Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft team up on terrorist database

Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google are teaming up on a new effort to prevent the spread of terrorist content on their networks.

The companies are creating a shared database that will allow them to track the “digital fingerprints” of accounts that share terrorist images and videos across their respective networks to make it easier to identify and remove the content.

Under the new partnership, when Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Microsoft removes a photo or video that promotes terrorism, it will add a hash what the companies describe as a “digital fingerprint” that makes that particular piece of content identifiable to a shared database. This will make it easier for all the companies involved to spot the same content on their own sites and remove it.

Here’s their description of how it will work:

Our companies will begin sharing hashes of the most extreme and egregious terrorist images and videos we have removed from our services content most likely to violate all of our respective companies content policies. Participating companies can add hashes of terrorist images or videos that are identified on one of our platforms to the database. Other participating companies can then use those hashes to identify such content on their services, review against their respective policies and definitions, and remove matching content as appropriate.

The statement notes that content won’t be removed automatically as each company will review each piece of content against their respective policies. Still, it could make it easier for the companies, which operate the most far-reaching social networks, to identify terrorist content more quickly.

“There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services,” the companies said in a group statement. “We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/12/05/facebook-twitter-partnership-terrorist-content/

Google Assistant adds Hindi language support for India

Image: manish singh/mashable india

Google just opened its AI-driven app Allo to hundreds of millions of new users.

Google said Monday Allo is getting support for Hindi, one of Indias widest spoken languages. The assistant, which a user can trigger using the keyword “@google”, now understands as well as responds in Hindi language.

The company first demoed the feature at its Google for India event in September, with companys executives emphasising their continued efforts to tailor their services for the Indian market.

“We are enthused by this and todays launch enables us to extend these features to the next millions of users in a language of their choice, Amit Fulay, Group Product Manager, Google said in a press statement.

Those who wish to use Allo in Hindi need to download the app and then say “Talk to me in Hindi” using the voice command. Alternatively, one can also adjust the language setting on your device to change Allo’s default language.

With over 422 people understanding Hindi in India, as of 2011, it is the most spoken language in the country, compared to English which only 10-20 percent of the population can understand.

Silicon Valley companies are quickly realising that if they want to appeal to the largely untapped Indian market, they need to mould their services for them.

Facebook, for instance, offers its social networking platform in Hindi as well as several other local languages. Amazon last week enabled ebooks support in five local Indian languages.

The Indian government has also actively pushed companies to not neglect non-English speaking people. In late October, for instance, the ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY) gave its nod for a proposal that requires all phone companies to support at least one additional language in addition to English and Hindi.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/12/05/google-allo-hindi/

Google’s new safety app will help you find friends and family in an emergency

Image: Press Association via AP Images

When something goes wrong, one of the first things you think about is getting in touch with the people you care about. But if there’s been a natural disaster, an accident or some other emergency, that may be a lot easier said than done.

Google’s latest app, called Trusted Contacts, aims to fix that. The app allows friends and family members to remotely share their location with just one touch.

When you sign up for the app, you designate specific people in your address book as “trusted contacts.” This allows you to share your location at any given time and allows them to request your location.

Unlike Apple’s Find My Friends and some related apps, Trusted Contacts doesn’t share your location by default. Instead, your trusted contacts can see general information about your whereabouts, like whether you’re currently online and if you’ve been moving around.

You can, however, broadcast your location at any given moment to one or all of your trusted contacts, who will be able to see your real-time location until you end the location sharing. The thinking, says product manager David Tattersall, is that users will be able to share their location with loved ones for brief periods of time, like while walking home or out on a hike.

The app also works offline, so if your battery dies or you lose service, the app will still be able to point contacts to wherever your last known location was.

Likewise, if a trusted contact wants to check on you, they can ask for your location within the app. When a contact requests your location, the app will notify you and you can opt to share your location or decline the request. If you don’t respond to the request, the app will automatically share your most recent location with the contact who requested.

That last part may be troubling to the more privacy conscious, but Google says it’s necessary as people are not always able to use their phone during serious emergencies, like natural disasters or car accidents.

“It basically means then that as long as you’ve got your phone in your pocket, someone can always find you in case of an emergency. You’re always findable,” Tattersall tells Mashable.

Trusted Contacts is currently only available on Android, but there is a web interface that allows you to designate iPhone users and others who don’t have the app as trusted contacts and Google says an iPhone version is in the works.

Though the app is relatively simple for now, Tattersall notes that the app complements some of Google’s other crisis response services and says that, in the future, Google may choose to integrate it with Android’s built-in emergency calling features.

“We have a really robust crisis response offering for times of earthquakes and natural disasters… you can see there’s a natural evolution here where these two products could work together if we want.”

