All posts by MTechnology

With Trump Decision, Facebook Pushed to Make Better Rules for World Leaders

The recent decision about Facebook and former President Donald Trump sends a signal to world leaders everywhere that to use social media, they have to play by a set of rules that are still forming. Tina Trinh has more.Produced by: Matt Dibble 

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60 Years Since 1st American in Space: Tourists Lining Up

Sixty years after Alan Shepard became the first American in space, everyday people are on the verge of following in his cosmic footsteps.Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin used Wednesday’s anniversary to kick off an auction for a seat on the company’s first crew spaceflight — a short Shepard-like hop launched by a rocket named New Shepard. The Texas liftoff is targeted for July 20, the date of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic aims to kick off tourist flights next year, just as soon as he straps into his space-skimming, plane-launched rocketship for a test run from the New Mexico base.And Elon Musk’s SpaceX will launch a billionaire and his sweepstakes winners in September. That will be followed by a flight by three businessmen to the International Space Station in January.”We’ve always enjoyed this incredible thing called space, but we always want more people to be able to experience it as well,” NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough said from the space station Wednesday. “So I think this is a great step in the right direction.”It’s all rooted in Shepard’s 15-minute flight on May 5, 1961. Shepard was actually the second person in space — the Soviet Union launched cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin three weeks earlier, to Shepard’s everlasting dismay. The 37-year-old Mercury astronaut and Navy test pilot cut a slick sci-fi figure in his silver spacesuit as he stood in the predawn darkness at Cape Canaveral, looking up at his Redstone rocket. Impatient with all the delays, including another hold in the countdown just minutes before launch, he famously growled into his mic: “Why don’t you fix your little problem and light this candle?”His capsule, Freedom 7, soared to an altitude of 116 miles (186 kilometers) before parachuting into the Atlantic.Twenty days later, President John F. Kennedy committed to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely by decade’s end, a promise made good in July 1969 by Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Shepard, who died in 1998, went on to command Apollo 14 in 1971, becoming the fifth moonwalker — and lone lunar golfer.Since Gagarin and Shepard’s pioneering flights, 579 people have rocketed into space or reached its fringes, according to NASA. Nearly two-thirds are American and just over 20% Soviet or Russian. About 90% are male and most are white, although NASA’s crews have been more diverse in recent decades. A Black community college educator from Tempe, Arizona, sees her spot on SpaceX’s upcoming private flight as a symbol. Sian Proctor uses the acronym J.E.D.I. for “a just, equitable, diverse and inclusive space.”NASA wasn’t always on board with space tourism, but is today.”Our goal is one day that everyone’s a space person,” NASA’s human spaceflight chief, Kathy Lueders said following Sunday’s splashdown of a SpaceX capsule with four astronauts. “We’re very excited to see it starting to take off.” Twenty years ago, NASA clashed with Russian space officials over the flight of the world’s first space tourist.California businessman Dennis Tito paid $20 million to visit the space station, launching atop a Russian rocket. Virginia-based Space Adventures arranged Tito’s weeklong trip, which ended May 6, 2001, as well as seven more tourist flights that followed.”By opening up his checkbook, he kicked off an industry 20 yrs ago,” Space Adventures co-founder Eric Anderson tweeted last week. “Space is opening up more than it ever has, and for all.”There’s already a line.A Russian actress and movie director are supposed to launch from Kazakhstan in the fall. They’ll be followed in December by Space Adventures’ two newest clients, also launching on a Russian Soyuz rocket. SpaceX will be next up in January with the three businessmen; the flight from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center was arranged by Axiom Space, a Houston company run by former NASA employees. And as early as 2023, SpaceX is supposed to take a Japanese entrepreneur and his guests around the moon and back.While no fan of human spaceflight — he prefers robotic explorers — Duke University emeritus history professor Alex Roland acknowledges the emergence of spaceflight companies might be “the most significant change in the last 60 years.” Yet he wonders whether there will be much interest once the novelty wears off and the inevitable fatalities occur.Then there’s the high price of admission.The U.S., Canadian and Israeli entrepreneurs flying SpaceX early next year are paying $55 million — each — for their 1 1/2-week mission.Virgin Galactic’s tickets cost considerably less for minutes versus days of weightlessness. Initially $250,000, the price is expected to go up once Branson’s company starts accepting reservations again.Blue Origin declined Wednesday to give a ticket price for future sales and would not comment on who else — besides the auction winner — will be on board the capsule in July. A couple more crew flights, each lasting minutes, would follow by year’s end.As for SpaceX’s private flight on a fully automated Dragon capsule, tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman won’t say what he’s paying. He considers his three-day flight a “great responsibility” and is taking no shortcuts in training; he took his crewmates hiking up Mount Rainier last weekend to toughen them up.”If something does go wrong, it will set back every other person’s ambition to go and become a commercial astronaut,” Isaacman said recently.John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University, where he founded the Space Policy Institute, has mixed feelings about this shift from space exploration to adventure tourism.”It takes the romance and excitement out of going to space,” Logsdon said in an email this week. Instead of the dawn of a new era like so many have proclaimed, it’s “more like the end of the era when space flight was special. I guess that is progress.”

