuals that they are confronting, not least because it might sometimes be an innocent member of the public or it might actually disrupt a wider undercover policing investigation that we've got ongoing."

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, from the National Police Chiefs' Council, said: "The increase in these groups is symptomatic of the increasing scale of child sexual abuse that police are dealing with.

"It reinforces the need for technology companies to do more to prevent offenders using their platforms to prey on children and for children to be educated about healthy relationships and staying safe online."

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 9th Apr 2018

The regulations to bring into force Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV) are now law, and digital VAT returns will be required from 1 April 2019.

MTDfV is the first phase of HMRC’s landmark Making Tax Digital (MTD) regime, which will ultimately require taxpayers to move to a fully digital tax system. Regulations have now been issued which set out the requirements for MTDfV.

Under the new rules, businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) must keep digital records for VAT purposes and provide their VAT return information to HMRC using MTD functional compatible software.

The new rules have effect from 1 April 2019, where a taxpayer has a ‘prescribed accounting period’ which begins on that date, and otherwise from the first day of a taxpayer’s first prescribed accounting period beginning after 1 April 2019.

HMRC is piloting MTDfV during 2018, ahead of its introduction in April 2019. Keeping digital records and making quarterly updates will not be mandatory for taxes other than VAT before April 2020, although businesses below the VAT threshold which have voluntarily registered for VAT can opt to join the scheme.

As with electronic VAT filing at present, there will be some exemptions from MTD for VAT. However, the exemption categories are tightly-drawn and unlikely to be applicable to most VAT registered businesses.

Keeping digital records will not mean businesses are mandated to use digital invoices and receipts but the actual recording of supplies made and received must be digital. It is likely that third party commercial software will be required. Software will not be available from HMRC. The use of spreadsheets will be allowed, but they will have to be combined with add-on software to meet HMRC’s requirements.

Internet link: GOV.UK statutory instrument

Source: dainsresources.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 9th Apr 2018

'Marsbees' developed in Japan will enable NASA to go where no man has gone before

NASA plans to use swarms of robotic flying bees to help explore Mars

NASA might be planning to use swarms of robotic bees to help explore Mars.

In what could be sent up to aid the work of the Mars Rover, the robotic bees, called Marsbees, are "robotic flapping wing flyers of a bumblebee size with cicada sized wings", NASA said.

Created by a team in Japan, the Marsabees' objective would be to increase the set of possible exploration and science missions on Mars by investigating the feasibility of flapping-wing aerospace architectures in a Martian environment.

The Marsbees are integrated with sensors and wireless communication devices, using a mobile base that would act as a recharging station and main communication centre.

"The swarm of Marsbee can significantly enhance the Mars exploration mission [by] facilitating reconfigurable sensor networks, creating resilient systems, [and] sampling or collecting data using single or collaborative Marsbees," NASA said in a post on its website.

The bees are able to fly thanks to the use of insect-like compliant wings to enhance aerodynamics and a low power design.

"High lift coefficients will be achieved by properly achieving dynamic similarity between the bioinspired insect flight regime and the Mars environment," NASA expalined. 

"Our preliminary numerical results suggest that a bumblebee with a cicada wing can generate sufficient lift to hover in the Martian atmosphere."

The Marsbee also offers benefits over traditional aerospace systems, such as the smaller volume, which designed for the interplanetary spacecraft payload configuration, provides much more flexibility.

The Marsbee is also more robust when it comes to individual system failures because of its relatively small size and the small volume of airspace needed to test the system.

The proposed work combines expertise and talent from the US and Japan. While the University of Alabama team will numerically model, analyse, and optimise a flapping flyer for Martian atmospheric conditions, the Japanese team will apparently develop and test a micro flapping robot, uniquely designed and constructed for the low-density atmosphere on Mars. 

"The objective of Phase I is to determine the wing design, motion, and weight that can hover with optimal power in the Mars atmospheric condition using a high-fidelity numerical model and to assess the hummingbird MAV in the Mars conditions," NASA added.

"The aerodynamic performance of the hummingbird MAV will be assessed in a vacuum chamber with the air density reduced to the Mars density."

Phase II will then assess the Marsbees' maneuverability, wind gust rejection, take-off/landing, power implications, remote sensing, and "mission optimisation".

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 9th Apr 2018

US president reiterates threat of action against online retailer giant Amazon

Trump to take a 'serious look' at Amazon regulation

Donald Trump at a public meeting during the 2016 presidential elections

US President Donald Trump has reiterated his intention of taking action against online retail giant Amazon, revealing that he is taking a "serious look" at regulations with the intention of addressing what he regards as unfair business advantages enjoyed by the company.

Speaking to journalists aboard Air Force One on Thursday, President Trump said that he will spend more time exploring ways that his administration can regulate the e-commerce giant.

According to Reuters, Trump has committed to drawing up policies to prevent online retailers like Amazon from growing too powerful.

While traveling to Washington from West Virginia, Trump claimed that the company is not paying its fair share of sales sax and becoming too powerful, so to speak.

Trump was also asked about the kinds of regulations he might be able to introduce. He replied: "We're going to take a very serious look at that."

One unfair advantage that online outlets have over physical bricks-and-mortar stores in the US is sales tax. 

The president said that his government has already spent a significant amount of time investigating the "sales tax situation" and that the topic will be considered by the Supreme Court soon.

On 17 April, nine justices will meet representatives from South Dakota who want the court to overturn a 1992 Supreme Court ruling stating that only physical retail outlets with a presence in a state need to pay sales tax.

Amazon does not actually have links to the case, but it could be affected if the court does overturn its previous ruling in that it would need to pay extra tax.

South Dakota's state government believes that the ruling puts brick-and-mortar retailers at a disadvantage, as they end up paying more tax.

Recently, Trump has been vocal about the growing domination of Amazon and other online companies. His view is that Amazon, in particular, has become too powerful and must be regulated.

"I had my concerns with Amazon long before the election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our postal system as their delivery boy (causing tremendous loss to the US), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!," he tweeted recently. 

 

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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