BONUS: Google Earth Timelapse shows how man has altered the planet in 32 years

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/12/05/google-trusted-contacts-app/

Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft team up to tackle extremist content

The tech companies plan to create a shared database of unique digital fingerprints that can identify images and videos promoting terrorism

Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have pledged to work together to identify and remove extremist content on their platforms through an information-sharing initiative.

The companies are to create a shared database of unique digital fingerprints known as hashes for images and videos that promote terrorism. This could include terrorist recruitment videos or violent terrorist imagery or memes. When one company identifies and removes such a piece of content, the others will be able to use the hash to identify and remove the same piece of content from their own network.

We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online, said the companies in a shared statement.

Because the companies have different policies on what constitutes terrorist content, they will start by sharing hashes of the most extreme and egregious terrorist images and videos as they are most likely to violate all of our respective companies content policies, they said.

The precise technical details remain to be established, said Facebook, although the approach echoes that adopted to tackle child sexual abuse imagery. The same companies use the National Center for Missing and Exploited Childrens PhotoDNA technology, developed by Microsoft, to identify images of child sexual abuse. However, with PhotoDNA the images are categorized centrally by law enforcement and the technology companies are legally obliged to remove the content.

Earlier this year Hany Farid, the computer scientist who helped develop PhotoDNA, proposed a sister program for extremist content. He teamed up with the Counter Extremism Project to develop a system that could proactively flag extremist photos, videos and audio clips as they are posted online.

We are happy to see this development. Its long overdue, he told the Guardian, explaining that he has been in conversations with Facebook and Microsoft since January.

Despite welcoming the announcement he remained cautious, particularly because of the lack of an impartial body to monitor the database: There needs to be complete transparency over how material makes it into this hashing database and you want people who have expertise in extremist content making sure its up to date. Otherwise you are relying solely on the individual technology companies to do that.

The strength of PhotoDNA comes from the single central database, he said. If its removed from one site, its removed everywhere. Thats incredibly powerful. Its less powerful if it gets removed from Facebook and not from Twitter and YouTube.

What we want is to eliminate this global megaphone that social media gives to groups like Isis. This doesnt get done by writing a press release.

Technology companies have been under pressure from governments around the world over the spread of extremist propaganda online from terror networks such as Isis.

In January top White House officials met with representatives from Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft to explore ways to tackle terrorism.

We are interested in exploring all options with you for how to deal with the growing threat of terrorists and other malicious actors using technology, including encrypted technology, said a briefing document released before the secretive summit.

Are there technologies that could make it harder for terrorists to use the internet to mobilize, facilitate, and operationalize?

Facebook said the latest initiative was not the direct result of the January meeting. But it said all the companies agreed there was no place for content that promotes or supports terrorism on their networks.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/05/facebook-twitter-google-microsoft-terrorist-extremist-content

Everything you need to know about exchanging your Note7 for a Google Pixel

Owners of the Galaxy Note7 are in a dreadful position. Samsung discontinued the $850 phone Tuesday after weeks of disaster: Some handsets overheated and exploded, the company tried to replace them, and then the new devices suffered the same problems.

Simply put, it’s now irresponsible, even dangerous, to own a Note7. Now comes the task of replacing it, which isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Samsung’s device was basically unrivaled on Android swapping the Note7 with another handset right now means downgrading. Say you sold your old phone to finance the Note7 or simply haven’t upgraded your device in a number of years: You’re stuck blowing your upgrade on a device that’s worse than the one you were promised.

Unless you wait and get a Google Pixel XL.

A Pixel XL, you say?

Indeed. Google’s upcoming flagship phone sounds like a great replacement for the Note7 if you can wait for it to drop. There’s a smaller version called the Pixel, but if you had a Note7, chances are you’ll dig the beefier XL.

Image: Jason Henry/Mashable

We’ll get to the specs in a second, but if you already know you want a Pixel XL, just be aware that you’ll be tapping your feet for at least nine days, or possibly up to six weeks, depending on how you choose to buy it.

The shortest path to the Pixel XL is through Verizon, Google’s exclusive launch partner for the device. As of Tuesday, Verizon promises to deliver most models of the Pixel XL by Oct. 20 the only one that’s missing is the “Really Blue” color with 128GB of storage.

Buying from Verizon guarantees your Pixel XL will be loaded with bloatware

But buying from the carrier guarantees your Pixel XL will come with bloatware unnecessary, Verizon-branded apps you won’t ever use so the best option is to purchase the device directly from Google. The only problem: Google says it’ll take five to six weeks to ship the phone, and it’s already sold out of the 128GB model. That’s bad.

