Category: shopping guide

Apple Watch Series 4 Goes on Sale in India, Price Starts Rs. 40,900


Apple Watch Series 4 smartwatches, unveiled alongside the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR last month, has gone on sale in India. To recall, the Apple Watch Series 4 price in India and availability was officially confirmed last week, corroborating an exclusive report from Gadgets 360 from last month. The new smartwatch series is now available to buy in India via offline stores as well as online. Prices start at Rs. 40,900 for the 40mm GPS-only version, going up to Rs. 80,900 for the 44mm Cellular Milanese Loop variant.

Apple Watch Series 4 availability, launch offers

The Apple Watch Series 4 has gone on sale in India via offline stores in the country. The IndiaiStore site also confirms that its retailers are stocking the smartwatch series. Amazon is also listing the 40mm and 44mm GPS-only versions for now, while Flipkart still says ‘coming soon’. Amazon is listing launch offers as well, including no-cost EMI options.

Apple Watch Series 4 First Impressions

IndiaiStore lists that 5 percent cashback is available on EMI for Citibank credit cards and Axis Bank, while 5X reward points are available on non-EMI. No-cost EMIs are also available on Bajaj Finserv. The retailer website also says that the smartwatch is available at an effective monthly cost of Rs. 1,799, which is calculated on MRP of the Apple Watch Series 4 ( GPS+ Cellular ) 40mm Space Grey Aluminium Case with Black Sport Band, based on the low-cost EMI on 24-month tenure on Axis Bank Credit Cards and Citi Credit Cards, and is inclusive of the additional 5 percent cashback.

Apple Watch Series 4 price, specifications

Apple Watch Series 4 GPS price in India has been set at Rs. 40,900 for the 40mm variant, while its 44mm version will be priced at Rs. 43,900. The Apple Watch Series 4 Cellular edition 40mm variant with an aluminium case, on the other hand, will be available with a price tag of Rs. 49,900, while the Series 4 Cellular edition 44mm with aluminium case will get a price tag of Rs. 52,900. The Apple Watch Series 4 GPS and Cellular edition models come in Silver, Space Grey, and Gold aluminium case options. The stainless steel case Apple Watch Series 4 models come in Space Black and Gold colour options alongside the standard steel finish option.

The Apple Watch Series 4 Cellular edition 40mm stainless steel variant along with a Sport Band will also be available in the country at Rs. 67,900. The same stainless steel variant along with a Milanese Loop wristband will be priced at Rs. 76,900. Further, the Apple Watch Series 4 Cellular edition 44mm stainless steel variant along with a Sport Band will be available at Rs. 71,900. Likewise, the same variant along with a Milanese Loop wristband will go on sale at Rs. 80,900.

Apple Watch Series 4 comes in 40mm and 44mm display sizes and is powered by the Apple S4 SoC that has a 64-bit dual-core processor and a new GPU. The new SoC is claimed to deliver up to two times faster performance over last year’s Apple Watch Series 3. Further, there are next-gen accelerometer and gyroscope that enable the new Apple Watch to detect hard falls. Apple has also provided an electrical heart rate sensor that is accompanied by the optical heart rate sensors to record an ECG using the new ECG app. This experience will arrive in the US later this year, though there isn’t any official word on its launch in India.

The Apple Watch Series 4 runs watchOS 5 out of the box and includes an improved speaker that is claimed to produce over 40 percent louder sound and is optimised for phone calls, Siri, and Walkie-Talkie. Further, the microphone on the Apple Watch Series 4 has been relocated to the right side — just next to the new Digital Crown to reduce echo and enable better sound quality than the previous model, Apple claims. The new Digital Crown also has haptic feedback.

The back panel of the Apple Watch Series 4 has a black ceramic and sapphire crystal. Furthermore, Apple says that the new Apple Watch model maintains the same all-day battery life.

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Kaspersky Says Ready to Comply With India’s Data Localisation Norms


As the political narrative in India appears to be tilting in favour of data localisation, Russia-based global cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab said it was willing to “adopt and comply” with India’s proposed requirement to store data generated in the country within its borders.

“The data protection bill is not released yet in India. Once this (data localisation) requirement comes out, we need to adopt and we want to comply,” Kaspersky Lab’s Managing Director Stephan Neumeier told IANS on the sidelines of the firm’s 4th Asia Pacific (APAC) cyber-security annual summit here recently.

