For decades, many of the biggest names in tech have leaned on a little-known law to avoid being held responsible for some of the most controversial content on their platforms. The companies have invoked this federal law, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, in one court case after another to dismiss potentially costly lawsuits over messages, videos and other content created by users. But now, big changes could be coming to Section 230 that might expose Facebook (FB), YouTube and others to more lawsuits over hate speech and misinformation for the first time in their histories. If it happens, there could be sweeping repercussions for the internet platforms millions of people use every day. As social media sites have become hotbeds of hateful, misleading and dangerous content, an increasingly vocal group of critics from government and civil society are pushing for changes to the law. Congress and the Justice Department are now studying the issue: A draft bill by Sen. Lindsey Graham as well as legislation introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley promise to dramatically reshape Section 230, and the DOJ last week held a public workshop to debate the matter. The push to rethink the law could become the latest flash point between Silicon Valley and the Trump administration. Together with state attorneys general, news publishers and online safety activists, Attorney General William Barr has elevated a campaign to weaken, if not repeal, the law, which dates back to 1996, years before companies like Facebook, Google (GOOGL) and their peers were founded. The proposals challenge the deeply held conviction in Silicon Valley that social media companies are just neutral platforms and conduits for information. And they could vastly expand the companies legal exposure, not only to federal prosecution but potentially state and private lawsuits. "No longer are tech companies the underdog upstarts," Barr said at last week s Justice Department workshop. "They have become titans of US industry. Given this change in the technology landscape, valid questions have been raised as to whether Section 230 s broad immunity is still necessary, at least in its current form." "The 26 words that created the internet" The original intent behind Section 230 was to nurture startups and entrepreneurs. One of its key architects, Sen. Ron Wyden, said as recently as last year that without the law, "all online media would face an onslaught of bad-faith lawsuits and pressure campaigns from the powerful." He s also said Section 230 encourages websites to remove objectionable content by creating a "good Samaritan" expectation: Under the law, tech companies can t be sued for trying to do the right thing, though the federal government can still sue platforms over criminal content. The seemingly simple language of Section 230 belies the sweeping impact it s had on the tech industry. Under Section 230, "interactive computer services" are considered legally separate from the users who generate their content. They can t be said to publish or "speak" the words of their users. In practice, courts have repeatedly accepted Section 230 as a defense against claims of defamation, negligence and other allegations. In the past, it s protected AOL, Craigslist, Google and Yahoo, building up a body of law so broad and influential that Section 230 has come to be described as "the 26 words that created the internet." The Internet Association, a major trade group that represents Amazon (AMZN), Facebook and Google, has called Section 230 a "fundamental pillar" of the modern internet, saying it protects not just tech companies but all groups that offer a space for online communications, including schools, libraries, churches, or neighborhood organizations. "Section 230 enables services that allows internet users to post their own content and engage with the content of others, whether that s friends, family, co-workers, companies posting jobs, someone posting an apartment for rent, fellow gamers, or complete strangers from the other side of the globe with a shared experience or interest," the association wrote to Barr in a letter last week. But the immense scrutiny facing Big Tech — on everything from election security to privacy — has created a ripe political environment for questioning Silicon Valley s most important legal shield. Are tech companies doing enough? At last weeks workshop, experts clashed over how much legal responsibility tech companies should bear for hosting malicious content created by its users. Social media companies say they re improving their ability to detect and take down content that violates their policies. "Section 230 protects the good actors who are cutting off the bad actors," Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a trade group that represents many large tech companies, said at Wednesday s DOJ event. Without the law s good Samaritan protections, the industry argues, much of that good-faith moderation might end. Weakening Section 230 could also force websites to vet every piece of content created by their users before it goes online, according to defenders of the law — a task that only large and already powerful players like Facebook may be able to afford. Smaller, competing innovators that could break the grip of Google and Facebook might be snuffed out, said Patrick Carome, a lawyer who has represented tech companies in cases involving Section 230, at last week s event. But critics accuse tech companies of abusing their legal immunity to turn a blind eye to some of the worst content on the internet. These critics allege that powerful online platforms allow harmful material to stay online because it drives engagement — and profit. "Their financial incentives in content distribution may not always align with what is best for the user," Barr said at the event. To help drive the message home, the Justice Department has turned to child abuse experts who say companies like Facebook must bear responsibility for the child pornography and sexual predators that lurk on its platform. Facebook said it took action against more than 24 million pieces of child exploitative content last year. Most of it, the company has said, was caught automatically by Facebook s filters and that "we remove much of this content before people see it." Despite those successes, child sexual abuse content is still a widespread problem, said Yiota Souras, general counsel for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, at Wednesday s event. Last year, the non-profit group received about 17 million reports of online child exploitation, including over 15 million linked to Facebook, nearly half a million concerning Google and tens of thousands related to Microsoft, Imgur and Snapchat, among others. One proposal backed by state attorneys general would amend Section 230 by giving them the power to sue platforms for hosting child abuse material, just like the federal government can. "We ll clean up your industry, instead of waiting for your industry to clean up itself," said Doug Peterson, Nebraska s attorney general, at the DOJ workshop. A fierce debate heats up over the future of the internet The Section 230 debate is tied to another politically charged tech issue: encryption, the technology that secures many everyday transactions ranging from iMessages to credit card swipes to sensitive business and government databases. Souras said online child exploitation will only get worse if Facebook moves ahead with plans to encrypt all messages on its platforms, scrambling their contents so that not even the company knows what child abusers may be saying — and to whom — in private. The thought of bad actors "going dark" has long been a fear of the FBI, which has asked companies like Apple for help decrypting the secure data of criminal suspects. But Apple and the tech industry have resisted. They ve argued that giving the authorities a special way to tap into encrypted communications will encourage hackers and foreign adversaries to exploit the same tool. If that happens, it could ultimately weaken digital security for millions of Americans. Some legal experts worry the Trump administration s push to impose new rules on tech companies could lead to broad expansions of government power. Those perceptions were reinforced earlier this month when Sen. Graham s draft bill on Section 230 began circulating around Washington. The bill seeks to withhold Section 230 s legal protections from tech companies unless they agree to implement "best practices" that would be designed by a commission and ultimately approved by the attorney general. Technology and legal experts slammed the bill, saying it would give Barr a blank check to write his own regulations designed to weaken encryption, expand domestic surveillance, and force tech companies to undermine user security using the threat of lawsuits. In other words, the deep, longstanding divide over encryption between tech and government may be driving some of the recent conversation around content policy. "Barr is cynically exploiting [child sexual abuse material] as a pretext for attacking the privacy of law-abiding Americans who would benefit from having secure communications tools," said Berin Szoka, president of the Washington-based think tank TechFreedom.
