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Bot Fight: Activate!

Seamus Byrne
Seamus Byrne
5 min read
Bot Fight: Activate!

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…


Local Vibes

Australia, prepare to be Facebook guinea pigs again - expect Likes to disappear for at least a while

No, your Facebook app isn’t busted. Starting today we’re a test market for hiding likes and video view volumes.  •  Share

Australian esports criminal investigation adds details to local match-fixing allegations

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.  •  Share

A Little Political

70 countries have now experienced organised disinformation campaigns

An increasing number of countries have experienced coordinated social-media manipulation campaigns.  •  Share

China scores businesses, and low grades could be a trade-war weapon

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.  •  Share

French court rules that Steam’s ban on reselling used games is contrary to European law

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.  •  Share

Google’s unsurprising refusal to pay for EU publisher news snippets

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.  •  Share

Amazon signs Climate Pledge to advance Paris Climate Accords goals by 10 years

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.  •  Share

Ariel Bogle


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:

9:58 AM - 20 Sep 2019

Data Wars

‘Sign In With Apple’ is way better than passwords — If you can find It

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.  •  Share

Cloudflare has a new plan to fight bots — and climate change

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.  •  Share

Microsoft's new 'Data Dignity' team could help users control their personal 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.  •  Share

Google AI team contributing data to deepfake detection research

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.  •  Share

Happy Fun Times

Louis Vuitton Designs Trophy Case for League of Legends Worlds

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.  •  Share

Inside Tinder’s user-controlled, secret streaming series

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.  •  Share

Twitch has updated its interface to refresh the idea you can use it to stream anything, not just games

It all started as 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.  •  Share

How TikTok holds our attention

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.  •  Share

Google Play Pass bundles 350 Android games and apps under a monthly fee

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.  •  Share

Introducing ‘Facebook Horizon,’ a new social VR world

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.  •  Share

Seamus Byrne Twitter

Founder and Head of Content at Byteside.

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