Goals set in the Draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018, along with various Indian government notifications and guidelines such as the Reserve Bank of India’s notification on Payment Data Storage 2018, and the guidelines for government departments for contractual terms related to Cloud Storage 2017 also show the government’s focus on data localisation.

The rationale behind such proposals has been attributed to various factors, such as: Securing citizens’ data, and ensuring data privacy, data sovereignty, national security, and economic development of the country.

The extensive data collection by technology companies, due to their unfettered access and control of user-data, has allowed them to freely process and monetise Indian users’ data outside the country. This has raised data protection and privacy concerns.

Neumeier said he and other Kaspersky members had discussed the matter with India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) chief Gulshan Rai in September.

Kaspersky Lab, he said, saw significant support from the Indian government and the demand and interest on “our technology together” was open there.

The talks of data localisation in India could also influence where in Asia Pacific the company sets up its “Transparency Centre” – where data from the region can be stored and processed.

While India is not ideally located for the company’s Asia Pacific Transparency Centre, Neumeier asserted that Kaspersky Lab was ready to find solution for India’s data localisation requirements when it comes.

“Because, if we open a Transparency Centre in India, we will also open a data centre there. And with that, we would have the capabilities to store Indian data in India,” Neumeier said.

Noting that Kaspersky was set to open its first and only Transparency Centre in Zurich, Switzerland, in November, Neumeier said the firm was actively looking at Asia Pacific for a similar set-up and that it had discussed the issue with the Indian government.

“We have all the support that we can imagine from the Indian government. However, we need to look into specific requirements before we make a decision where we are going to open that facility,” Neumeier said.

“One is obviously location. We want to fly in people there. It needs to provide easy accessibility. So, India is probably, for Asia Pacific, not a perfect place because it is not very, very central.”

However, he said, all the other “boxes” like “growth in market, access to good talent are very well checked”.

“The skills and capabilities available in India, you won’t find in many countries in Asia Pacific. People are very highly qualified and they really understand their stuff. So, that is the big check.”

Asked about Kaspersky’s business plan in India, Neumeier said the country is one of the “focus markets in Asia Pacific because of its large population”.

“We see massive investment in the manufacturing area in India as it is already becoming more and more a manufacturing powerhouse. A lot of commercial business is already on the growth path and will be growing in future. So, demand for cyber-security technology is obviously rising.”

With its “Digital India” initiative for increased digitisation, Cyber-security could become a major concern for the Indian government.

Reported attacks on Indian websites have increased nearly five times in the past four years. According to government data, more than 700 government websites that are hosted under “gov.in” and “nic.in” domains have been hacked by cyber-criminals since 2012.

As per the information reported to and tracked by CERT-In, a total number of 44,679; 49,455; 50,362 and 40,054 cyber-security incidents were observed during the year 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 (till November), respectively.



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Red Dead Redemption 2 India Release Date May Be Delayed


Red Dead Redemption 2’s India release date may be delayed. The hotly anticipated open-world adventure from Rockstar Games is out on October 26 though most of India may get it a couple of days later. Several customers tipped off Gadgets 360 that the stores they pre-ordered it from had told them that they were given “special instructions from Rockstar” to ship the game on release date only. Red Dead Redemption 2’s India distributor is E-xpress and its warehouse is based in Mumbai. What this means is, unless you reside in Mumbai, you may not get the game on time. As the game is out on a Friday, those outside of Mumbai may get it on Saturday or Monday at the earliest.

This development follows gaming blog Kotaku’s report on independent game retailers in the US not getting Red Dead Redemption 2 on release day. Incidentally, bigger chains like Gamestop and Best Buy will be selling the game a day prior. In India however, it seems that only specific game stores have been informed of this delay. Neither Rockstar Games nor its distributor E-xpress have replied to Gadgets 360’s request for comment on a possible delay for the game. The stores speaking to Gadgets 360 however, have confirmed this is the case.

Nonetheless, this is not new. Rockstar has in the past, put in place strict release date restrictions on India. GTA V on PS3 and Xbox 360 for example, was shipped late due to “publisher regulations” at the time. And before this, GTA IV was delayed due to a shortage as India was not a high priority market back then. Judging by the restrictions in place now, it seems little has changed.