Things go bump on Mars on a fairly regular basis. That s the conclusion of a year of listening for quake signals on the planet by the InSight lander. The US space agency-led probe has detected over 450 significant seismic events since touching down in 2018. None are particularly big - at most, they re only 3 to 4 on the magnitude scale, which you might feel if you were standing directly above the tremors. The quakes size and frequency is actually not that dissimilar to the UK. The important message though to take away from the first detailed reports on the progress of the InSight mission is that Mars is far from being a dull, dead planet; it s an active one, says principal investigator Bruce Banerdt. He told reporters: "We finally for the first time have established that Mars is a seismically active planet and that the seismic activity is greater than that of the Moon, which was measured back during the Apollo programme, but less than that of the Earth (as a whole). "In fact, it s probably close to the kinds of seismic activity you would expect to find away from the plate boundaries on the Earth and away from highly deformed areas." That s pretty much the quake picture in Britain "give or take a factor of two", added Tom Pike from Imperial College London. A magnitude 4 event in the UK will occur on average roughly every two years. InSight arrived on Mars on 26 November 2018, touching down in an equatorial region of the planet known as Elysium Planitia. It settled in a small crater that has been informally named Homestead Hollow. In addition to its French-UK seismometer package, the probe is equipped with a heat sensor that aims to burrow into the ground, and an exquisite radio experiment that will measure how the planet wobbles on its axis. Taken together, Insight s data should reveal the position and nature of all the rock layers below the surface of Mars - from the crust to the core. It s information that can then be compared and contrasted with Earth. The results released on Monday - and published in a series of papers in Nature and Nature Geoscience - represent just the early phase in this science quest which could take some years to fulfil. Mars shows no obvious evidence of plate tectonics, of great slabs of rock jostling across its surface, which is the driving mechanism of quake activity on Earth. Instead, much of the quake behaviour on the Red Planet is likely the result of cooling and contraction. As Mars loses heat, it shrinks and its brittle outer skin then fractures in response. The probe s seismometers, although representing just a single station, do have some ability to locate the source of the bigger quakes and in Monday s published catalogue there are a number of events that have been pinpointed to a nearby terrain referred to as Cerberus Fossae. This is an area of Mars that satellite imagery has suggested may have experienced volcanism in the geologically recent past. In other words, within the last 10 million years. "It s possible that there s actual magma at depth that s cooling," speculated InSight deputy project scientist Suzanne Smrekar. "And as that (possible) magma chamber contracts, it causes deformation of the strong part (of the crust) - the lithosphere. "We don t have information from our quakes that say that this is what s going on. It s a hypothesis of how we connect what we see at the surface to the fact that we are observing Marsquakes in that region." Some modelling is required to trace the quakes back to Cerberus Fossae. That s in part because, so far, the mission still doesn t have great velocity data for the propagation seismic waves through Mars rocks. "We need to know what the velocities are to properly work out a distance," explained Prof Pike whose team developed the high-frequency sensors in InSight s seismometer package. "To do that we need either to unambiguously locate the quake separately, which we could do from a meteorite strike, but we haven t detected one of those yet; or by having a strong enough event that the waves would go around the planet twice, which is what most earthquakes on Earth do. And because we know the diameter of the planet - that would give us a calibration," he told BBC News. Indeed, to get a more resolved view of Mars interior, the team could really do with detecting the Red Planet equivalent of a "Big One". Even just one very large event could make a big difference to the overall analysis. Dr Banerdt said he remained hopeful: "It s the nature of statistics - sometimes things are clustered, sometimes there s large gaps in between. It s definitely not out of the question that we could see a couple of large quakes in the next few months." InSight is currently financed by the US space agency to continue gathering data for another Earth year. At the end of that period, it hopes also to have results from the radio experiment which should yield information on the size and density of the planet s core; and also from its heat-flow sensor. The latter is designed to burrow under the surface to measure the rate of Mars heat loss but the hardware has had difficulty getting into position. Engineers plan shortly to command InSight s robotic arm to push on the sensor to help it get underground.
A US daredevil pilot has been killed during an attempted launch of a homemade rocket in the Californian desert. "Mad" Mike Hughes, 64, crash-landed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off near Barstow on Saturday. A video on social media shows a rocket being fired into the sky before plummeting to the ground nearby. Hughes was well-known for his belief that the Earth was flat. He hoped to prove his theory by going to space. Mad Mike s rocket mission to check if Earth is flat BBC Earth: How we know the Earth is round Saturday s launch was reportedly filmed as part of Homemade Astronauts, a new TV series about amateur rocket makers to be aired on the US Science Channel. The project had to be carried out on a tight budget. With the help of his partner Waldo Stakes, Hughes was trying to reach an altitude of 5,000ft (1,525m) while riding his steam-powered rocket, according to Space.com. In the video of the launch, a parachute can be seen trailing behind the rocket, apparently deployed too early, seconds after take-off. In a tweet, the Science Channel said Hughes had died pursuing his dream. San Bernardino County Sheriff s Department said its officers were called to a rocket launch event at around 14:00 local time (22:00 GMT) on Saturday. The sheriff s office said "a man was pronounced deceased after the rocket crashed in the open desert". Hughes publicist confirmed to US media outlets that it was the pilot who had been killed. Darren Shuster, a former representative for Hughes, told TMZ the daredevil was "one-of-a-kind". "When God made Mike he broke the mould. The man was the real deal and lived to push the edge. He wouldn t have gone out any other way! RIP" he said. Mad Mike and his assistants built the homemade rocket in his backyard, spending around $18,000 (£14,000). The rocket uses steam ejected through a nozzle for propulsion. The daredevil, who lived in Apple Valley, made headlines internationally when he announced his intention to prove his theory that the Earth was flat. In March last year, Hughes managed an altitude of 1,870ft (570m) before deploying his parachutes and landing with a bump. Speaking afterwards, Hughes said: "Am I glad I did it? Yeah, I guess. I ll feel it in the morning. I won t be able to get out of bed. At least I can go home and have dinner and see my cats tonight." He set a Guinness World Record in 2002 for the longest limousine jump - over 31 metres (103 ft) in a Lincoln Town Car stretched limo.
Apple may be about to give its customers a lot more control over their iPhones and iPads. The company is said to be considering allowing people to choose their default iOS apps for a broad number of tasks, including maps, web browsing and email, according to a Bloomberg report. This means you could potentially replace your iPhone s default Safari or Maps app with alternatives like Gmail and Google (GOOGL) Maps. This might seem like a minor, insignificant change, but it would signal a big concession for Apple. It could allow apps such as Spotify (SPOT) and Pandora (PANDY) to be streamed directly from Apple s HomePod smart speaker, giving other developers a fairer shot of competing against Apple s built-in services, the report said. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Apple (AAPL) embraced a closed ecosystem when it launched the Apple App Store in 2008. That benefited the company s bottom line and ensured a certain level of quality control over customers experience using their iPhones and iPads. But over the years, increased pressure from regulators, developers and consumers has slowly but surely opened up Apple s walled garden of an operating system. The company has progressively given its customers more control, such as letting them delete core apps and install third-party keyboards. But its efforts still largely trail behind Google s Android operating system, which has given its customers far greater ability to customize their phone experiences and default settings. Apple loosening its grip on the ecosystem would be a major win for its competitors, which could gain access to far more customers -- and data -- than before. "By simply becoming the default browser on an iPhone, developers like Google could easily gain access to potentially 900 million iPhone users and all their browsing habits on a constant basis," Jitesh Ubrani, research manager at IDC, told CNN Business. "The same would apply to anyone creating a mail app or music app -- and that s important because it could potentially slow the growth for some of Apple s services." The move comes at a curious time for Apple as it looks to gin up more revenue from its Services business with apps like Apple Music and Apple TV+. But opening up its ecosystem even more could help Apple grow revenue, too. "Many consumers prefer Spotify and that could have prevented them from purchasing a HomePod," Ubrani said. "By allowing Spotify to be the default player on the HomePod, not only can Apple gain additional hardware revenue, they could potentially gain more services revenue as users subscribe to Spotify through Apple." Although it s unclear if Apple will adopt this strategy moving forward, it could also represent a new foundation for opening up other areas of iOS: It may seem like a long shot, but perhaps we could even see Alexa swapped in for Siri on iPhones of the future.
