It felt like a quiet week in tech news on the surface. But that’s mostly because global politics had a very loud one. There’s actually been a lot of interesting stuff going on. And here’s your weekly newsletter to catch up on it all!
A lot of what’s in here this week sits in that blurry zone where I wonder if it gives me hope or pause. And it’ll take some time to know which it turns out to be.
And, as a kid who grew up in the Liverpool/Fairfield area…
No, your Facebook app isn’t busted. Starting today we’re a test market for hiding likes and video view volumes.
It’s important news, with some explosive revelations. But I have serious problems with the framing. Primarily the discussion that it’s the structure of amateur esports that is the problem – and not the fact that gambling markets are legal on a low-grade semi-professional competition.
Others flagged the similarities to low-grade tennis betting that showed it had a corruption problem last year. If one player can do enough to influence a match, and there’s much more financial incentive from gambling than from the main event, it’s hardly surprising.
Stop the gambling already.
A Little Political
An increasing number of countries have experienced coordinated social-media manipulation campaigns.
Beijing hopes its social credit system will quickly punish companies accused of wrongdoing. And that includes things how you about places like Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Valve pledges to fight Paris High Court ruling that states Steam users should be free to sell on their games. This could set precedents for digital Music and Movie libraries, or other digital goods.
No surprise that Valve will appeal.
Google will stop including snippets of news stories in France from EU publishers, and only display headlines and thumbnails which are still free of charge.
Looking forward to data reports in a year’s time on whether publishers end up losing money on lost search value because they’ve tried to force Google to pay them directly.
Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook are way ahead of Amazon on renewables, but Amazon is the one in the business of shipping real things to people. It’s a harder task, but worth keeping in mind Ariel Bogle’s comment below when it comes to this pledge.
I'd ask for the fine print of any Amazon climate commitment.
As I reported, it wants to keep its Oz pollution data secret from the public, claiming it's a "trade secret" and there are few details about its zero emissions strategy: https://t.co/0LTxlxxZWh
Apple’s new password killer, “Sign in with Apple,” coming in iOS 13, lets you log into third-party apps using your Apple ID and get major privacy benefits.
Apple is trying to set rules that will force a lot of apps to include the option, so this should expand to many more apps in coming months.
Cloudflare is ratcheting up its fight against bots with a new “fight mode,” which it says will frustrate and disincentivize bot operators from their malicious activity. Bots are notorious for scraping websites and abusing developer access to download gobs of user data.
Microsoft is staffing up a new Data Dignity team in its CTO’s office which could help users to control their own personal data, ultimately to the point of buying and selling it.
Google is building a library of deepfakes so researchers can work on getting better at detecting deepfakes. This is turning into one of those exciting, and scary, adversarial AI scenarios where AI gets much better at doing things because they’re testing themselves to see if they can fake themselves out.
So soon our human eyes won’t have a clue and we’ll need AI to tell us what’s real and what’s not.
Happy Fun Times
Apparently they’ll also be designing in-game character skins. Fashion goes digital in one of the biggest games in the world. Big crossover for another major luxury brand stepping into esports.
Dating app jumps into the content game with a hot young director and choose-your-own-adventure plot.
I’m struggling to work out if this belongs on Black Mirror or a Derryn Brown special.
It all started as Justin.tv back in the day, then became a game-focused service. “Just Chatting” has been one of the most popular categories on Twitch for a long time, and now they’re reminding everyone it can be for a lot more than games.
Jia Tolentino on the popular short-video app, which young people are using to churn through images and sounds at warp speed, repurposing reality into ironic, bite-size content.
Worth noting that The Guardian also just looked at how TikTok censors videos that might upset Beijing.
A little bit like Apple Arcade, which launched last week, but a a very different concept in that it isn’t trying to deliver an exclusive library – just a list of both useful apps and fun games for a monthly fee and with all ads and in-app purchases removed.
Facebook Horizon is set to give us a new social VR experience on Facebook’s own Oculus Quest and Rift Platforms in 2020.
“Horizon is the first step into an ever-expanding world of connection and exploration where anything becomes possible.”
I’m excited to see if anyone can get social VR working well, and creeped out that its Facebook that is doing it. But if it’s good, and if it isn’t just feeding data into the Facebook ad targeting cesspit, maybe it’ll be great.