There are exceptions however. Other games such as WWE 2K19 for example, released early in India. Instead of being out on October 9, it was on store shelves from October 5 thanks to a street date break in the Middle East. Only if Red Dead Redemption 2 leaks early and Rockstar allows distributors to release the game because of it, is there a slight chance that this may not come to pass. And before you think buying it digitally is the answer, be prepared for a 90GB download, which essentially breaks the FUP of most Indian gamers.

2018 has been a disappointing year for Indian gamers in terms of availability. God of War on PS4 for example, had its special editions delayed due to logistical reasons while another PS4 exclusive, Spider-Man saw Sony inexplicably cancel its steelbook variant despite allowing retailers to take pre-orders and while the Spider-Man PS4 Collector’s Edition is still expected the company remains noncommittal as to when it would actually arrive.


If you’re a fan of video games, check out Transition, Gadgets 360’s gaming podcast. You can listen to it via Apple Podcasts or RSS, or just listen to this week’s episode by hitting the play button below.



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How Uber Quietly Raised $2 Billion


Uber Technologies has found a way to tap debt markets when burning through billions of dollars of cash: Keep financial details closely guarded and hire former Goldman Sachs bankers to oversee the deals.

The ride-hailing company this week sold $2 billion (roughly Rs. 14,800 crores) of bonds in what’s known as a private placement. The secretive approach, bypassing Wall Street’s broader bond market, allowed Uber to limit the financial information it disclosed – and then only to a small and select group of buyers. That kept prying eyes away from the books of a firm that is still losing money as it expands globally.

And, while a lack of transparency generally can make it difficult to gauge creditworthiness, it seemed to work. So many orders poured in that Uber boosted the size of the offering, its first ever in the bond market, to $2 billion from $1.5 billion. The yield, 8 percent on one portion of the bonds, is a relatively small premium to what public companies are paying in the junk-bond market.

The unorthodox deal shows how many fixed-income investors are willing to overlook less disclosure to get a piece of one of the world’s most valuable venture-backed tech companies. Uber may go public next year at a whopping valuation of as much as $120 billion, according to estimates by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, people with knowledge of the discussions said Tuesday. It also reflects a dearth of junk-rated debt, a supply shortage at its biggest in 10 years.

“The bar is a little lower for Uber,” said Mike Terwilliger, a portfolio manager at Resource Alts. “Their ability to tap financing on such friendly terms and with less financial disclosure is a testament to the comfort the market has with the story.”

A representative for Uber confirmed on Wednesday the bond sale was being finalised.

The private placement is the second time this year Uber has sold its own debt directly. In March, it put together a $1.5 billion loan, a deal investors also devoured voraciously. A team including Tim Lawlor, Prabir Adarkar and Cameron Poetzscher, all alumni of Goldman Sachs, handled the transaction. Rather than hire a bank to find lenders, they took orders from investors by phone themselves and built up the loan book from their San Francisco office. Morgan Stanley served as an adviser.

Uber’s very first foray into the loan markets was in 2016, when it went the traditional route of hiring banks to manage the deal. That transaction, however, was later criticised by US regulators because it ran afoul of guidance designed to quell risky lending practices.

Private placements aren’t unusual but they are typically used by much smaller companies to raise funds quickly. Uber’s latest pitch was directed mainly to a select crew of large asset managers, who could easily put in orders of $100 million or more, according to people familiar with the matter.

Potential buyers were asked to sign confidentiality agreements and could only access the company’s financials through a password-protected website, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing the private matter. Such websites are typically used to market syndicated loans to institutional investors.

“They put out a velvet rope and everyone wants to get in,” said Terwilliger. “They are creating demand by giving the appearance of exclusivity and that is very shrewd.”

Uber’s privacy stands out even in contrast to other cash-burning technology companies that are tapping credit markets. Tesla had years of public earnings under its belt by the time it sold its first junk bond last year, while WeWork disclosed much of its financials right before making its own debut in the bond market in April.

Both of those offerings were distributed to a broad set of investors, which required disclosures about the companies’ financials and risks that ran into the hundreds of pages. That’s a level of transparency they might have preferred to avoid: WeWork received ridicule when its bond offering documents included a measure that the company called “community-adjusted Ebitda,” which excluded certain expenses related to its daily operations from its calculation of earnings.