South Sinai Governor Khaled Fouda said on Wednesday that the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh is now a “green city.” Fouda said that a factory will be established to manufacture environmentally-friendly paper bags, which will coincide with a ban on shipping plastic bags into the city, in addition to constructing a power plant to generate electricity using solar energy. The announcement came during a meeting held for the Chamber of Tourism Establishments in South Sinai over measures to prevent the use of plastic bags. The meeting was held in the presence of the President of the Chamber, Guevara al-Jafi, the President of the Investors Association in Sharm el-Sheikh Tamer Makram, and a number of hotel and resort managers in Sharm el-Sheikh. Fouda has called on the Investors Association and businessmen in Sharm el-Sheikh to establish a special association for the protection and preservation of the environment. The Governor reviewed ongoing environmental conservation efforts during the meeting, such as steps to increase reliance on renewable energy resources. The measures comes as part of efforts to transform Sharm el-Sheikh into a sustainable, green, eco-friendly city in cooperation with Egypt s Environment Ministry, and include the construction of a solar power plant with a capacity of 5 megawatts, which he expects to increase to 40 megawatts. He added that a marina for yachts and other small boats will be established alongside the “green areas,” in addition to the development of the Naama Bay area and its planned transformation into an “international tourist promenade.” Fouda previously directed authorities to determine a location for the construction of a factory for eco-friendly paper bags, an alternative to plastic bags, which will be banned completely in the Governorate when the alternative is available. Egypt s Minister of Environment Yasmin Fouad said last year that the ministry supports South Sinai s initiative to transform Sharm el-Sheikh into a so-called “green city” in cooperation with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Back in 2018, projects included steps to boost recycling and renewable energy use, as well as the reuse of water. The budget for the project, provided by the UNDP, totals $US 5 million.
Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel Ghaffar is set to establish the Satellite City Industrialization and Assembly Center sometime this year in cooperation with China, the minster announced on February 16 – the Egyptian Space Day. He further announced carrying out cooperation protocols with various countries in space-related fields, such as the French Space Agency. Also on the Egyptian Space Day, organized by the Egyptian Space Agency in partnership with the Arab Science and Technology Foundation, Abdel Ghaffar noted the most important partnerships in space sciences with countries such as France, Kazakhstan, Italy, China, the US and referred to agreements signed during the TICAD Seven summit in Japan. Space related fields depend not just on the manufacturing and launching of satellites, the minister said, but also extend to scientific research in space medicine and other fields. The Egyptian Space Agency s CEO Mohamed al-Qousy unveiled future protocols with Egyptian universities and the agency s training programs. The agency anticipates setting a schedule over the next decade to help meet Egypt s ambitions in the space field, he said, which go beyond launching satellites. Egypt desires to explore outer space through sending its own spaceship, and conduct research on space medicine and waste, he explained. The Egyptian Space Agency was established in 2018 to coordinate the efforts of various scientific bodies concerned with studying outer space and satellite technology, promoting Egypt s development and protecting its national security. Qousy said that agency supports the efforts of Egyptian universities in setting up laboratories for space science. Egypt s Space Day saw the participation of ministers, ambassadors from involved countries and senior officials. A platform was launched to organize programs and activities in science, and promote promote dialogue between foreign researchers and scientists in Egypt, the wider Arab world, and Africa.
New York Attorney General Letitia James will not appeal a federal judge s decision to allow Sprint and T-Mobile to merge, setting the stage for the two telecom giants to finally complete their long awaited deal. New York and a dozen other states sued to block the $26 billion merger, arguing it would reduce competition in the wireless industry and harm consumers. But after two weeks of testimony in Manhattan federal court in December, ;last week US District Court Judge Victor Marrero rejected the states lawsuit and said the merger could go forward. The court battle was the final hurdle standing in the way of the combination of the third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers in the United States, after the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission approved the deal last year. "After a thorough analysis, New York has decided not to move forward with an appeal in this case," James said in a statement Sunday. "Instead, we hope to work with all the parties to ensure that consumers get the best pricing and service possible, that networks are built out throughout our state, and that good-paying jobs are created here in New York." The legal team for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who co-led the lawsuit with James, is currently reviewing the court s ruling and its options, an advisor to Becerra told CNN Business. Combining Sprint (S) and T-Mobile (TMUS) will create three similarly sized competitors in the wireless business: the "New" T-Mobile, Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) (CNN parent company WarnerMedia is owned by AT&T). Satellite company Dish Network (DISH) plans to use the deal as a catalyst to become a new wireless services provider. The states argued in court that getting rid of smaller players would reduce the incentive for all three major companies to implement price cuts and other benefits for consumers. But Judge Marrero said in his ruling that he didn t envision the companies "would pursue anticompetitive behavior." He also said he believed Sprint would cease to be a viable industry player without the merger and that Dish would fill the gap in competition created by the deal. As part of the deal, Sprint and T-Mobile promised federal regulators they would sell off some assets to help Dish s wireless service get off the ground. Still, Dish is likely to have a difficult — and costly — road ahead when it comes to creating a wireless network and getting customers to sign on. Last year, T-Mobile also settled with a number individual attorneys general in other states that had initially opposed the merger and signed onto the lawsuit. In Texas, for example, T-Mobile agreed not to raise prices for consumers in the state for five years after the deal closes, and to build out a 5G network that covered the entire state, including rural areas, in the next six years. In her statement Sunday, New York Attorney General James noted that she is "gratified" that T-Mobile has also committed to creating jobs in Rochester as part of the deal. "We are committed to continuing to fight for affordability and access for all of New York s mobile customers," James said. The merger could be finalized in early April. A new website has been started to promote the combined companies at NewTMobile.com.
