Tech Industry Appeals Texas Social Media Law

Two Washington-based groups representing Google, Facebook, and other tech giants filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court on Friday, seeking to block a Texas law that bars social media companies from removing posts based on a user’s political ideology, The Washington Post reported.

According to The Washington Post, the Texas law took effect Wednesday after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans lifted a district court injunction that had barred it. The appeals court action shocked the industry, which has been largely successful in batting back Republican state leaders’ efforts to regulate social media companies’ content-moderation policies.

NetChoice posted information titled: “NetChoice Announces Request for Emergency Stay from the U.S. Supreme Court”. From the information:

…On May 13, 2022, NetChoice and CCIA filed an application for an emergency stay with Justice Alito of the Supreme Court. Under Court procedures, Justice Alito may rule unilaterally or refer the matter to the full Court for consideration…

“The divided panel’s shocking decision to greenlight an unconstitutional law – without explanation – demanded the extraordinary response of seeking emergency Supreme Court intervention,” said Chris Marchese, Counsel for NetChoice.

“Texas HB 20 strips private online businesses of their speech rights, forbids them from making constitutionally protected editorial decisions, and forces them to publish and promote objectionable content,” continued Marchese. “The First Amendment prohibits Texas from forcing online platforms to host and promote foreign propaganda, pornography, pro-Nazi speech, and spam.”…

…”We are hopeful the Supreme Court will quickly reverse the Fifth Circuit, and we remain confident that the law will ultimately be struck down as unconstitutional.”

The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) posted news titled: “CIAA Files Emergency Brief Asking Supreme Court To Halt Texas Social Media Law”. From the news:

“The Computer & Communications Industry Association jointly filed an emergency brief Friday asking the U.S. Supreme Court for immediate action to prevent an unconstitutional Texas social media law from going into affect. The joint filing, submitted with co-plaintiff NetChoice, asks the Court to reinstate a lower court’s decision blocking the enforcement of the Texas statute while it is being reviewed under the First Amendment…

…CCIA has advocated for free speech online for more than 25 years. This effort has included protecting the First Amendment right for citizens and businesses to exercise both the right to speak and not be compelled to speak online.

The Verge reported that NetChoice had previously won a similar case in Florida last year, making the constitutional issues in this case even more pressing to address.

According to The Verge, the three-judge panel on the Fifth Circuit appeared to be confused about many of the basic terms being used – one judge seemed to think that Twitter was not a website, and another seemed to think there was no difference between a phone company like Verizon and a social media company like Twitter or Facebook.

It is not unheard of for a court to pick a side to support when presented with a case. Personally, I do not have any faith at all in the decision making process of the Supreme Court as it stands today.

Elon Musk Said His Twitter Deal is “On Hold”

Elon Musk said his planned acquisition of Twitter Inc. was “temporarily on hold” because of concerns about fake accounts, a surprise twist that jolted investors and raised questions about his willingness to go through with the $44 billion transaction, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Musk’s “grenade” came in a tweet posted at 5:44 a.m. Eastern Time that was followed just over two hours later by another saying he was “still committed to acquisition.” Lawyers close to Mr. Musk urged him to send that follow-up tweet, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the initial announcement was unorthodox not just in its timing and format, but because Mr. Musk referenced a recent Twitter disclosure about fake and spam accounts that it has made consistently for years – and because Mr. Musk has already signed an agreement for the purchase and waived detailed due diligence on the deal.

The Washington Post reported that Elon Musk’s declaration cast fresh doubt on the seriousness of his offer just as he was scrambling to find new investors to help him fund the deal. It also played into his hand by sending Twitter’s stock price tumbling, though the tweet had the potential to draw regulatory scrutiny.

According to The Washington Post: Spam bots, accounts that peddle cryptocurrency scams and otherwise seek to exploit vulnerable users, have long been a pet peeve of the technology mogul who regularly encounters impersonators in his activity on site.

Axios reported: For Musk to liquidate a significant amount of Tesla stake and to wrangle bankers into giving him billions of dollars in financing, only to backtrack due to a single [Reuters] article, shows how manic the entire takeover process has been.

The New York Times referenced Elon Musk’s contradictory tweets, and reported: The seemingly contradictory messages left many wondering whether Mr. Musk was getting cold feet, trying to drive down the acquisition price or looking for a bit of attention. Perhaps it was some combination of the three. Twitter’s stock yo-yoed in response to his posts.