Do not buy a 32GB Pixel

You will regret it. The Note7 had 64GB of storage, and 32 gigs won’t cut it if you plan to shoot a lot of footage in glorious 4K, especially if you also plan to download movies, music, magazines, comic books, games, TV shows and/or large apps.

Google is offering unlimited photo and video storage on Google Photos for Pixel owners, but relying almost completely on the cloud for storage is a risky proposition. Keeping everything on the cloud means you won’t always be able to access your photos and videos (if service is spotty, say) and 32GB will fill up faster than you think.

Returning your Note7 will be a headache

Since you need to return the device now seriously, do not put yourself or others in harm’s way by continuing to use the Note7 you’ll have to endure a chunk of time with an outdated phone.

Best case scenario, you have an old smartphone lying around that you can use while you wait for the Pixel. You can probably pop the SIM card out of your Note7, place it in your old device and activate the phone for use, but if you’re confused, your local wireless store will be able to help.

Once your old device is activated, return the Note7. If you’re a Verizon customer, you can ask to exchange it for a Pixel XL. Otherwise, get the cash and order the phone online.

Image: Jason Henry/Mashable

If you’re not a Verizon customer and you used an account upgrade to get the Note7 at a discount from a carrier like AT&T, you’re kind of up the creek without a paddle. The Pixel XL will come unlocked and work on any wireless network, but you can only buy it from Verizon or Google. Thus, you probably can’t get the device at a discount, which means you, friend, are now stuck with an old device unless you’re down to drop $869 all at once on a Pixel XL or enter into a 24-month payment plan with $36.21 installments.

You might try buying a cheap (even secondhand) Android phone.

If that’s you, there are four other Android devices we’d recommend.

Finally: If the Note7 is your only smartphone, meaning you need a device to tide you over until the Pixel XL releases, you might try buying a cheap (even secondhand) Android phone. You could drop $49.99 on the Blu R1 HD, use it for a couple of weeks, and sell it when you’re ready (or hold onto it in case Pixels start exploding). Doing this will save you the hassle of returning yet another phone when the time comes and since “restocking” fees on opened phones can cost up to $50 anyway, that’s definitely worth it.

Whew. Pain, right?

What you’re gaining and losing with the Pixel XL

So, you know how to exchange your Note7. But what will the Pixel XL actually offer you?

In a nutshell, the Pixel XL and Note7 are about the same size the Pixel XL is slightly larger overall, but it has a somewhat smaller screen with the same screen resolution, similar back camera quality, and comparable batteries.

Then things get different. The Pixel XL is a downgrade from the Note7 in a few ways:

  • The Pixel XL lacks the cool iris scanner that the Note7 had.

  • Unlike the Note7, it isn’t isn’t water-resistant, so no bathing with it.

  • Its screen isn’t curved, so you’ll miss those flashy notifications.

  • No S Pen, so you’ll have to make do without the cool screen-drawing and GIF-making features.

  • It can’t charge wirelessly.

  • It doesn’t have expandable storage.

  • There’s no heart rate scanner built into the Pixel XL, as there was with the Note7.

Of course, most of those things could be said of any other smartphone on the market today. The Pixel XL has a few significant upgrades, though:

  • It’ll be the first Android phone with Google Assistant built in. If you’re all in on Google services like Gmail, Google Calendar and the upcoming Google Home, this will make your life easier.

  • The selfie camera is more powerful than the Note7’s.

  • If you buy the device directly from Google, you can bank on getting Android updates before anyone else.

  • It’s the only phone that will work with the new Daydream virtual reality headset for now.

Note that we can’t vouch for the device’s quality until we review it ourselves, though we spent some time with it last week it seems great so far.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Google has acquired its first influencer network, FameBit

A screenshot from FameBit’s website.
Image: famebit

Google is helping creators earn a living from more than just video ads.

The tech giant, which owns video network YouTube, announced Tuesday that it had acquired FameBit, a self-service technology platform to connect creators and advertisers for product placements, paid promotions and sponsorships.

FameBit is Google’s first influencer network.

The acquisition provides Google with a network and technology to service brands and creators, a move the company said in a blog post would bring “even more revenue into the online video community.”

Founded in 2013, the Santa Monica-based startup has created more than 25,000 branded videos across Facebook and Tumblr which it introduced in December 2015 in addition to Instagram, Twitter, Vine and YouTube. Its brands include Adidas, Canon, L’Oreal, Sony, Marvel and Disney.

FameBit will remain as a standalone company and not undergo any restructuring, for now. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“With Googles relationship with brands large and small, and YouTubes partnership with creators around the globe, we hope to connect even more brands to creators, engage more audiences, and make brand marketing more creative and authentic than ever,” FameBit founders David Kierzkowski and Agnes Kozera wrote in their blog announcement.

