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/

The real Google phone is going on pre-order in India

If you want to be among the first ones to pre-order one of Googles Pixel smartphones in India, make sure you dont fall asleep early tonight.

You will be able to pre-order Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones in India on Flipkart starting midnight tonight, Google told Mashable India. The phones will also go on pre-order through over 1,000 retail stores including Reliance Digital, Croma and Vijay Sales.

If youre planning to purchase either of “made by Google” smartphones, do prepare yourselves to pay a premium. The starting price of the Pixel smartphone is Rs 57,000 ($855), whereas the base Pixel XL model will cost Rs 67,000 ($1,005). The top-of-the-line, 128GB variant of the Pixel will cost Rs 66,000 ($990), whereas 128GB of the Pixel XL is priced at Rs 76,000 ($1,140).

To make it easier for some people to afford the smartphone, Google says its partnered retailers will offer interest free EMI programs and attractive upgrade offers. The phones will ship by end of the month.

Earlier today, Google said it has partnered with HTC India for after-sales support for Pixel smartphones. Customers will be able to avail support from 56 HTC India walk-in service centres in more than 30 cities across India.

The company has also setup a toll free phone support service for Indian customers. The support number, 18004190655, will be functional all days of the week between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm. Theres also an online support that users can avail directly from the phone itself. Through this, a user will be able to share their screen with a service representative and get their queries answered.

The Pixel sports a 5-inch full HD (1,920 x 1,080) display whereas its larger variant, the Pixel XL, has a 5.5-inch Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) screen. The Pixel phones are the latest to run Android Nougat (version 7.1), the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system. More interestingly, both phones come pre-loaded with Google Assistant, a feature that uses artificial intelligence to understand what users are saying and responds conversationally with the best answers.

Both phones are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor, and also feature 12.3-megapixel rear cameras. At the event, Google noted that the 12.3-megapixel sensor used in the Pixel smartphones has scored the most by any smartphone on DxOMark benchmarking.

The phones will be available in “Quite Black” and “Very Silver” color options. The “Really Blue” color variant won’t be available initially.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Ahead of Pixel smartphones launch in India, Google partners with HTC India for after sales services

Google is marketing the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones as its own, but the company realizes it won’t be able to provide all the required customer support on its own in every region. Such is the case in India, where Google has tied up with multiple companies to ensure its smartphones are widely available and customers get proper after sales service.

Google will sell the Pixel smartphones in India through Flipkart and over 1,000 retail stores including retail chains like Reliance Digital, Croma and Vijay Sales. The pre-order for the phones will begin tomorrow. For after sales service, the company has partnered with HTC India, it told Mashable India in an emailed statement.

Google says it will offer support for Pixel smartphones at 56 HTC India walk-in service centres in more than 30 cities in India. The company will also offer a toll free phone support service at 18004190655 in India. The number will be functional all days of the week between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm (local time).

“Pixel devices come with dedicated Phone support – Toll free number: 18004190655 and support hours are 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, seven days a week. We will also offer support at 56 walk-in service centres across 30+ cities in India. For after-sales support, we are partnering with HTC India,” a Google spokesperson said.

Apart from brick and mortar service centres and phone support, Google is also debuting online support directly from the phone itself, where the phone will initiate a screen sharing feature with a service representative. This could come handy in troubleshooting common issues users face.

Unlike with Nexus brand of smartphones and tablets, Pixel is being marketed as “made by Google”. Google is also assuming more control over how these phones are sold and supported in different regions. In the United States, for instance, it is providing after sales support for the Pixel smartphones. With Nexus smartphones, its manufacturer partner was tasked with offering repair and other services for the phones as well.

While pre-orders for the Pixel smartphones go live tomorrow, they will ship by the end of the month, coinciding with Diwali festival.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Marketing genius or mad man? The man who sells sneakers for $132K

(CNN)Shoppers who enter the Buscemi boutique in downtown Manhattan searching for the footwear brand’s signature leather sneakers are greeted first by five gilded pyramids.

The structures, according to the label’s founder, Jon Buscemi, have significance beyond their role as an eye-catching display.
“It’s a mix to showcase the shoe and to tell the story of going to the beginning, where luxury started,” Buscemi explains. “In Egypt.”
    Though the reference Buscemi is making with the tableau is historical, the product he’s using them to highlight is modern. Since the store opened in September, the largest pyramid has housed a one-of-a-kind pair of diamond-encrusted white sneakers that retail for $132,000.
    It’s an astronomical sum for a pair of shoes, but speaks to a strategy Buscemi has employed with great success since launching his namesake brand in 2013.

    New

    The first batch of 100mm sneakers was limited to 600, but Buscemi now produces thousands of pairs of shoes a month, available in 37 countries.
    Buscemi is privately owned and doesn’t disclose revenue, but private equity firm Lion Capital, which previously backed John Varvatos and Jimmy Choo, invested an undisclosed amount in Buscemi in November 2015, a show of faith that the brand has room to grow, even with their controlled availability.
    As for the one-of-a-kind diamond sneakers, Buscemi says they sold to an unnamed private client.
    “We did it for fun,” he says. “It’s great to see that that guy actually exists out there and bought the shoe.”

    Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/