Together with a series of other adjustments, that enabled WeWork to move its earnings from negative to positive territory as it marketed the debt sale.

“Bondholders like disclosure,” said Scott Carmack, chief executive officer of Holbrook Holdings Inc. These companies are “all disrupting given industries with potential long-term growth, but bondholders don’t care so much about that. I care about their leverage, their debt amortisation schedule, interest coverage, their cash burn.”

Still, more than 10 investors submitted some $3 billion in orders for Uber’s bond sale, which includes five-and eight-year tranches, yielding 7.5 percent and 8 percent respectively, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deal is private.

In a sign that these kinds of deals may spread, Uber’s Lawlor has since moved to online home-buying marketplace Opendoor Labs, yet another firm in the Uber vein of upending the traditional way business is done. He joined Gautam Gupta, now chief operating officer at Opendoor, who oversaw Uber’s finances when it got the 2016 loan. Gupta also previously worked at Goldman Sachs. Adarkar also left Uber to become the chief financial officer of food delivery company DoorDash. Poetzscher, who reports to Uber CFO Nelson Chai, handled the new bond sale.

WeWork is currently looking to add two people to its corporate finance team to help with “any future equity or debt financing transactions.”

© 2018 Bloomberg LP



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Boeing’s New Business Targets Computers Modelled on Human Brains


Boeing Co. is creating a new unit to focus on technology that’s seemingly straight out of science fiction, including super-fast computing that mimics the synapses of the human brain and hack-proof communications links based on applied quantum physics.

So-called neuromorphic processing and quantum communications, two of the futuristic technologies Boeing wants to explore, may seem an odd fit for the world’s largest planemaker. But such concepts increasingly form the core of aerospace innovation, like the networks that may one day manage millions of airborne drones, said Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s chief technology officer.

The technology being developed around advanced computing and sensors is going to have a “profound impact” on Boeing, Hyslop said in an interview Wednesday. “We thought it’s time to do this.”

The rapid advances in computers and communications are under study by other industrial titans as well. Billionaire Elon Musk’s secretive Neuralink business is developing “brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers,” according to its website. Defence contractors Harris Corp. and L3 Technologies are forming a $33.5 billion (roughly Rs. 2.45 lakh crores) behemoth focused on the increasingly complex communications systems embedded in military systems.

Chicago-based Boeing is betting that its new unit, known as Disruptive Computing and Networks, will help develop breakthroughs in secure communications and artificial intelligence that bolster its manufacturing – while also honing products for the commercial market.

The operation will be based in Southern California, and supported with internal funding by the planemaker, as well as investments made through Boeing HorizonX, the company’s venture capital arm. Hyslop declined to say how much Boeing plans to spend on the advanced computing initiative.

As an example of the new technology on the horizon, Hyslop points to the neuromorphic chips that are being developed by HRL Laboratories, the Malibu, California-based research center created by Howard Hughes in 1948.

The gains to be reaped in processing speed under traditional computer architecture are slowing as researchers reach the physical limits of how many transistors can be squeezed onto a single silicon chip. HRL is working with Darpa, the Pentagon’s research arm, and others to develop computer architecture that operates like a part of a brain and forgos transistors.

HRL, which is jointly controlled by Boeing and General Motors Co., is creating silicon chips that are “wired much like a human brain,” Hyslop said. “It’s trying to mimic how our neurons are connected and interconnected in silicon hardware, and reduce the circuits on this.”

Eventually, such chips may be able to perform machine learning instantaneously. Hyslop thinks they could wind up incorporated into Boeing aircraft about a decade from now to support autonomous flying.

The new business will be headed by Charles Toups, who was general manager of Boeing Research & Technology, the company’s central research and development organization. He is a director at HRL, according to the lab’s website, along with Larry Schneider, the chief project engineer for Boeing’s 777 program.

Naveed Hussain, who leads the research and technology facility in Southern California, will replace Toups as head of the group of 4,000 engineers, scientists, technicians and technologists, Boeing said.