With each passing quarter, Amazon, Microsoft and Google have been setting new records, while cloud computing has become the invisible backbone supporting much of our daily lives. Its potential to become an even bigger part of people s daily existence is sky-high. – Uses – The rising popularity of the cloud has gone hand-in-hand with that of 4G broadband technology and of smartphones: The combined power of the network and of servers makes it possible for us to listen to music, to watch videos, to work remotely, to post on social media or to request a ride and watch it arrive, in real time, on a smartphone map. Companies and individuals can buy not just cloud-based storage but also processing power, Internet services and software, all of it situated not in one s computer or smartphone but in huge data centers. There are now even cloud services for video games, which require enormous amounts of data and extremely rapid response times. “Cloud gaming,” as with other uses, lets users dispense with expensive and fast-outdated equipment. – Market – Most big companies and institutions now access the cloud either through their own private servers or as a client of a public cloud provided by a company such as Amazon, Microsoft or Google. These big providers offer an array of options, from simple hosting to ultra-complete online services, with an a la carte menu of tools and software, and with programs ensuring maintenance and security. The public cloud can thus provide savings while also allowing greater flexibility as users needs evolve. In practice, many companies choose a hybrid approach, melding the lower cost, greater power and high adaptability of the public cloud with the comforting security of a private cloud. “Companies on average use about three different public-cloud providers,” said Bob O Donnell, president and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research. While some companies grew up in the data world, he added, “let s not forget that lots of companies have been moving slowly and cautiously; plenty of companies are just getting started.” In 2020, the market for the public cloud is expected to reach $266 billion, a 17 percent increase over 2019, according to Gartner Consulting. And market research firm IDC (International Data Corporation) predicts a near-doubling of the market by 2023, to $500 billion. – Players – The 2006 launch of Amazon Web Services (AWS) gave the online giant a huge lead over its competitors. Analysts put its current share of the global public-cloud market at 30 to 50 percent. AWS had 2019 revenues of $35 billion and claims millions of users worldwide. It did suffer one setback last year: In October, the Pentagon awarded a mega-contract worth $10 billion to Microsoft, the second largest player in the market. Against a backdrop of hostility between US President Donald Trump and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, the company is taking legal action in an attempt to block the Microsoft contract. A federal court on Thursday ordered the Pentagon to temporarily halt its work with Microsoft while the matter is reviewed. Microsoft, meanwhile, has not released precise figures on the success of Azure, its public cloud, making comparisons difficult. But the company s cloud division has turned in Microsoft s best performances, quarter after quarter. Azure controls approximately 15 percent of the market. Trailing it are Google Cloud and China s Alibaba, each with a five or six percent share. For Google, the American leader in internet research, the cloud is a growing priority: It showcases the company s capacity for very large-scale data analysis as well as the ability for users of the hybrid cloud or of multiple clouds to easily shift data from one provider to another. Google Cloud took in $9 billion in 2019 (up 53 percent in a year). – Outlook – All the providers strongly emphasize cybersecurity — their reputations for protecting sensitive data are essential to their survival — but also, and crucially, the capacity for automated machine learning to rapidly analyze and optimally use the mountains of data being produced at every moment. The Pentagon s mega-contract, for example, is aimed at modernizing the computer systems of the entire American military, to be managed with the help of artificial intelligence. The contract also seeks to reduce environmental costs, since sprawling data centers consume enormous amounts of electricity to cool their servers. Meantime, 5G wireless technology and self-driving vehicles will favor the development of so-called edge computing — locating computing and storage capacity relatively close to their end users, thereby improving response time. AWS has joined with Verizon, and Microsoft with AT&T, in the race to make cloud technologies more directly available to users. The goal is to process data collected by myriad connected sensors (located in homes, factories, vehicles, etc.) in real time, without having to pass through servers. Analysts say such “zero latency” promises to open dazzling new possibilities.
Facebook has delayed the launch of its new dating feature in Europe, after a last-minute visit by officers from the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC). The DPC said it had been told about the feature just 10 days ahead of the planned launch and "no information or documentation was provided to us". "We were very concerned that this was the first that we d heard," it said. Officers had gathered documents during Monday s inspection of Facebook s EU headquarters, in Dublin, the DPC said. The move also affects the UK market, which is bound to EU rules during the post-Brexit transition period this year. Tinder to add panic button and anti-catfishing tech Why do gay apps struggle to stop fakes and frauds? Facebook, however, said it had completed the necessary paperwork and shared it when asked. "It s really important that we get the launch of Facebook Dating right, so we are taking a bit more time to make sure the product is ready for the European market," a representative said. "We worked carefully to create strong privacy safeguards and complete the data-processing impact assessment ahead of the proposed launch in Europe, which we shared with the [regulator] when it was requested." No new date has been set for the roll-out. What is Facebook Dating? Facebook Dating launched in the US in September as part of the existing Facebook phone app. The feature, a potential competitor to dating giant Tinder, uses Facebook s data on a person to show common friends and interests on their dating profile. It can also pull in posts from Instagram - a Facebook-owned company. Other dating apps - such as Tinder and Bumble - can also use Facebook login features to build the user s profile. Image copyrightFACEBOOK Because Facebook already had a lot of information about people s lives, the company said, it had made special efforts to ensure safety, security and privacy. Unlike Facebook Messenger, photos, videos, and links cannot be sent through the dating messaging service. It is also available to over-18s only and does not - unless requested - try to match users with their existing Facebook friends. The app has been available in selected countries for less than half a year, attempting to wrest some of the market share from leaders Tinder and Bumble, each of which has tens of millions of users.
LONDON (AP) — The British government says it will give regulators the power to fine social media companies for harmful material on their platforms. Plans announced Wednesday would give the UK s telecommunications watchdog, Ofcom, power to enforce a “duty of care” on companies such as Facebook and Twitter “to protect users from harmful and illegal terrorist and child abuse content.” Firms that allow harmful material to flourish or don t remove it quickly could be sanctioned. Ofcom currently keeps tabs on radio and television broadcasters, and has the power to levy fines or even kick repeat offenders off the air. The government said it was “minded” to make the changes, but new legislation will be needed for it to take effect. It said officials were working “at pace” to draft a new law. Ofcom will hold companies to account if they don t deal with harmful material, and platforms will have to remove “illegal content” quickly and “minimize the risk of it appearing.” In order to safeguard freedom of expression, the rules won t ban people from accessing or posting offensive but legal content, though the government indicated it would let internet companies decide what material is tolerated. Online companies “will be required to explicitly state what content and behavior is acceptable on their sites in clear and accessible terms and conditions and enforce these effectively, consistently and transparently,” the government said. Tech companies welcomed the regulations. “Facebook has long called for new regulations to set high standards across the internet,” said Rebecca Stimson, the social network s head of UK public policy. “New rules are needed so that we have a more common approach across platforms and companies aren t making so many important decisions alone.” YouTube, owned by Google, said it looked forward to “working in partnership with the Government and Ofcom to ensure a free, open and safer internet that works for everyone.” Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said the new rules would be “proportionate and strong.” “We have an incredible opportunity to lead the world in building a thriving digital economy, driven by groundbreaking technology, that is trusted by and protects everyone in the UK,” she said. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said it welcomed “a duty of care model that puts the onus on big tech to prevent online harms.” But free-speech advocates have expressed concerns about state attempts to limit activity that may be harmful but is not illegal.