Pre-roll video ads aren’t dead. Google noted that the top 100 advertisers have increased their spend on YouTube video ads by 50 percent over the last year.

Yet, the company is interested in gaining more oversight and providing more value to its service at a time when multichannel networks are getting more competitive and Facebook is luring at times with cash the top creators. Indeed, it recently updated its terms of service for creators to further disclose paid promotions.

YouTube’s partner program already allows select creators to earn revenue from ads, subscriptions and merchandise. FameBit connects YouTube creators to other revenue-making opportunities.

FameBit influencers can be paid either via gifted products or in cash. Co-founder Agnes Kozera told USA Today in December that its influencers were making from $2,000 to $30,000 per month, on average.

The deal is similar to how Twitter acquired New York-based Niche last year for connecting advertisers and creators.

It doesn’t mean YouTube creators are limited to working with FameBit.

“Creators will always have the choice in how they work with brands, and there are many great companies who provide this service today. This acquisition doesnt change that,” Google’s blog post reads. “Our hope is that FameBits democratized marketplace will allow creators of all sizes to directly connect with brands.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Facebook and Google Will Stretch Internet Cable from LA to Hong Kong

Facebook and Google are teaming up to speed Internet traffic between North America and Asia.

Today, alongside partners in Asia, the two Internet giants announced they will build the longest and highest capacity undersea fiber-optic cable between the two continents. Once completed, the Pacific Light Cable Network—PLCN for short—will stretch 8,000 miles from Los Angeles to Hong Kong with an estimated capacity of 120 terabits-per-second. That’s about twice the capacity of the Oregon-to-Japan cable “Faster,” which Google recently launched with several telco partners. Construction of the new cable will begin this year, and it should come online in 2018.

The move highlights the larger role that tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are playing in the construction of telecommunications infrastructure. Just last May, Facebook and Microsoft teamed up to build a new 4,100 mile cable connecting Virginia to Spain. PLCN is the sixth undersea cable that Google has invested in.

These investments, which give these companies dedicated capacity on these undersea cables, represent a big shift in how these cables are built and managed. Earlier this year, Jonathan Hjembo, a senior analyst at Telegeography, told us that private networks now account for about 60 percent of the capacity of trans-Atlantic traffic.

These underwater cables will help increase the total bandwidth available not just to the giants that build them, but for pretty much everyone else as well. And they improve the resilience of the global Internet by increasing the number of routes that data can travel across the oceans. But more to the point, they also give Facebook and Google more control over the infrastructure they depend on.

And undersea cables are just a part of that investment. Facebook and Google’s wilder Internet connectivity projects—using drones or high-altitude balloons to deliver connectivity, for example—get most of the attention. But both companies have invested heavily in buying up unused fiber optic infrastructure in the US, helping them ferry data back and forth between their data centers, bypassing the public Internet. As these companies grow and dominate the Internet, they’re increasingly independent of the infrastructure that actually defines it and evolving into networks that stand on their own.

Read more: http://www.wired.com/

Google’s experimental Sprayscape app makes VR more like Snapchat

Imagine if you could share a virtual reality-ready 360-degree view of any moment, on the fly, as easily as you send a video on Snapchat.

That’s the premise of Sprayscape, the latest experimental app from Google. Out today, the Android app makes VR selfies a reality even if they are a bit blurry.

If you’ve ever tried to take a 360-degree photo or video with a smartphone before, then you know that capturing your surroundings perfectly is pretty much impossible. Sprayscape embraces this with its “perfectly imperfect” approach. Instead of creating an expertly stitched photo sphere, the app allows you to share an in-the-moment (and likely imperfect) look at what’s around you.

The app launches on an empty black sphere that you can fill with images by tapping on the screen. Sprayscape uses your phone’s gyroscope to help capture your surroundings. But the app only captures the part of the frame you touch and it’s far easier to capture a blurry view of what’s around you than a clear one.

The resulting “scapes” are unfocused and blurry but easily shareable. Just send a link (the app requires you to log in to a Google account for sharing) and your friends can view your 360-degree creation either by dragging their finger around the frame, holding up their phone to view different parts of the image, or by popping it in a Cardboard viewer.

“We call it VR-ish. When you use Sprayscape, you are taking photos on a 360-degree sphere. When you view a scape youre looking around media oriented to 360 space,” the app’s website explains.

The app comes to us via Android Experiments, which the company uses to highlight creative ways developers use Android to create new types of experiences, and Sprayscape, which was created internally at Google, certainly fits the bill.

Though we’ve seen other apps experiment with the “Snapchat for VR” concept before, Sprayscape offers a slightly more creative take on the idea. Still, it seems unlikely to be leaving Google’s experimental labs anytime soon.

Read more: http://mashable.com/