© 2018 Bloomberg LP



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Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 to Get Dual 24-Megapixel Selfie Cameras, Company Confirms


Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 launch is scheduled for October 25 at an event to be held in China. With just about 7 days to go for the official unveiling, Xiaomi has started teasing major specifications of the upcoming premium smartphone. In the latest round, the Chinese phone maker has teased that the Mi Mix 3 will sport dual 24-megapixel selfie cameras, and a selfie-light, housed in the manual camera slider confirmed earlier this month by the company. Additionally, the Mi Mix 3’s true full screen display sans notch is shown off again in the teaser, as well as in an alleged live image.

This development comes to us via a post on Xiaomi’s official Weibo account, something that its Twitter handle also later confirmed. A recent teaser from Xiaomi confirmed the presence of 5G connectivity and 10GB of RAM on the phone. This could make it the world’s first smartphone with so much RAM, provided Oppo does not release its top-end Find X variant before October 25.

Another post on Weibo, by a tipster, gives us a look at an alleged live image of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3. This image matches the renders that Xiaomi has teased. A GIF is also seen in the Weibo post with the manual camera slider in action.

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 price (rumoured)

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 pricing has been leaked in the past. The base 6GB RAM/ 64GB storage variant is expected get a price tag of $510 (roughly Rs. 37,500), while the 6GB RAM/ 128GB internal storage model might be priced at $555 (about Rs. 40,800). Additionally, an 8GB RAM/ 128GB storage has been leaked with a price of $600 (around Rs. 44,100), while the premium 8GB RAM/ 256GB storage model might get a price tag of $645 (close to Rs. 47,400). Pricing for the 10GB RAM variant has not been leaked yet.

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 specifications (rumoured)

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is expected to run Android Pie, and sport a Samsung AMOLED display panel with a screen resolution of 1080×2340 pixels and 19.5:9 aspect ratio. Apart from that, the handset will sport a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, coupled with 10GB of RAM and up to 256GB of internal storage.

While rear camera details have not been outed yet, both front and rear camera modules are expected to be placed on the camera slider. Interestingly, the phone will not get a motorised slider like the Oppo Find X, but instead one like the Honor Magic 2. Xiaomi could also introduce an in-display fingerprint sensor on the Mi Mix 3, however there are no leaks around that yet.



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Netflix and Amazon Leave Little Room for Streaming Video Latecomers


To keep his family of four entertained, Ben Emery pays about $180 (roughly Rs. 13,200) a month for Spectrum TV and Internet service, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. He gets Amazon mostly for free shipping and Hulu in part because his 5-year-old daughter likes “Teen Titans Go.”

“Netflix and Hulu got in early, so that’s where I’m willing to invest my money,” said Emery, 41, a bank risk officer who lives in Kernersville, North Carolina. “I don’t have unlimited funds.”

Consumers like Emery represent an inconvenient truth for the burgeoning online video industry. Just 16 percent of US broadband homes subscribe to three or more video services, according to researcher Parks Associates. And nearly two-thirds of TV homes already get at least one of the big three: Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu, according to Nielsen.

That’s the dilemma for the growing ranks of providers, now pegged by Parks Associates at around 200 in the US alone. Just last week, AT&T. said it will introduce a service with HBO and other fare from its recent Time Warner purchase, while Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg revealed details of his upcoming offer for high-end, short-form video. They’ll debut late next year – about when Walt Disney’s new online channel launches.

“You definitely could argue there are too many,” said Laura Martin, an analyst at Needham & Co.

Media executives say they’re confident the digital frontier is big enough for more paid video services. They’re gambling that a rising number of cable TV cord-cutters will enlarge the pool of customers. But they also recognize there are limits to consumer spending.

John Stankey, head of AT&T’s WarnerMedia, said last week he thought the market could sustain between two to 10 online video services. The phone giant put him in charge of Warner Bros., HBO and Turner Broadcasting after completing its $85 billion takeover of Time Warner.

“What I do know is that we better be at that table,” he said at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in Beverly Hills, California.

Netflix and Amazon already have a substantial lead, with more 130 million and 100 million subscribers worldwide, respectively. Netflix already claims almost half of US households as customers. Only a small number of other paid streaming services, like HBO Now, have gained more than 5 million subscribers.

As more online services enter the fray, some are seeing growth slow. Dish Network Corp.’s Sling TV – the most popular of the cable-TV replacements called “skinny bundles” – added just 41,000 subscribers last quarter, down from about 120,000 a year ago.