The Egyptian Space Agency is set to host “Space Day”on February 16, an open event aiming to inform the public of the agency s work and upcoming projects and provide a platform for exchanging research and experience related to the science of outer space and satellite technology in the Middle East and Africa. The event, which was organized under the slogan “Space for Society,” will be held between 9 am and 3 pm at the Leadership and Management Development Center in Giza s Agouza, and people of all ages, university students, and foreign and local officials and researchers are set to attend. “We invite members of Egyptian society to participate with us in this event and celebrate the launch of Egyptian satellites, which were designed and manufactured 100 percent by Egyptian minds,” said Mohamed al-Qousy, CEO of the Egyptian Space Agency. During the event, the agency will also present Egypt s achievements in the field of space exploration and related sciences, he said. The Egyptian Space Agency was established in 2018 to coordinate the efforts of various scientific bodies concerned with studying outer space and satellite technology, so as to promote development in Egypt and protect national security. The agency has supported Egyptian universities in their efforts to establish laboratories for studies related to space science, Qousy said. He went on to say that the event provides an exceptional opportunity for officials, researchers, and the public to get acquainted with the Egyptian space program. A number of ministers, ambassadors of concerned countries and senior officials will participate in Egypt s Space Day, during which a platform will also be launched to organize science programs and related activities, and promote dialogue between foreign researchers and scientists in Egypt, the wider Arab world, and Africa. The day s events will also include an exhibition for private companies and Egyptian universities to display their vision and attract young people interested in the space field, with officials from the agency set to host discussions on its programs and upcoming plans. Three workshops scheduled for Space Day will also give participants practical knowledge about building and using satellites. Moreover, sponsors of Egypt s Space Day and the winners of the Egyptian Space Agency s logo design contest will be honored at the event. Qousy stressed that efforts to organize Space Day are consistent with the general framework of the country s social and economic development plans for achieving Egypt s 2030 vision. In December, Qousy announced that the first-ever competition to send an Egyptian astronaut to space was set to begin in January 2020, adding that any young man or woman was welcome to apply for the contest. Also that month, Egyptian Satellite Company “NileSat” signed a contract to manufacture and launch the new satellite “NileSat 301,” alongside French aerospace company Thales Alenia Space. Development of the new satellite began almost three years ago, and it is set to launch in 2022. The new satellite will expand its coverage to countries in the south of the African continent and along the Nile basin. This should help to strengthen communication across the African continent in line with the ongoing efforts of political leaders to bolster ties between Egypt and other African nations, according to NileSat head Ahmed Anis.
MELBOURNE/SYDNEY (Reuters) – A four-day downpour across Australia s east coast has brought relief after months of devastating bushfires and years of drought, but also widespread storm damage and forecasts of more wild weather to come. The weekend drenching represented the biggest sustained run of rainfall in Sydney and surrounding areas for 30 years, dousing some bushfires and replenishing depleted dams across New South Wales, the country s most populous state. Some rural areas received more rain in recent days than they had in the entirety of the past year – a startling and swift turnaround from the bushfires that have killed 33 people and ravaged large parts of the east coast. “It s amazing what the smell of the rain can do to people s spirits,” Ben Shields, the mayor of the inland city of Dubbo, told Reuters on the phone. Like many other rural towns, Dubbo has been beset by duststorms and subjected to water restrictions on the back of a three-year drought. James Jackson, a sheep and cattle farmer in the drought-hit Guyra district some 500 kilometers (311 miles) north of Sydney, told Reuters the region was starting to turn green again. “This one event won t replenish the whole soil moisture profile. We ll need a couple of these, but this is certainly a good start for those people who got it,” said Jackson, who is also the president of industry body NSW Farmers. “I have two-year-old sheep who are seeing green grass for the first time.” Bushfire warning signs were almost swamped by floods in several areas as the weekend rainfall cut power to tens of thousands of homes, caused travel chaos in Sydney and closed scores of schools for the start of the week. Almost 400 millimeters (15.8 inches) of rain fell in the Sydney area and surrounding areas. The Warragamba Dam, which supplies about four-fifths of Sydney s water, jumped from about 40 percent to above 60 percent full in just over a week, the state s water authority said, shoring up water supplies for the city of five million. The NSW Rural Fire Service s Sydney headquarters has been reconfigured to respond to floods and storm damage because of the rapid shift in the weather threat. WILDFIRES EXTINGUISHED Parts of northern and inland NSW, along with southern Queensland, have been in drought since 2016, severely reducing river and dam levels while also creating the tinder-dry conditions that have fueled this season s deadly bushfires. The weekend rain extinguished some of the worst bushfires in NSW, including the Gospers Mountain megafire in the Blue Mountains and the Currawon blaze on the south coast. Each burned for months, together razing more than one million hectares (2.5 million acres) of bushland and destroying hundreds of homes. In contrast, flood evacuation warnings have now been ordered for parts of the Conjola region, authorities said, where deadly fires razed dozens of homes on New Year s Eve. Thunderstorms are forecast for NSW and neighboring Victoria state in coming days. The rain has put some much-needed moisture into parched land months out from the all-important wheat-planting season which is crucial to the fortunes of Australia s biggest crop. Phin Ziebell, agribusiness economist at National Australia Bank, said the rain would also encourage farmers in the north-east state of Queensland to rebuild their stock numbers now they had water and feed. “Some of the driest parts of Queensland have received a drenching, which will help pasture growth,” Ziebell said.
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil more than doubled in January compared with the previous year, according to official data published Friday. More than 280 square kilometers (110 square miles) were cleared, an increase of 108 percent. It was the largest area cleared in the month of January since 2015, when such data started being collected, according to Brazil s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The data was collected by the INPE s satellite-based DETER system, which monitors deforestation in real time. In comparison, 136 square kilometers were cleared in January 2019, 183 square kilometers in 2018 and 58 square kilometers in 2017. INPE data published in mid-January found that deforestation in the Amazon in northern Brazil had soared 85 percent in 2019, clearing 9,166 square kilometers — the highest number in at least five years — versus 4,946 square kilometers cleared in 2018. The sharp increase overlapped the first year in office of President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic who has eased restrictions on exploiting the Amazon s vast riches. Bolsonaro made headlines in August when he attempted to minimize the resurgence of forest fires that had shocked the world. On August 2, INPE then-president Ricardo Galvao was sacked by Bolsonaro s administration, which accused him of exaggerating the extent of the deforestation. On Wednesday, Bolsonaro unveiled a sweeping plan for the Amazon rainforest that would open indigenous lands to mining, farming and hydroelectric power projects. Many NGOs said this would further increase deforestation. The bill, which has yet to be approved by Congress, is a “dream” for the far-right leader but a “nightmare” for environmentalists and tribal leaders.
