During lockdown I’ve been listening to the BBC World Service’s seven part podcast series on the rapid development and first use of the atomic bomb by the US in the Second World War.
The Bomb is narrated by Emily Strasser whose grandfather worked on the project team as she seeks to understand why he contributed to production of the weapon. The story follows events through the eyes of Leo Szilard, one of the first to realise the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction and the terrifying opportunity for destruction, especially if the Nazis make the atom bomb first.
Through the history of the bomb, the podcast explores the ethical relationship between the scientists, their work and those who would use their discoveries as weapons, which remains as relevant today as it did 75 years ago.
There are some interesting factoids in there too. I didn’t know that the Purple Heart medals awarded today were originally manufactured in WWII in preparation for the expected casualties from a US invasion of Japan. As Japan surrendered after the dropping of the two bombs, there was a large surplus of medals left over and these continue to be presented today to those wounded in battle.
Give The Bomb some space in your podcast queue.
U.S. Department of Justice, along with eleven state Attorneys General, has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Columbia against Google for violating antitrust laws. The Attorneys General involved in the lawsuit represent Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas.
The Wall Street Journal reported that all eleven of the Attorneys General are Republicans. More could join the case later. Other states are still considering their own cases related to Google’s search practices, and a large group of states is considering a case challenging Google’s power in the digital advertising market.
One of the things I found interesting from The Wall Street Journal article is that the Justice Department’s case doesn’t focus on a search-bias theory. This surprised me because all of the Attorneys General involved in the lawsuit are Republican, and many people from that party appear to feel that search engines and social media sites are biased against them. Perhaps that argument isn’t stong enough to bring to court.
The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that Google has unlawfully maintained monopolies in search and search advertising by:
- Entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid preinstallation of any competing search engines
- Entering into tying and other arrangements that force preinstallation of its search applications in prime locations on mobile devices and make them undeletable, regardless of consumer preference
- Entering into long-term agreements with Apple that require Google to be the default – and de-facto exclusive – general search engine on Apple’s popular Safari browser and other Apple search tools
- Generally using monopoly profits to buy preferential treatment for its search engine on devices, web browsers, and other search access points, creating a continuous and self-reinforcing cycle of monopolization.
Google responded with a blog post on The Keyword. Part of that post states: Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.
Google also wrote: This isn’t the dial-up 1990s, when changing services was slow and difficult, and often required you to buy and install software with a CD-ROM. Today, you can easily download your choice of apps or change your default settings in a matter of seconds – faster than you can walk to another aisle in the grocery store.
Amazon announced that Amazon Luna early access begins today. Amazon Luna is Amazon’s new cloud gaming service that lets customers play great games on the devices they already own. The company has received “hundreds and thousands of requests for early access”, and they will begin granting invitations to a small set of customers in the U.S. to help shape the future of gaming on Luna.
We are just getting started and need streamers and players of all kinds – core, casual, and first-time gamers – to provide feedback. We want to hear what customers like, what they don’t like, and what they want to see us build. If we’re doing something great, tell us. If we’re missing the bar, we want to know that too. We can’t wait to hear what you think.
It sounds like Amazon is very interested in getting feedback from players who take part in the early access. There is no doubt in my mind that Amazon would love to hear what players liked about Luna. I’m hoping that they will at least take the time to consider the negative feedback as well. Not all gaming companies are willing to do that.
Early access gamers will have access to:
- Amazon Luna – Where gamers go to play across Fire TV, PC, Mac, and on web apps for iPhone and iPad, with Android coming soon
- The Luna+ Game Channel – For $5.99/month, during early access, customers can play 50 games to start, with more added over time.
- The Ubisoft Channel, coming soon – Includes new and favorite titles, including Assassin’s Creed Vallhalla, with a growing catalog throughout early access. Amazon says to stay tuned for more news.
- The Luna Controller – Early access participants can play using any Bluetooth gaming controller that works with their devices. Participants may also purchase the Luna Controller for $49.99, and take advantage of Cloud Direct technology for lower latency gaming and use Alexa for easy voice control.
To me, it sounds like early access participants need to pay $5.99/month to test out Amazon Luna. They can use any Bluetooth controller, but it sounds like Amazon is encouraging participants to buy the Luna Controller for $49.99. Not all video game players want to spend money on what amounts to beta testing. Streamers might request early access if they think it would improve the content on their stream, though.
TikTok has declared war on QAnon content and anyone sharing or posting that type of content is getting there accounts banned. Once more a tech company deciding what you should or should not watch. We had a video recording failure tonight so it will be tomorrow before that vide is available as I am pulling the 400gb master from the Tricaster.