While Netflix added more subscribers than expected last quarter, most of its growth is coming from overseas. Some paid channels, like the Warner Bros. service for Korean dramas, DramaFever, and NBC’s comedy-focused Seeso, have shut down.

Netflix shares gave back some of their earnings-driven gains on Thursday, down 1.9 percent to $357.71 at 9:51am in New York. Rival Amazon.com was off 0.3 percent to $1,825.

“Someday, there will have to be competition for wallet share,” Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said Tuesday on an earnings call. “We’re not naive about that. But it seems very far off from everything we’ve seen.”

The US market, however, “may be near saturation” in terms of new homes that are willing to pay for streaming, according to Tony Maroulis, research manager at Ampere Analysis. That means growth will hinge on consumers willing to pay for multiple services, he said.

Companies like YouTube, Amazon or AT&T may be more willing to lower prices and accept financial losses if video helps grow their other businesses, like online advertising, e-commerce or wireless, said Gregory Williams, an analyst at Cowen & Co.

Others may need to spend lavishly on content to pull subscribers from Netflix, which has an annual programming budget of about $8 billion. Disney, for example, is laying out $71 billion for most of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox as part of a strategy to develop its own online services and pull content from Netflix.

Disney’s lineup of “Star Wars” and Marvel properties could lure fans from Netflix after deals to provide the streaming company with those movies expires. AT&T could choose not to re-license reruns of “Friends” to Netflix when their deal lapses. The Warner Bros. sitcom remains popular in syndication.

“If it’s a zero-sum game, Netflix has the most to lose,” Martin said, because it has the most subscribers. “And if the pie grows, they have the least to gain.”

© 2018 Bloomberg LP



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Giant Galaxy Supercluster Found Lurking in Early Universe


Scientists have discovered a primitive “supercluster” of galaxies forming in the early Universe, just 2.3 billion years after the Big Bang.

The structure, nicknamed Hyperion, is the largest and most massive to be found so early in the formation of the Universe, which sprang into existence around 13.7 billion years ago.

Its titanic mass is one million billion times that of the Sun.

“This is the first time that such a large structure has been identified at such a high redshift, just over two billion years after the Big Bang,” said Olga Cucciati, a researcher at the Astrophysics and Space Sciences Observatory in Bologna and lead author of a study detailing the discovery.

Redshift is a measure of the changing wavelength of light travelling away from an observer.

“Normally these kinds of structures are known at lower redshifts, which means when the Universe has had much more time to evolve and construct such huge things,” Cucciati said.

Located in the constellation of Sextans (The Sextant), Hyperion was identified by analysing the vast amount of data obtained from the VIMOS Ultra-deep Survey, which provides a unique 3D map of how more than 10,000 galaxies are distributed in the distant Universe.

Hyperion is similar in size to nearby superclusters, though it has a very different architecture, the researchers said.

The findings were published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

“Superclusters closer to Earth tend to have a much more concentrated distribution of mass with clear structural features,” explains co-author Brian Lemaux, an astronomer from University of California at Davis.

“But in Hyperion, the mass is distributed much more uniformly in a series of connected blobs populated by loose associations of galaxies.”

This contrast is most likely due to the fact that nearby superclusters have had billions of years for gravity to gather matter together into denser regions — a process that has been acting for far less time in the much younger Hyperion.

Over time, Hyperion will likely evolve into something like the Virgo Supercluster, which contains our own galaxy, the Milky Way.



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I Fell for Facebook Fake News. Here’s Why Millions of You Did, Too.


The Facebook video is nuts, but I can’t tear my eyes away. A plane, struggling in a huge storm, does a 360-degree flip before safely landing and letting out terrified passengers.

It turns out the video is totally bunk, spliced together from a computer-generated clip and unrelated real news footage. But that didn’t stop the Facebook post from arriving in my News Feed via a friend last month. I watched it. Maybe you did, too: It has nearly 14 million views.

Everyone now knows the web is filled with lies. So then how do fake Facebook posts, YouTube videos and tweets keep making suckers of us?

To find out, I conducted a forensic investigation of the fake that fooled my social network. I found the original creator of that CG plane clip. I spoke to the Facebook executive charged with curbing misinformation. And I confronted my friend who shared it.