SAO PAULO (AP) — Their bodies painted black, dozens of members the Brazil s Guarani Mbya tribe lift their hands and sing a mourning song for hundreds of felled trees beside their village. They weep, chant and perform funeral rites for a lost patch of forest on the edge of Latin America s biggest city. People in the tribe rushed to the site, at the base of Sao Paulo s Jaraguá Peak, as soon as they heard chainsaws toppling trees on Jan. 30. Some wore feathered headdresses and held arrows in clenched fists. The display alarmed construction company employees, who called the police and sought refuge in a shack nearby. “Two employees of the company came in December to tell us not to be scared about the chainsaws,” tribal leader David Fernandes told The Associated Press. “There s no city here. There s just forest. How can the authorities give a license to build here? There has been no dialogue. It is our right to have a say about what impacts us.” Tree-cutting has been suspended, at least temporarily. But workers still hope to get back to building five high-rise apartment blocks for low-income residents. Sao Paulo s city hall said it had awarded licenses to build there. They were given by officials working for Mayor Bruno Covas, a former state environment secretary who is running for reelection this year. Until the 1950s, the tribe wandered in the Jaraguá region, an area of Atlantic forest. Decades later, the village they settled in was recognized by the Brazil government but also encroached upon by the sprawling metropolis. The tension between a builder with projects in nine Brazilian states and a 40-family indigenous community — the smallest by area in all Brazil at 4.2 acres (1.7 hectares) — is a microcosm of what s playing out elsewhere in the country. Farther afield, particularly in Brazil s Amazon, indigenous groups face growing pressure from business interests including loggers, miners, farmers and cattle ranchers. The developers have found a steadfast advocate in President Jair Bolsonaro, who has often said indigenous people and their land cannot be a hindrance to development and national sovereignty. Brazil s president has no say in awarding the constructor the permits to build near Guarani Mbya land. But tribal leaders argue the federal indigenous affairs agency did not consult them on potential impacts, as required by law, which would halt the licensing process. They also said no one from the agency, known as Funai, supported them after they informed about the construction. Funai said Tuesday that officials visited the site recently. In a statement the agency said the cutting of trees was suspended for 20 days following an agreement between indigenous leaders and the construction company. It did not comment on whether it had consulted the indigenous residents before tree-felling began. Sao Paulo s city hall said Tuesday night that construction at the site will be halted for seven days so the indigenous people have more time to provide any evidence that there are problems with the builder s environmental licenses. Earlier, builder Tenda said it had carried out all required procedures to begin the housing project and felled only “isolated trees.” Following repeated requests from the AP, Tenda didn t make anyone available for an interview. Tribal leaders are concerned that the roughly 500 trees felled over the past week is just the start, and that more trees will be cut. The indigenous group worries that amount of deforestation could dry up a spring that s important for local fishing. The Guarani Mbya officially gained claim to their land, an area smaller than two soccer pitches beside Sao Paulo s tallest hill, in 1987. While Tenda isn t building on the indigenous territory, Sao Paulo city councilman Gilberto Natalini says granting permission to build near the tribe and in a forested region still is a “disgrace” and a sign of greed. “In Brazil, the order now is destroy in order to make money,” Natalini said, walking amidst fallen trunks. “It s a very bad moment for our environment.” Bolsonaro has said indigenous people should be integrated into society, and also that they themselves desire modern conveniences. He has likened those living within protected areas to animals trapped in a zoo, angering human rights activists. Not all the Guarani Mbya cling to traditional habits. Unlike in some other Brazilian tribal villages, few children run around naked, especially because of Sao Paulo s often chilly weather. The youngest wear soccer shirts, while others carry cell phones and drive old cars on dirt roads to carry supplies for their families. Many have left the community, abandoning their culture altogether. But a quick walk around shows many of the 700 Guarani Mbya like to stay near one another, telling stories, praying in their clay huts and eating fruit from their own trees. They express their wish to maintain their distance from the metropolis, even if it means having shoddy housing and a lack of sewage treatment. “I never wanted to live there, but the city insists on coming to us,” tribe member Balbina Terue said. “I don t see why people have to destroy the environment just to live here.” On Sunday, the tribe suspended their ceremony and dispatched children to plant 200 trees on Tenda s land. It was a merely symbolic gesture, since the saplings of various cedars and oaks may never reach the heights of the trees that were recently removed. “This will not solve the problem for us,” Fernandes conceded. “But maybe it helps future generations.” Those generations, however, just might live in apartments.
Twitter unveiled a plan Tuesday to curb the spread of manipulated content including “deepfake” videos as part of a move to fight misinformation which could result in violence or other harm. The policy was announced after Twitter asked for comments last year on ways to reduce “synthetic and manipulated media” on the online platform that could deceive people during election campaigns or provoke violence or physical harm. Twitter, which along with other social platforms has been struggling to respond to concerns over misinformation, said its new policy calls for a mix of warning “labels” for tweets that include manipulated images or video, and removal of the tweets. The move comes amid growing concerns over “deepfake” videos altered using artificial intelligence, along with other kinds of manipulation to deceive social media users. Twitter vice president of trust and safety Del Harvey said the new policy addresses not only deepfakes but other kinds of manipulation, sometimes described as “shallow fakes” or “cheapfakes.” “This isn t a deepfake rule,” she said. “We want to address any incident where media has been altered or fabricated.” The decision on whether to include a label or remove the content will depend on “the likelihood and severity of harm that could result,” Harvey said during a call with journalists. Twitter said in a blog post it would begin enforcing the new policy on March 5, alerting users to manipulated pictures or video, and sometimes offsetting them with links to more information about the subjects. “You may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm,” group product manager Ashita Achuthan and head of site integrity Yoel Roth said in the blog post. “In addition, we may label tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand the media s authenticity and to provide additional context.” – Politicians included – The new rule will apply to politicians and their campaigns, according to Harvey. “If the media is altered or fabricated, regardless of who the individual is, this policy will still apply,” she said. Under the policy, for example, doctored videos of former US vice president Joe Biden and of Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi that caused recent controversies on social media would violate the new rule, according to Twitter executives. “Whether you are using advance machine-learning tools or using a 99-cent app to slow down videos on your phone, our rules apply to the content not how the result was achieved,” Roth said. “Does the end tweet result in confusion or misunderstanding or result in a deliberate attempt to mislead people? That is the question.” The announcement comes a day after YouTube said it will remove election-related videos that are “manipulated or doctored” to mislead voters, amid heightened concerns on efforts to spread misinformation that could influence elections around the world. Facebook, which has its own policies on misinformation, in January said it would ban deepfake videos while allowing heavily edited clips so long as they are parody or satire. – Filtering for fakes – Factors Twitter will weigh when deciding what content is deceptively manipulated or outright fabricated will include how heavily it is edited; whether audio has been dubbed over or removed, and whether those pictured are simulations. Also on the banned content list were threats to privacy or free expression in the form of “stalking or unwanted and obsessive attention; targeted content that includes tropes, epithets, or material that aims to silence someone; voter suppression or intimidation.” Roth said Twitter will seek to be “proactive” in the policy “to reduce the burden of people to report to us.” Along with showing warning labels on doctored imagery before it is “liked” or shared, Twitter will prevent it from being included in recommended content and will typically provide additional information intended to counter misperception. Twitter said the new rule was based on a survey of US users as well as feedback from people around the world who chimed in using tweets. Globally, more than 70 percent of Twitter users who voiced opinions said that taking no action on abusively doctored tweets would be unacceptable, according to Achuthan and Roth.
Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad, Minister of Agriculture Mohamed al-Qusayr and Qaliubiya Governor Abdel Hamid al-Haggan signed a protocol of joint cooperation on Sunday for the afforestation of streets at the cities of Khanka and Abu Zaabal, and to supply trees to the Ministry of Environment s department in New Cairo. Fouad said that the protocol is carried out in two phases: the first stage includes planting 4,000 trees at the cities of Khanka and Abu Zaabal. The second phase is for the supply of a number of trees to the Ministry of Environment department in New Cairo, and spread awareness of afforestation in all sectors of the society, especially among students. The agreement also includes the afforestation of the Educational Cultural Center (Cairo House), and the Ministry of Environment s building in Maadi. The signing of these protocols comes as part of joint cooperation between the state institutions to protect the environment in order to achieve sustainable development goals, increase the per capita green space, reduce pollution (especially in industrial cities) and contribute to addressing climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, Fouad said. Criteria has been established defining the types and sizes of the trees used, so as to use the minimum amount of water, easily maintain them, ensure they resist climatic conditions, and absorb the largest amount of pollutants.
