#WhyIDidntReport and the Tragic Banality of Rape in America

Professor Christine Blasey Ford was a teenager when she says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her. You know the story by now. She didn’t report it at the time, but has come forward now that Kavanaugh is close to being confirmed as a justice to the highest court in the land. On Friday morning, President Trump tweeted that he had “no doubt” that if it had happened, Blasey Ford would have reported it right away.

That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. I know this because this is my story, too, and the story of millions of people. Don’t believe me? Look at Twitter today. Look at the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport. Read the cacophony of stories—each different but the same. Stories of assault by strangers, friends, family members, teachers. The hashtag exposes the sheer banality of rape in America. Sexual assault is not rare. It’s common. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, there were 320,000 sexual assaults in the US in 2016. And 77 percent of people who experienced rape or sexual assault say they did not tell police.

That number is likely much higher. Though the NCVS data is the best the US has for now, critics have long warned that in addition to suffering from the risk of underreporting that befalls all self-reported surveys, its methodology specifically discourages reporting. In a study from five years ago, the National Academy of Sciences found that the government’s survey was probably vastly undercounting sexual crimes. That report found that a separate survey devoted to sexual assault and rape would have more accurate results.

Tweets are not a replacement for this data. But they can augment it. The stories told today give texture to the statistics that tell us this is common. Three hundred and twenty thousand—even if that number is low—is too big and abstract a number to really fathom. But the tweets shared this morning are real, and individual, and impossible to forget.

In an era of misinformation and bots on social media, when we have daily coverage of the pain that can be inflicted by social media, this hashtag is a reminder of how powerful these mediums can be in bringing people together. (Of course, it was also Twitter that the president used to share the tweet that so startled sexual assault survivors this morning.)

But it’s also worth remembering that a hashtag doesn’t tell the whole story of sexual assault in America. Not everyone is on Twitter, and many people aren’t comfortable sharing their stories—even vaguely—in such a public place. But for some, it’s a crucial outlet to validate our identities at a time when it feels like those in power would like us to be silent. Or invisible.

I say our, because I am included in this. When I read Trump’s tweet this morning, first I stopped breathing. When the most powerful person in the land denies your lived experience, it feels like someone punching you in the diaphragm.

When I breathed again, I paced the room, thinking about when I was a teenager, one year older than Ford at the time of her alleged assault. I was in college, and a boy I trusted date raped me in his room. I told a few friends and then didn’t mention it for years. I didn’t report it. I had a lot of reasons not to, but chief among them was: I didn’t think anyone would care. Why were you in his room, I thought they’d ask. I had previously reported a much less serious sexual assault—groping—in high school, and nothing had happened. Why go through the public embarrassment of that again? I didn’t even tell my family about it for 15 years.

This morning, I picked up my phone and tweeted about that incident. I wanted to speak directly to the president, or anyone reading his tweet and thinking it sounded right. Like the women and men who took to Twitter this morning, I wanted to declare: I exist, here is my story.

Reading through the tweets on the hashtag drives home the innumerable reasons people do not report these events. Chief among them is that they won’t be believed, and then they’ll be punished by whoever has an interest in protecting the status quo. Yet, the collectivism in a hashtag gives us all solidarity. Though it is at once the most public airing of our most personal story, it somehow feels less intimate to tweet about this kind of experience than to sit across the table from a family member or friend and tell them.

Why don’t people report? Here’s what some said.

I’m a man and it would make me seem weak.

It would ruin my career before it had even begun.

Nothing happened the first time I reported.

The person who raped me is the person I would have needed to report to.

They were a friend and I was in denial.

He told me he’d kill me if I told anyone.

Men are tweeting about how, for them, the stigma of coming out and reporting their sexual assault was too much to bear. That’s in line with research that’s been saying the same thing for years. People are sharing about how they didn’t report professors or bosses who had power over their professional lives. Or how they didn’t report family members on whom they literally depended for everything. They’re tweeting about police officers and administrators whom they did tell, but who doubted and blamed them.

This hashtag has power. After I had tweeted and I later saw the trending hashtag, I felt like my story was a raindrop in a lake, at once singular but part of something bigger. I was grateful. I was floored by what so many people have gone through, even while not being surprised. The specifics of their pain: “He held my face so I couldn’t breath.” “He was stronger than me, and my cousin.” “I was 13.”

Every woman and many men I know have a story. Or many stories. In 2016, in the weeks after the Access Hollywood tape came out, I wrote a list of the sexual assault and harassment in my life that I could remember. It wasn’t exhaustive, but it was exhausting. It had never occured to me to write them down before because that kind of experience is so much an accepted part of life for women. “After we are leered at and groped, we get off the train, and go to work, and we don’t mention it, because why would we? This is part of being a woman,” I wrote at the time. I assumed everyone knew.