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Facebook Oversight Upholds Trump Ban Linked to Storming of US Capitol 

Facebook’s oversight board on Wednesday upheld the social media company’s decision to ban former U.S. President Donald Trump from posting comments to his Facebook and Instagram accounts, a measure imposed after he posted incendiary remarks as hundreds of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6.The quasi-independent panel, however, left open the possibility that Trump could eventually return to the popular website, saying it “was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.”   The oversight group gave Facebook executives six months to re-examine the “arbitrary penalty” it imposed the day after the insurrection, when Trump urged followers to confront lawmakers as they certified Joe Biden’s election victory. The review said Facebook executives should decide on another penalty that reflects the “gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm.” Facebook management responded by saying it “will now consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate. In the meantime, Mr. Trump’s accounts remain suspended.” Trump reacted angrily at the oversight panel’s decision, saying, “Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before.” 
 
“The People of our Country will not stand for it!” he said. “These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.”  
 
The 45th U.S. president contended that by banning his comments, “what Facebook, Twitter and Google have done is a total disgrace and embarrassment to Our Country.”   
 
Trump, now three-plus months out of office but contemplating another run for the presidency in 2024, unveiled Tuesday morning a new website, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” to communicate with his supporters. It looked much like a Twitter feed, with posts written by Trump that could be shared on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.During his four years in the White House, Trump broke new ground with thousands of tweets on issues of the day, endorsements of Republican candidates he favored over those who had attacked him, and acerbic comments about opposition Democrats. A letter submitted to the oversight panel on Trump’s behalf asked the board to reconsider the Facebook suspension, contending it was “inconceivable” that either of his January 6 posts “can be viewed as a threat to public safety, or an incitement to violence.”  The letter also claimed all “genuine” Trump supporters at the Capitol on January 6 were law-abiding, and that “outside forces” were involved. However, more than 400 people inside the Capitol that day, including many wearing Trump-emblazoned hats and shirts and carrying pro-Trump flags and signs, have been arrested and charged with an array of criminal offenses. The oversight board found that Trump’s two posts in the midst of the chaos at the Capitol that left five people dead severely violated Facebook’s Community Standards and Instagram’s Community Guidelines. “We love you. You’re very special” in the first post, and “great patriots” and “remember this day forever,” in the second post violated Facebook’s rules prohibiting praise or support of people engaged in violence, the review panel said. The oversight group went on to say that “in maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr. Trump created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible. At the time of Mr. Trump’s posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm, and his words of support for those involved in the riots legitimized their violent actions.” “As president, Mr. Trump had a high level of influence,” the panel concluded. “The reach of his posts was large, with 35 million followers on Facebook and 24 million on Instagram. “Given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr. Trump’s accounts on January 6 and extending that suspension on January 7,” the panel said. “However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose an ‘indefinite’ suspension.” In one of his posts during the insurrection, Trump said, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love in peace. Remember this day forever!” Facebook removed the post and decided the next day to extend Trump’s ban indefinitely, at least past Biden’s January 20 inauguration. “His decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the U.S. and around the world,” Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a January 7 statement. “We removed these statements yesterday because we judged that their effect — and likely their intent — would be to provoke further violence.” The 20-member review panel was composed of legal scholars, human rights experts and journalists. A five-member panel prepared a decision, which had to be approved by a majority of the full board, and which Facebook was then required to implement unless the action could violate the law. The board says its mission is to “answer some of the most difficult questions around freedom of expression online: what to take down, what to leave up, and why.” The Facebook Oversight Board was created last October after the company faced criticism it was not quickly and effectively dealing with what some feel has been problematic content. The board announced its first decisions in January, supporting Facebook’s decision to remove content in one case, but overruling the company and ordering it to restore posts in four other cases. 