The motives for a crazy plane report may be different from posts misdirecting American voters or fueling genocide in Myanmar. Yet some of the questions are the same: What makes fake news effective? Why did I end up seeing it? And what can we do about it?

Fake news creators “aren’t loyal to any one ideology or geography,” said Tessa Lyons, the product manager for Facebook’s News Feed tasked with reducing misinformation. “They are seizing on whatever the conversation is” – usually to make money.

This year, Facebook will double the number of humans involved in fighting constantly morphing “integrity” problems on its network, to 20,000. Thanks in part to those efforts, independent fact-checkers and some new technologies, Facebook user interaction with known fake news sites has declined by 50 percent since the 2016 election, according to a study by Stanford and New York University.

But if you think you’re immune to this stuff, you’re wrong. Detecting what’s fake in images and video is only getting harder. Misinformation is part of an online economy that weaponizes social media to profit from our clicks and attention. And with the right tools to stop it still a long ways off, we all need to get smarter about it.

The crazy plane video first appeared September 13 on a Facebook page called Time News International. Its caption reads: “A Capital Airlines Beijing-Macao flight, carrying 166 people’s, made an emergency landing in Shenzhen on 28 August 2018, after aborting a landing attempt in Macao due to mechanical failure, the airline said.”

No real commercial plane did a 360 roll so close to the ground, but an emergency landing really did happen that August day in Macau.

Four days later, in Los Angeles, film director Aristomenis Tsirbas started getting messages from his friends. A year earlier, the computer graphics whiz had created and posted to YouTube a video he’d made showing a plane doing a 360. Someone had taken his work and used it at the beginning of a fake news report.

“I realised, oh my God, I’m part of the problem,” Tsirbas told me. The artist, who has worked on “Titanic” and “Star Trek,” has a hobby in creating realistic but implausible videos, often involving aliens. He posts them on YouTube, he said, in part to demonstrate CG and in part to make a little money from YouTube ads.

The photorealism of Tsirbas’ clip played a big role in making the fake story go story viral. And that makes it typical: Misinformation featuring manipulated photos and videos is among the most likely to go viral, said Facebook’s Lyons. Sometimes, like in this case, it employs shots from real news reports to make it seem just credible enough. “The really crazy things tend to get less distribution than the things that hit the sweet spot where they could be believable,” said Lyons.

Even after decades of Photoshop and CG films, most of us are still not very good about challenging the authenticity of images – or telling the real from the fake. That includes me: In an online test made by software maker Autodesk called Fake or Foto, I correctly identified the authenticity of just 22 percent of their images.

Another lesson: Fake news often changes the context of photos and videos in ways their creators might never imagine. Tsirbas sees his work as pranks or satire, but he hasn’t explicitly labelled them that way. “They are clearly fakes,” he said. After we spoke, he wrote to say he’d now add a disclaimer to his CG videos: “This is a narrative work.”

Satire, in particular, can lose important context unless it’s baked into an image itself. Another doctored fake news image, first posted to Twitter in 2017, appears to show President Donald Trump touring a flooded area of Houston, handing a red hat to a victim. Artist Jessica Savage Broer, a Trump critic, told me she photoshopped it to make a point about how people need to “use critical thinking skills.” But then earlier this year, supporters of the president started sharing it on Facebook – by the hundreds of thousands – as evidence of the president’s humanitarian work.

Why would someone turn Tsirbas’ airplane video into a fake news report?

There’s no clear answer, but there are some clues. Time News International, the page that published it, did not respond to requests I sent via Facebook, an email address or U.K. phone number listed on its page.

Facebook’s Lyons said pages posting misinformation most often have an economic motive. They post links to articles on sites with just-believable-enough names that are filled with advertisements or spyware, which might attempt to invade our online privacy.

Lyons’ team shared with me a half dozen samples of fake news. But the links to money aren’t always immediately clear. The Time News International page doesn’t regularly link to outside articles, though it posts a lot of outrageous photos and videos about topics in the news. That has attracted it a following of 225,000 people on Facebook – a base it could direct to content it might capitalise on in the future.

Facebook and other social media companies deserve some of the blame. It’s easy to grow an audience for outlandish stories when publishing doesn’t require vetting, and algorithms are tuned to share the stuff that garners the greatest outrage. I saw that crazy video because Facebook decided I should.