But everyone doesn’t know. That’s what the #metoo movement, and the backlash to it, has taught us. And that’s why so many people are reliving their own assaults today to share their stories. It hurts to educate people about the ordinariness of sexual assault. It means having to think about something someone might not want to think about. It means remembering the reasons you felt stifled from sharing in the first place. For many of us, it means remembering how violated and embarrassed and guilty, and above all, alone we felt.

I hesitated to tweet this morning. Even though I’d already written about my experience and told my family, and even though I really don’t feel as traumatized by it as I used to, I worried it could in some way seem unprofessional to tell my story. But this thing that happened to me when I was 18; it’s a truth I carry inside me every day.

Even now, telling feels dangerous, despite the fact that the story being told is so universal, which is exactly the point. These are our stories to tell.


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How a Tech Stock Shakeup on Monday Could Have a Big Impact on ETF Investors

For years, buying exchange-traded funds focused on, say, the technology sector has offered a simple buy-and-hold investment strategy for individual investors who wanted exposure to surging tech giants like Facebook and Alphabet.

Come Monday, that simple approach is about to get more complicated. And investors who have money in ETFs based on the S&P 500’s tech, telecom, and consumer sectors will need to take note.

S&P Global Ratings and MSCI oversee a kind of corporate taxonomy, known as the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS), which groups individual companies into sectors. On Monday, GICS will move three of the four FANG stocks—Alphabet, Facebook, and Netflix—into a new sector. As technical as those moves sound, they will have a big impact on some of the ETFs and passive index funds that mirror those two sectors.

Normally, reshuffling sector stocks wouldn’t be a big deal. But the three FANG stocks being reclassified have market caps totaling $1.8 trillion. Another 14 stocks are being affected by the sector changes, including Twitter, Disney, Comcast, and News Corp..

Most will be lumped together into what S&P had termed the telecom sector, and which will now be named “communications services.” One tech company, eBay, will move to the consumer discretionary sector.

All told, stocks that make up 10% of the S&P 500’s capitalization will be affected by the changes, said Matthew Bartolini of State Street Global Advisors on a recent podcast by Zacks Investment Research. The changes are meant to reflect the way that technology has affected different industries, he said.

“Americans spend more than 12 hours a day on some form of media communications,” Bartolini said. “Dedicating a sector to telecom, which is really carriers and landline operators, no longer reflects the current communications environment. So it really was time for the GICS classification schema to be updated.”

After the changes, the S&P tech sector will go from 26% to 21% of the S&P 500 Index, according to Bloomberg data. The Consumer sector, until recently the home of Netflix and Disney, will go from 13% to 10%. And the revamped communications services sector will make up 10% of the S&P 500 market cap, up from the 2% the old telecom sector represented.

Only some ETF providers are responding to the sector reclassifications. Tech ETFs from State Street (XLK) and Vanguard (VGT) will reflect the changes, but Blackrock’s tech ETF (IYW) won’t. ETF investors may want to check their portfolios, and rebalance if necessary.

Everything Amazon Announced: Echo Plus, Alexa Microwave, Echo Sub

Amazon announced more than a dozen new hardware products today, along with several software updates, all aimed at bringing its voice assistant Alexa to more devices in your home—and even to your car.

Some of the products were updates to existing Echo devices; others were brand new, like a new Echo Sub speaker, or a Fire TV device that acts as a DVR for local TV broadcasts. And, as rumored, there was a new home appliance in the mix too: An Amazon Basics microwave that works with Alexa and will sell for the low price of $60.

There were few dramatic flourishes at the media event in Seattle, Washington as senior vice president of devices and services Dave Limp rattled off the new products. The event was held on the top floor of Amazon’s Spheres, a biodome located directly next to the company’s corporate offices. Limp began the event by saying 70 new products would be announced within just an hour’s time, software updates included. There were no glossy product videos, or detailed descriptions of the materials used in the new hardware. The whole event underscored Amazon’s strategy of selling high-volume, low-cost hardware in an effort to get customers to use more of its services. And, of course, it was a good reminder that Amazon wants to be absolutely everywhere.

More Echos Than You’ll Know What to Do With

Amazon updated its Echo Dot, Echo Plus, and Echo Show speakers today, keeping the same pricing as earlier models while adding small tweaks that make them sound better and look better.

The new Dot

Amazon

The new Plus

Amazon

The new Echo Dot is bigger than the previous Dot, and it’s now covered with fabric on the sides. It looks like a little pouf on your coffee table or nightstand. It now has a 1.6-inch driver, Limp said, updated from the old model’s 1.1-inch driver, and is 70 percent louder. It connects to other speakers either over Bluetooth or via an audio-out cable. It ships next month for $50, the same price as the old Dot.