BEIJING (AP) — The Latest on the outbreak of a new virus from China (all times local): Seven pm. Chinese scientists say they have more evidence that the new virus that recently emerged in China likely originated in bats. In two papers published Monday in the journal Nature, scientists report that genome sequences from several patients in Wuhan show the virus is closely related to the viruses that cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. In one study, Shi Zhen-Li and colleagues at the Wuhan Institute of Virology reported that genome sequences from seven patients were 96% identical to a bat coronavirus. SARS is also believed to originate in bats, although it jumped to civet cats before infecting people in the 2002-2003 international outbreak. Although scientists suspect the latest virus outbreak in China began at a seafood market in Wuhan where wild animals were on sale and in contact with people, the animal source has not yet been pinpointed. “In essence, it s a version of SARS that spreads more easily but causes less damage,” said Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading who was not connected to the two studies. “The virus also uses the same receptor, the door used to get into human cells, which explains transmission and why it causes pneumonia,” he said in a statement. ___ 6:45 pm A cruise ship industry group says its members will ban anyone, including guests or crew, who has traveled from or through mainland China in the previous 14 days, the maximum incubation period for a new virus that originated in China. The Cruise Lines International Association, which says it represents more than 50 cruise lines and is the world s largest cruise industry trade association, said its members have suspended all crew movements from mainland China. Last week, a scare over a woman with flu-like symptoms led Italian authorities to keep 6,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members on a cruise ship docked north of Rome. The Costa Crociere cruise line said the woman and her partner, who had no symptoms, were put into isolation Wednesday. The passengers were allowed to disembark on Thursday after tests for the new virus came back negative. The number of people infected by the virus globally has topped 17,000. It has killed more than 360 people, all but one in China. ___ 6:15 pm The head of the World Health Organization says it s working with Google to ensure that searches about the new virus from China turn up information from the United Nations health agency first, part of efforts to fight “rumors and misinformation” about the outbreak. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the opening of WHO s executive board meeting on Monday that social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Tencent and TikTok “have also taken steps to limit the spread of misinformation” about the virus and outbreak that first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December and has now spread to 23 other countries. The number of people infected by the virus globally has topped 17,000. It has killed more than 360 people, all but one in China. ___ 5:55 pm Russia s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin says the country may start deporting foreigners infected with the new coronavirus. Mishustin said at a Cabinet meeting Monday that it is one of the measures outlined in a government-approved plan of action for preventing the virus from spreading in Russia. On Friday, Russia reported its first two confirmed cases of coronavirus — two Chinese nationals were hospitalized in two different regions of Siberia. It wasn t immediately clear from Mishustin s statement whether they would be deported. Like other countries, Russia has halted most of its air and train traffic with China, shut down its land border with China and Mongolia and temporarily stopped issuing work visas to Chinese citizens. On Monday, authorities announced Russia was suspending the last operating train that connects Moscow and Beijing and all trains between Russia and North Korea. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova also said that several Russian planes would fly to China on Monday to evacuate Russian citizens. Golikova said there are currently around 130 Russian nationals in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. ___ 5:35 pm Hong Kong s leader Carrie Lam announced the city will shut almost all land and sea border control points to the mainland from midnight to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus from China. Lam said in a briefing Monday that only two border checkpoints — at Shenzhen Bay and the bridge to Macau and Zhuhai — will remain open. Lam denied that the move was due to pressure from medical workers who threatened a five-day strike to demand the government shut all borders to the mainland. Public broadcaster RTHK reports that some went on strike Monday and more threatened to walk out on Tuesday if their demands were not met. Lam said the border closures had “absolutely nothing to do with the strike” and was instead simply a measure to stem the spread of the virus which has infected 15 people in Hong Kong. Lam urged Hong Kong residents to “stand united” in combating the outbreak. ___ 5:30 pm The Czech Republic has plans to suspend all flights to and from China in an effort to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis says the ban will take effect on Sunday. The lag gives 100 Czechs in China a chance to return home. About 620,000 Chinese tourists visited the Czech Republic last year. The first direct flight connection between Prague and China was established in 2015. Three Chinese airlines operate flights to Prague from Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Sian (Xi an). ___ 5:15 pm Dubai s long-haul carrier Emirates says it will continue flying to mainland China amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, but will fly smaller aircraft on many routes. The airline said Monday it would swap out its double-decker Airbus A380 for a Boeing 777 on several routes to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. The decision comes after Western and Arab airlines stopped flying to China over the outbreak. The UAE has pushed for more Chinese tourists and investment amid an economic slowdown. The United Arab Emirates also instituted a new rule Monday that any school staff or student returning to the country from China needed to spend 14 days at home before returning to class. ___ 4:45 p.m. The Shanghai Composite index has lost nearly eight percent as Chinese regulators moved to stabilize markets jolted by a virus that has spread to more than 20 countries, slamming regional tourism and threatening global growth. The outbreak of the virus in China has prompted governments around the world to step up surveillance and quarantine requirements as airlines cancel hundreds of flights. Millions of Chinese remained in lock-down as the number of people infected by the virus topped 17,000 as of Sunday night. It has killed more than 360 people, all but one in China. The Shanghai benchmark dropped almost nine percent after markets opened on Monday after a week-long Lunar New Year holiday that was extended by three days. It was its worst day since August 2015, despite the central bank s effort to put billions of dollars of extra cash into the markets through short-term securities purchases. Many analysts have dropped their forecasts for China, the world s second-largest economy, to near five percent from earlier forecasts of six percent economic growth for the year. ___ 2:15 pm Aviation authorities say that two flights carrying dozens of Pakistani students, Chinese and other passengers landed in Pakistan days after Islamabad suspended all flights with Beijing amid the outbreak of a new virus there. The passengers on Monday were permitted to leave the airport after their medical examinations. Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar says the ban on flights to and from China ended Sunday night and that the government health department had made “special arrangements” for screening incoming passengers. Last week s ban on flights with China affected 22 weekly flights. So far, Pakistan has no plans to evacuate some 30,000 nationals, including students, living in China. Authorities say that so far four Pakistani students in China have been diagnosed with the new virus and their conditions are listed as stable. About 500 Pakistani students were in Wuhan — the site of the outbreak — at the time it surfaced. ___ 10:40 am South Korea s defense ministry says about 800 South Korean soldiers have been placed under quarantine as a precaution against a new coronavirus from China. Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyunsoo told reporters Monday that the soldiers either recently visited China, Hong Kong or Macau, or contacted people who visited those countries. She says 450 of them are quarantined at their military bases and the remaining 350 at their homes. South Korea has so far reported 15 cases of the new coronavirus, but none of them is affiliated with the country s 600,000-strong military.