Personally, I cannot even begin to guess what, exactly, Elon Musk is trying to do. Maybe he doesn’t know, either. It seems that having more money than most people will ever see in their lifetime gives Elon Musk the leverage to play with the rules. I’ll leave it to regulators to determine if he’s crossed the line.

Apple iPod Touch end of an Era #1601

Apple has decided to stop the production of the iPod Touch. This is sad as the first iPod debuted in 2001. So the series of devices have had a pretty great run. I will be on the hunt to add one of the older models to the device graveyard in the studio.

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OnePlus Expands Nord Range with Two Phones and Earbuds

Never Settle LogoAfter a couple of leaks and a few heavy hints, OnePlus have announced that two new Nord phones and a set of Nord earbuds will be officially unveiled next Thursday afternoon (19th May).

On the phone side, there’s the OnePlus Nord 2T 5G, an upgraded version of the Nord 2 with the Oppo’s 80 W SuperVOOC charging system: that’s the same charge and battery tech as in the OnePlus 10 Pro. For comparison, the Nord 2 does 65 W and comes in at UK£369.

At the lower end, there’s the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G. This will bring fast charging and a large battery in at an even lower price point than the CE 2 which drops in at UK£299. I doubt either phone will make it to the USA, which has a different OnePlus portfolio.

For Nord’s first audio product, there’s the Nord Buds. And that’s about all we know, though there are a few early release videos and rumours that suggest they’ll be US$40 for a set of wireless earbuds.

In the meantime, I here are my reviews of the Nord 2, Nord CE 2 (also below) and the Buds Z2. Hopefully they’d tide you over until next week…



Google Announces Pixel Buds Pro

Google posted on The Keyword “Loud and clear, Pixel Buds Pro are here”. The post was written by Product Manager Nidhi Rathi. Pixel Buds Pro look like earplugs with a large bulb that sticks out of them. My best guess is that this is Google’s way of competing with Apple’s Earbuds.

Have you heard? Google Pixel Buds Pro are here. These premium wireless earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation bring you full, immersive sound – now that’s music to our ears. Pixel Bud Pros are built to work great across our full Pixel portfolio and with other Android phones, and they’re packed with all the helpfulness and smarts you expect from Google.

The Keyword states that you can pre-order Pixel Buds Pro on July 21 for $199. To use them requires a device that runs on Android 6.0 or newer.

According to Google, Pixel Buds Pro uses Silent Seal to adapt to your ear, to help maximize the amount of noise that’s cancelled. And built-in sensors will measure the pressure in your ear canal to make sure you’re comfortable even during long listening sessions.

Once you’re listening to your music or podcast, Volume EQ will adjust the tuning as you turn the volume up or down – so highs, mids, and lows consistently sound balanced. Later this year, Pixel Buds Pro will also support spatial audio. So when you watch a spatial audio-supported movie or TV show on compatible Pixel phones, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of the action.

Pixel Buds Pro come in four different colors: Coral, Lemongrass, Fog, and Charcoal.

Google says that Pixel Buds Pro charge wirelessly and give you up to 11 hours of listening time or up to 7 hours with Active Noise Cancellation turned on. However, there is a footnote that points out “Use of other features will decrease battery life. Battery life depends on device, features enabled, environment and many other factors. Actual battery life may be lower.”

How does Google’s Pixel Buds Pro compare with Apple’s Airpods?

Google’s Pixel Buds Pro – $199
Apple’s AirPods 2nd generation – $129
Apple’s AirPods 3rd generation – $179
Apple’s AirPods Pro – $249

Battery Life:
Google’s Pixel Buds Pro – Up to 11 hours of listening time or up to 7 hours with Active Noise Cancellation
Apple’s AirPods 2nd generation – More than 24 hours with charging case / 5 hours of listening time on one charge / 15 minutes of charging provides up to 3 hours of listening time
Apple’s AirPods 3rd generation – Up to 6 hours of listening time with one charge / Up to 30 hours of total listening time with the charging case
Apple’s Air Pods Pro – More than 24 hours of battery life with the MagSafe Charging Case/ Case compatible with wireless chargers/ Up to 4.5 hours of listening time with one charge/ 1 hour of listening time on only 5 minutes of charging

Google’s Pixel Buds Pro – Coral, Lemongrass, Fog, Charcoal
Apple’s Air Pods – White

Clearview AI Settles Lawsuit Brought By ACLU

You’ve probably heard of Clearview AI, a company that unethically captured more than 10 billion “faceprints” from people’s online photos across the globe – without the consent do so. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against Clearview AI which recently resulted in a settlement.