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Facebook Oversight Panel to Rule on Trump Ban

Facebook’s quasi-independent Oversight Board is set to announce Wednesday whether the social media company was correct to indefinitely prohibit former U.S. President Donald Trump from posting to his Facebook and Instagram accounts.The board is made up of 20 members, including legal scholars, human rights experts and journalists. A panel of five members prepares a decision, which must be approved by a majority of the full board, and which Facebook is then required to implement unless the action could violate the law.The board says its mission is to “answer some of the most difficult questions around freedom of expression online: what to take down, what to leave up, and why.”Trump’s ban dates to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters that came as members of Congress were meeting to certify the results of the November presidential election.In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, Trump supporters participate in a rally in Washington.He made several posts during the attack continuing his false claims that the election was “stolen.” Facebook removed two of Trump’s posts and initially banned him from posting for 24 hours.“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly unfairly treated for so long,” Trump posted about two hours before police and National Guard troops secured the Capitol. “Go home with love in peace. Remember this day forever!”Facebook decided the next day to extend Trump’s ban indefinitely, at least past the inauguration of President Joe Biden.“His decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the US and around the world. We removed these statements yesterday because we judged that their effect — and likely their intent — would be to provoke further violence,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a January 7 statement.Twitter instituted a permanent ban against Trump, saying several of his posts “are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so.”The Facebook Oversight Board was created last October after the company faced criticism it was not quickly and effectively dealing with what some feel is problematic content.The board announced its first decisions in January, supporting Facebook’s decision to remove content in one case, but overruling the company and ordering it to restore posts in four other cases.

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Bill Gates and Melinda Gates Announce ‘Decision to End’ Marriage

Billionaire Bill Gates and Melinda Gates said in a joint statement on Monday that they have made the decision to end their marriage. “After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” the two said in a statement posted by Bill Gates’ Twitter account. “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life,” their statement said. 
 

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Facebook Oversight Board to Announce Ruling on Trump May 5

Facebook’s oversight board will soon be announcing its decision about whether to uphold the company’s ban on former President Donald Trump’s account.The quasi-independent body said the announcement will be made May 5 in a Twitter post.The Oversight Board will announce its decision on the case concerning former US President Trump on its website at https://t.co/NNQ9YCrcrh on May 5, 2021 at approximately 9:00 a.m. EDT.
— Oversight Board (@OversightBoard) May 3, 2021Facebook banned Trump’s account in the wake of the Jan. 6 violent pro-Trump protests at the U.S. Capitol.The board says it has received over 9,000 public comments on the Trump case.The board was created last October after the company faced criticism it was not quickly and effectively dealing with what some feel is problematic content.Decisions by the board are binding and cannot be overturned. 

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Internet Trailblazers Yahoo and AOL Sold, Again, for $5B

AOL and Yahoo are being sold again, this time to a private equity firm.  
Verizon will sell Verizon Media, which consists of the pioneering tech platforms, to Apollo Global Management in a $5 billion deal.
Verizon said Monday that it will keep a 10% stake in the new company, which will be called Yahoo.
Yahoo at the end of the last century was the face of the internet, preceding the behemoth tech platforms to follow, such as Google and Facebook.  
And AOL was the portal, bringing almost everyone who logged on during the internet’s earliest days.  
Verizon had hoped to ride the acquisition of AOL to a quick entry into the mobile market, spending more than $4 billion on the company in 2015. The plan was to use the advertising platform pioneered by AOL to sell digital advertising. Two years later, it spent even more to acquire Yahoo and combined the two.  
However the speed at which Google and Facebook have grown dashed those hopes and it became clear very quickly that it was unlikely to reach Verizon’s highest aspirations for the two.  
The year after buying Yahoo, Verizon wrote down the value of the combined operation, called “Oath,” by more than the $4.5 billion it had spent on Yahoo.  
As part of the deal announced Monday, Verizon will receive $4.25 billion in cash, preferred interests of $750 million and the minority stake. The transaction includes the assets of Verizon Media, including its brands and businesses such as Yahoo and AOL.
The deal is expected to close in the second half of the year.  
Shares of Verizon Communications Inc., based in New York, rose slightly before the opening bell Monday.