Fake news producers also use our friends to add to their credibility. When I saw the plane video, my suspicions weren’t on high alert because it came from my friend, who I trust as a smart guy. He told me he realised later the video was a fake, but thought comments on his post would alert his friends. “It’s just funny thinking about the steps by which we get duped,” he said.

Facebook’s response to the plane video shows how far it’s come in the fight with fake news – and how far we have to go.

On September 17, a few days after it was posted, the video was detected by Facebook’s machine-learning systems, programs that try to automatically detect fake news. The company won’t disclose exactly how those work, but it said the signals include what sorts of comments people leave on posts.

Once detected, Facebook passed the video to its network of independent fact-checkers. After Snopes labeled it as “false,” Facebook made it show up less often in News Feeds.

Why does the fake plane video remain up at a time when Facebook is making headlines for taking down other posts? Facebook said deletion is for violations of its community standards, such as pornography. “My job is to prevent misleading and false information from going viral,” said Lyons. “Even if something is false, we don’t prevent people from sharing it. We give them context.”

That comes in the form of a label. Now when the video appears in a News Feed or someone attempts to share it, up pops “Additional Reporting On This,” with a link to reports from fact checking organisations. Facebook said it also notified people who had already shared it, though my friend doesn’t recall seeing a warning.

“I wouldn’t consider this a success from our side,” said Lyons. Typically, posts that Facebook demotes have an 80 percent reduction in the total number of views, so it’s possible without Facebook’s action, the post could have been seen by hundreds of millions. (Later, Facebook’s automated systems also detected duplicates of the video being uploaded by other pages.)

It’s also an issue of new media literacy. Facebook and others have produced fliers such as “Tips for spotting false news,” but it’s hard to change a response that is both human and pretty fundamental to the social media experience. There have always been hoaxes, but perhaps we need time to internalise just how easy they’ve become to create.

Lyons is already tracking the next generation of CG images dubbed “deep fakes” that don’t even require the expertise of a creator like Tsirbas. Instead, they use artificial intelligence to splice together bits from lots of existing videos to create, for example, a fake speech by a president.

Maybe we’ll eventually learn to be less trusting of our friends – at least the online ones. The people we count on for important information in the real world aren’t always the people who fill our social media feeds.

Or if you want to avoid being that friend: Before you spread the latest outrage online, stop and consider the source.

© The Washington Post 2018



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YouTube Miniplayer Button Now Rolling Out to All Desktop Users


YouTube is now rolling out the Miniplayer button for all desktop users across the globe. This button essentially will allow users to collapse a video into a smaller window at the bottom of the screen and allow the user to browse through YouTube simultaneously. This small video player will come with pause, seek, play, and next or previous video buttons as well. The button can be found in the bottom bar on the video player on YouTube with all the controls. The feature was first spotted in testing in March this year.

The Miniplayer button sits in between the Theatre mode and Settings button in the video player. Clicking on it will collapse the video into Miniplayer mode – essentially a small window in the bottom right corner of the desktop display. This will enable users to navigate through YouTube and watch the video simultaneously. It is somewhat similar to the PiP mode in Android, but the Miniplayer button acts as a trigger to enter the mode manually. You can dismiss the Miniplayer by hitting the ‘X’ button or just by pressing ESC on your keyboard.

YouTube notes that this change is rolling out for all users, but it may be a slow rollout and you may not see the change immediately. On the product forums, YouTube notes that clicking on the Miniplayer title again or on the Miniplayer video player will take you back to the normal mode once again.

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YouTube miniplayer button

The Google-owned service also notes that it has fixed the issue that was causing some upcoming live videos to show the “upcoming” time in the wrong time zone. YouTube has also added a ‘save’ label on playlists to enable saving them and then accessing them on mobile or web platform later on. Full fixes shared below:

  • Some upcoming live videos were showing the “upcoming” time in the wrong timezone, fixed that!
  • Added a “SAVE” label to the save to playlist button on video pages. Now everything’s more consistent across web and our mobile apps!
  • The text in some pop-up windows (for example, the window that appears when you click Share > Embed) would run over the edge of the window, fixed that!
  • Some three-dot menu items were showing up blank with no info, fixed that!
  • When you click ‘Share’ and use the ‘Start At’ checkbox, the time would sometimes be out of sync with the URL, fixed that!



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