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU in Illinois state court in January of 2020 after The New York Times revealed that Clearview was building a secretive surveillance tool using biometric identifiers. Face recognition technology has helped Clearview to capture more than three billion faceprints, and counting, from images available online.

Illinois has a law called “Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act” (BIPA), which was adopted in 2008 to ensure that Illinois residents would not have their biometric identifiers, including faceprint, captured and used without their knowledge and permission.

The groups represented by the ACLU in the lawsuit – including survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, undocumented immigrants, communities of color, and members of other vulnerable communities, asked the court to order Clearview to delete faceprints gathered from Illinois residents without their consent and cease capturing new faceprints unless they comply with BIPA consent procedures.

The New York Times reported that Clearview AI agreed to settled the lawsuit brought by the ACLU. The settlement requires Clearview to not sell its database of what it said were more than 20 billion facial photos to most private individuals and businesses in the country. It can still sell that database to federal and state agencies.

The New York Times reported the following:

The agreement is the latest blow to the New York-based start-up, which built its facial recognition software by scraping photos from the web and popular sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Clearview then sold its software to local police departments and government agencies, including the F.B.I. and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to The New York Times, Clearview’s technology has been deemed illegal in Canada, Australia, and parts of Europe for violating privacy laws. Clearview also faces a provisional $22.6 million fine in Britain, as well as a 20 million-euro fine from Italy’s data protection agency.

Nathan Freed Wessler, a deputy director with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in a statement to The New York Times: “Clearview can no longer treat people’s unique biometric identifiers as an unrestricted source of profits. Other companies would be wise to take note, and other states should follow Illinois lead in enacting strong biometric privacy laws.”

I find it extremely troubling that Clearview appeared to think it was acceptable to secretly gather photos of people’s faces – without their permission. It is even worse that Clearview was selling those photos in an effort to enhance its own profits.

Twitter Doesn’t Want Copypasta Or Duplicate Content

Twitter has decided to crack down on “copypasta” and tweets that include duplicate content. I’m not surprised by this at all, considering that other social media sites, including Instagram, are making a push towards original content.

On May 10, 2022, Twitter tweeted: “We’ve been continuously working to combat spammy & duplicative content on Twitter at scale and our new Copypasta and Duplicate Content policy clarifies what constitutes a violation along with what happens when it is violated”.

As you may have expected, that tweet linked to a Twitter Help Center article titled: “Copypasta and duplicate content policy”. Here are some key points from it:

“Copypasta” (a reference to copy-and-paste functionality to duplicate content) is an Internet slang term that refers to an attempt by multiple individuals to duplicate content from an original source and share it widely across social platforms or forums.

On Twitter, copypasta or duplicative content can be a block of text, image, or a combination of content that has been copied and pasted or duplicated by any means across the platform.

Why is Twitter cracking down on copypasta? Part of the post explains: While copypasta or duplicate content is a tactic for propagating a message, and is used for a wide range of purposes, it can be repetitive, spammy, and disruptive to people’s experience on Twitter. Duplicative content can also be used to artificially amplify content, suppress information or manipulate Twitter’s Trends, Top Search results and conversations across the platform.

To me, it sounds like Twitter is trying to make the platform more authentic, and copypasta is pretty much the opposite of that goal. I know I’ve seen tweets in a “What’s Happening” topic that were word for word identical to several other tweets.

Twitter provided examples of behavior that will limit the visibility of your tweets:

  • Identical or near-identical content Tweeted by an individual account or many accounts, even if the users involved only use one account;
  • Duplicate or copy-pasted Tweets that may disrupt the experience of others, including mentioning users or using hashtags with the same Tweet content in concert with other accounts.

Twitter also provided examples where they won’t limit visibility:

  • Retweeting existing content using the Retweet feature; and
  • Copy-pasting, or Tweeting existing content, combined with your own unique content, commentary, or reaction, or explicitly quoting the copied content.

Examples of a severe violation of the copypasta policy include:

  • Using automation or scripting to post duplicative content;
  • Operating one account or multiple accounts where the majority of the content promotes duplicative content resulting in spammy, inauthentic engagement; and
  • Repeated participation in copypasta and duplicate Tweet efforts to promote content that is in violation of other Twitter Rules.

Overall, I think most Twitter users have no interest in turning their accounts into copypasta and/or duplicative spam. It should be incredibly easy to avoid violating the copypasta policy, especially for people who tweet their own content – or quote-tweet to highlight the content they enjoy that came from other people’s accounts. Personally, I find copypasta tweets to be incredibly boring.