Facebook s massive settlement in a class action case over violating a state law on how it uses facial recognition is being hailed as a watershed moment for “biometric privacy.” The leading social network said Wednesday it agreed to the $550 million payout after failing to win dismissal of the case alleging it illegally collected biometric information for “face tagging” in violation of a 2008 Illinois privacy law. The settlement could have wide-ranging implications for Facebook and other tech firms using facial recognition technology, and highlights the potential for state laws to force changes in privacy practices. Plaintiff attorney Jay Edelson said the case helps establish the principle of biometric privacy, or the right of users of tech services and products to control access to their data used for facial recognition. “Biometrics is one of the two primary battlegrounds, along with geolocation, that will define our privacy rights for the next generation,” Edelson said in a statement. “We hope and expect that other companies will follow Facebook s lead and pay significant attention to the importance of our biometric information.” Attorney Nathan Wessler of the American Civil Liberties Union, which backed the plaintiffs legal arguments, said the settlement could mark a turning point for consumers and biometrics. “Companies are going to have to take this seriously,” Wessler said. “Hopefully a settlement of this size will be a deterrent.” The deal is one of the largest settlements in a US privacy case, topped only by Facebook s $5 billion deal with the Federal Trade Commission on its data practices. Both are awaiting court approval. – Facial recognition growing – The legal case comes amid an array of deployments of biometric technologies such as facial recognition for law enforcement and border control, but also for “tagging” in social networks and in applications for retail stores or unlocking personal devices and cars. Several US cities including San Francisco have passed bans on the use of facial recognition technology. There are concerns about creating large databases with the potential for errors in identifying some individuals. “We have seen growing recognition in the courts and in the public for the last few years on the need for reasonable but strong limits on the collection and use of our most private information,” Wessler said. The Illinois law does not apply to government entities or contractors. At least two other states have similar laws, but Illinois is the only one allowing for private lawsuits for damages when companies collect data without consent. Alan Butler of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which also supported the plaintiff arguments, called the case “hugely significant” with a potential impact for all Facebook users. Butler noted that the courts ruled the case could proceed merely on the basis of showing a violation, without evidence of specific harms. – Unintended consequences? – But the Illinois law and similar restrictions may have negative consequences as well, according to Daniel Castro of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank often aligned with industry. The ability to sue without showing damages has unleashed a flood of litigation and some firms “are even blocking their services in Illinois to avoid the risk of penalties. That s not good for consumers,” Castro said. “At the same time, it does not do much to actually address many specific concerns, such as police use of facial recognition to track citizens.” Castro said the “patchwork” of state laws could make it difficult for tech firms to launch new products, leaving them at a disadvantage compared to their Chinese counterparts. The settlement comes as US lawmakers are debating federal privacy legislation, with some proposals that could pre-empt laws such as those in Illinois. Wessler argued that some states have been taking the lead in offering strong privacy rules, and that a federal law could weaken overall data protection. “The worst outcome would be a weak federal law with no private right of action, and which pre-empts state law, even though that is what the industry is seeking,” he said.
A drug molecule "invented" by artificial intelligence (AI) will be used in human trials in a world first for machine learning in medicine. It was created by British start-up Exscientia and Japanese pharmaceutical firm Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma. The drug will be used to treat patients who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Typically, drug development takes about five years to get to trial, but the AI drug took just 12 months. Exscienta chief executive Prof Andrew Hopkins described it as a "key milestone in drug discovery". He told the BBC: "We have seen AI for diagnosing patients and for analysing patient data and scans, but this is a direct use of AI in the creation of a new medicine." The molecule - known as DSP-1181 - was created by using algorithms that sifted through potential compounds, checking them against a huge database of parameters. "There are billions of decisions needed to find the right molecules and it is a huge decision to precisely engineer a drug," said Prof Hopkins. "But the beauty of the algorithm is that they are agnostic, so can be applied to any disease," he added. NHS to set up national artificial intelligence lab Major deal for AI drug discovery firm Exscientia Are you happy to share your health data to benefit others? The first drug will enter phase one trials in Japan which, if successful, will be followed by more global tests. The firm is already working on potential drugs for the treatment of cancer and cardiovascular disease and hopes to have another molecule ready for clinical trials by the end of the year. "This year was the first to have an AI-designed drug but by the end of the decade all new drugs could potentially be created by AI," said Prof Hopkins. Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, who was not involved in the research, said of the breakthrough: "I think AI has huge potential to enhance and accelerate drug discovery. "I m excited to see what I believe is the first example of a new drug now entering human clinical trials, that was created by scientists using AI in a major way to guide and speed up discovery."
Facebook has launched a new tool that lets people see which apps, businesses and websites are sharing their information with the social network. Many companies track what people do online and share that information with Facebook, to target adverts at them. The new tool lets people "clear" this "off-Facebook activity" data from their account and opt out of the information being used for targeted advertising. However, the data will not be permanently deleted. How does off-Facebook activity tracking work? When a person is browsing the internet, apps and websites can capture information about them. This can be something the person provides, such as their email address when they set up an account. It can also be information scooped up in the background, such as the unique ID of their web browser. Advertisers can create lists of people they know might be interested in their products and share them with Facebook. The social network then tries to find Facebook profiles that match information on the list, to show targeted ads. Off-Facebook activity tracking does not just work online. Supermarkets, for example, can track purchases via a loyalty card and share this information with Facebook. Facebook says it is able to offer its platform for free because of the money it earns from advertising. But it has faced increased scrutiny over the way companies can advertise on the platform, following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. The company offers a tool called the Facebook Pixel, which companies can hide on their website. It tracks who has visited the website and can be used to target advertising. In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg promised to implement a "clear history" tool for off-Facebook activity. Human rights expert to keep Zuckerberg in check Ring doorbell gives Facebook and Google user data What can you use instead of Google and Facebook? But while the new tool disconnects a person s profile from the data shared by advertisers, it is not completely deleted. The tool also lets people opt out of targeted advertising based on off-Facebook activity. People who opt out will still see ads but they will be "less personalised". Off-Facebook activity can be tracked in the latest version of the app or on the Facebook website.
A rare species of frog native to the eastern slopes of the Bolivian Andes has been spotted in the South American country for the first time in 18 years, the investigation team that made the discovery told AFP. The Bolivian Cochran frog is notable for its transparent belly, leading to its nickname, the “glass frog”. “The rediscovery of this species fills us with a ray of hope for the future of the glass frogs — one of the most charismatic amphibians in the world — but also for other species,” said investigation team members Rodrigo Aguayo and Oliver Quinteros, from the Natural History Museum “Alcide d Orbigny”, and Rene Carpio of the San Simon University in Cochabamba. The team came across the frogs on January 8 during a mission to rescue reptiles and amphibians threatened by a hydroelectric project in the Carrasco National Park to the east of Cochabamba, the fourth largest city in Bolivia. Glass frogs are tiny, measuring only 0.7-0.9 inches (19-24 millimeters) and weighing just 2.5-2.8 ounces (70-80 grams). They can be found in the departments of La Paz (west), Cochabamba, Santa Cruz (east) and Chuquisaca (southeast). Some frogs hearts and digestive tracts can be seen through their transparent bellies. Those found in the Carrasco National Park had a transparent belly with a “white chest. The bones and vocal sac of the males are dark green,” the team said. The three frogs found were taken to the K ayra amphibian conservation center at the Alcide d Orbigny museum. Experts will try to encourage the frogs to breed as part of a conservation strategy. The K ayra Center is also home to a pair of Sehuenca water frogs, known as Romeo and Juliet, that scientists have been trying to convince to mate to help preserve their critically endangered species. Their attempts have so far been in vain.
I know that the horror of Corona virus will end soon, and I shall tell you why. God from time to time would like to request and save what has perished just as he did at the cross with crucifixion and redemption. He only reminds us of his presence and love, especially for those who are lost and far from his bosom. God who transferred the mountain of Muqattam after the prayers of his people of Egypt will surely listen