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Apple Faces Trial Over Its App Store as Gatekeeper

On Monday, Apple faces one of its most serious legal threats in recent years: A trial that threatens to upend its iron control over its app store, which brings in billions of dollars each year while feeding more than 1.6 billion iPhones, iPads, and other devices.The federal court case is being brought by Epic Games, maker of the popular video game Fortnite. Epic wants to topple the so-called “walled garden” of the app store, which Apple started building 13 years ago as part of a strategy masterminded by co-founder Steve Jobs.Epic charges that Apple has transformed a once-tiny digital storefront into an illegal monopoly that squeezes mobile apps for a significant slice of their earnings. Apple takes a commission of 15% to 30% on purchases made within apps, including everything from digital items in games to subscriptions. Apple denies Epic’s charge.Apple’s highly successful formula has helped turn the iPhone maker into one of the world’s most profitable companies, one with a market value that now tops $2.2 trillion.Privately held Epic is puny by comparison, with an estimated market value of $30 billion. Its aspirations to get bigger hinge in part on its plan to offer an alternative app store on the iPhone. The North Carolina company also wants to break free of Apple’s commissions. Epic says it forked over hundreds of millions of dollars to Apple before Fortnite was expelled from its app store last August, after Epic added a payment system that bypassed Apple.Epic then sued Apple, prompting a courtroom drama that could shed new light on Apple’s management of its app store. Both Apple CEO Tim Cook and Epic CEO Tim Sweeney will testify in a Oakland, California federal courtroom that will be set up to allow for social distancing and will require masks at all times.Neither side wanted a jury trial, leaving the decision to U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who already seems to know her ruling will probably be appealed, given the stakes in the case.Much of the evidence will revolve around arcane but crucial arguments about market definitions.Epic contends the iPhone has become so ingrained in society that the device and its ecosystem have turned into a monopoly Apple can exploit to unfairly enrich itself and thwart competition.Apple claims it faces significant competition from various alternatives to video games on iPhones. For instance, it points out that about 2 billion other smartphones don’t run iPhone software or work with its app store — primarily those relying on Google’s Android system. Epic has filed a separate case against Google, accusing it of illegally gouging apps through its own app store for Android devices.Apple will also depict Epic as a desperate company hungry for sources of revenue beyond the aging Fortnite. It claims Epic merely wants to freeload off an iPhone ecosystem in which Apple has invested more than $100 billion over the past 15 years.Estimates of Apple’s app store revenue range from $15 billion to $18 billion annually. Apple disputes those estimates, although it hasn’t publicly disclosed its own figures. Instead, it has emphasized that it doesn’t collect a cent from 85% of the apps in its store.The commissions it pockets, Apple says, are a reasonable way for the company to recoup its investment while financing an app review process it calls essential to preserving the security of apps and their users. About 40% of the roughly 100,000 apps submitted for review each week are rejected for some sort of problem, according to Kyle Andeer, Apple’s chief compliance officer.Epic will try to prove that Apple uses the security issue to disguise its true motivation — maintaining a monopoly that wrings more profits from app makers who can’t afford not to be available on the iPhone.But the smaller company may face an uphill battle. Last fall, the judge expressed some skepticism in court before denying Epic’s request to reinstate Fortnite on Apple’s app store pending the outcome of the trial. At that time, Gonzalez Rogers asserted that Epic’s claims were “at the frontier edges of antitrust law.”The trial is expected to last most of May, with a decision to come in the ensuing weeks. 

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YouTube Child Stars Top Charts but Raise Concerns

Videos of kids having fun are among the most popular on YouTube. They are also a fast-growing business, one that critics say comes with little regulation and oversight to protect children on either side of the screen. Michelle Quinn reports.
Producer: Michelle Quinn

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