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Apple has launched Apple Music TV, an all access experience on all your devices. Apple is launching it with a free trial, and states that you can cancel at anytime. Variety reported the following:
Apple has launched Apple Music TV, a free 24-hour curated livestream of popular music videos that will also include “exclusive new music videos and premiers, special curated music video blocks, and live shows as well as chart countdowns and guests”, according to the announcement.
- Listen Now is the easiest way to play what you love and discover something new.
- An all-new Search serves up the best music for the genres and activities you love.
- Autoplay creates a continuous stream of music based on what you listened to last.
- Sing along, tap ahead, or just listen with lyrics view – now always on unless you turn it off.
- Tune into three live radio stations hosted by artists playing today’s hits, classics, and country.
- Dial in local broadcast radio stations by call sign, name, or frequency – or just ask Siri
- Watch top music videos and check out curated music video playlists.
- Now you can search for music by lyrics right in the app – or just ask Siri.
- Tap into Apple editors’ picks with curated playlists featuring rap to country, new hits to classics.
- Keep track of what’s hot all over the world with global charts.
- Just ask Siri to play songs by any artist, mood, or genre.
- Play your favorite artist’s latest collaborations, releases, and playlists all from one page.
- Add your favorite songs to your library and listen on any device – online or off.
- Stream Apple Music to AirPlay-enabled speakers or Apple TV effortlessly.
To me, this sounds like it could be Apple’s way of competing with Spotify, which has become the go-to for listening to music. Spotify has a free service, as well as a subscription service. Apple Music TV offers Apple Music, Apple Music Hits, and Apple Music Country for free without a subscription.
There are three subscriptions for Apple Music TV. Student is $4.99/month. (It is for college students only, and verification is required). Individual plans are $9.99/month. Family plans are $14.99/month. Variety reported that Apple Music TV will be available to U.S. residents only on the Apple Music app and the Apple TV app.
Have you ever wondered how algorithms are affecting the spread of misinformation on social media? There’s a project that was designed with that question in mind. The Citizen Browser Project is an initiative designed to measure how disinformation travels across social media platforms over time.
At the center of The Citizen Browser Project is a custom web browser designed by The Markup to audit the algorithms that social media platforms use to determine what information they serve their users, what news and narratives are amplified or suppressed, and which online communities those users are encouraged to join. Initially, the browser will be implemented to glean data from Facebook and YouTube.
A nationally representative panel of 1,200 people will be paid to install the custom web browser on their desktops, which allows them to share real-time data directly from their Facebook and YouTube accounts with The Markup. Data collected from this panel will form statistically valid samples of the American population across age, race, gender, geography, and political affiliation, which will lead to important insights about how Facebook’s and YouTube’s algorithms operate.
To protect the panel’s privacy, The Markup will remove personally identifiable information collected by the panel and discard it, only using the remaining redacted data in its analyses.
Personally, I find this to be very interesting. It isn’t something I can participate in, because I stopped using Facebook years ago and refuse to go back to it. That said, people who use both Facebook and YouTube could choose to participate in the The Citizen Browser Project – and get paid to do so.
I’ve always believed that we need more than a promise from social media companies that they are doing their best to prevent the spread of misinformation. We need an outside source, like The Citizen Browser Project, to collect data that will show not only how much misinformation is on those platforms, but how it the algorithms of the platforms are enabling the spread of misinformation.
In September, Facebook announced that it won’t accept political ads in the week before the US Election. Their ban on political ads would only affect the ones submitted after October 27, 2020.
Recently, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communication, told French Weekly Journal du Dimanche that a total of 2.2 million ads on Facebook and Instagram have been rejected, and 120,000 posts were withdrawn for attempting to “obstruct voting” in the upcoming US election. In addition, Facebook has been posting warnings on 150 million examples of false information that were on Facebook and Instagram
Facebook has been increasing its efforts to avoid a repeat of events leading up to the 2016 US presidential election, won by Donald Trump, when its network was used for attempts at voter manipulation carried out from Russia.
There were similar problems ahead of Britain’s 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union.
According to Nick Clegg, Facebook has thirty-five thousand employees taking care of the security of Facebook’s platforms and contribute for elections. The company also has partnerships with 70 specialized media, including five in France, on the verification of information. Facebook also uses artificial intelligence that Nick Clegg says has “made it possible to delete billions of posts and fake accounts, even before they are reported by users.”
It appears that Facebook is putting in some effort to remove political misinformation, and also to reject unacceptable political ads. To me, this is a starting point that should have begun before the US primary elections and caucuses. Waiting until right before Election Day to clean up its platforms is too late.