The Echo Plus speaker, a squatter version of the tubular Echo, looks similar to last year’s Echo Plus. And it still doubles as a smart home hub. But it now has something called “Smart Home Local Voice Control,” which means it runs certain commands for smart-home devices locally. “So when the internet goes down, you can still say, ‘Alexa, turn on the lights,’ or ‘Alexa, turn on the plug,'” Limp explained. It ships next month for $150.

The Echo Show offers some practical utility that other Echos don’t: It’s an Echo speaker with a display. The new Echo Show ($230) has an updated exterior: a fabric back cover, and a 10-inch HD display that offers much more screen space than last year’s 7-inch display. Like the Echo Plus, it doubles as a smart home hub. Like the Dot, the sound is supposed to be improved with “real-time Dolby sound processing,” according to Limp.

And the Echo Show now has a web browser. That not only gives it a way to, say, display recipe instructions from your Amazon Meal Kit, but also a way for Amazon to show you YouTube videos without having a YouTube app running natively on the device. (Google pulled YouTube from Amazon devices late last year, and Amazon doesn’t sell Google hardware on its website.)

A Smarter Car

Amazon

There was another new Echo added to the mix as well: the Echo Auto, a tiny device that goes on the dashboard of your car and gives you Alexa capabilities while you’re driving. It talks to the Alexa web service through your phone, which it connects to using Bluetooth. Alexa, add avocados, almond milk, and millennial guilt to my shopping list. Alexa, give me directions to my local conflict-free coffee shop. Alexa, will this keep me from getting distracted in the car? And so on.

Echo Auto has a catch—it’s not technically ready, and it’s only available by invitation. It’s not the first time Amazon has done a limited launch of a hardware product—several Echo products have seen limited availability at first. Also, this may be one product that the company wants to test with a small user group before it has all of us shouting at Alexa from behind the wheel. It will cost $50 when it eventually ships, but if you’re lucky enough to get an invite before the end of this year, it will cost you $25.

Sound Companions

Five other products were released today under the moniker, “Echo Companions.” This is a class of products that connect to existing Echo speakers, or add Alexa functionality to other non-Amazon products in your home that you already own. Most intriguing are the audio products: Echo Link, Echo Link Amp, Echo Sub, and Echo Input.

Amazon

Echo Input

Amazon

The Echo Link is a $200 box with a big dial on it that you plug into a stereo, turning your legacy sound system into an Alexa-powered music station. The $300 Link Amp is the same thing, but with a 60-watt stereo amplifier inside—just hook up a pair of speakers, and you’re in business.

The Input is a simple, flat puck that connects to a speaker of your choice. It has microphones on it, but no speaker of its own. It essentially turns any regular speaker into a smart speaker. It’s actually quite a bit like Google’s Chromecast Audio device, with one difference: the Echo Input has mics and can accept voice commands on the device, whereas the Chromecast does not, and can only accept voice commands through a phone or a Google Home speaker. The Input will cost $35 when it becomes available in the near future.

How low can you go, Echo Sub?

Amazon

Rounding out the home audio “Companions” is the Echo Sub. It’s exactly what you think it is: a $130 subwoofer that pairs with one or two Echos in your home.

Probably the biggest audio news to emerge from today’s event has little to do with hardware. Amazon is adding support to Alexa for multiroom music playback. This update lets those with multiple speakers group them together to play the same tracks in unison in multiple locations around the home. The enhancement that brings Amazon’s smart speaker multiroom capabilities roughly up to par with Google’s and Apple’s.

The last Companion is a $30 Wall Clock which connects to an existing Echo speaker to give you visual indications for timers and reminders that you set with your voice. It’s not out yet, but coming soon.

Today I Learned You Can Microwave a Potato

Amazon

Amazon’s new Alexa-enabled microwave doesn’t have Alexa built directly into the appliance. Instead, it wirelessly connects to another Alexa device in your kitchen and takes commands that way. But the new Amazon Basics countertop microwave is the first appliance in the Amazon Basics line to technically work with Alexa.

Amazon seemed thrilled to show reporters today that you can ask Alexa to microwave a potato. And it also works with Amazon’s Dash Replenishment service, which means the microwave knows when you’re running low on popcorn and orders your more. Plus the $60 price tag undercuts most of the countertop microwaves selling on BestBuy.com right now. Amazon does as Amazon does.

One other smart-home device to talk about (oh, you’re not the only one who’s exhausted here) is the $25 Amazon Smart Plug. Insert it into an electrical conduit, plug in an appliance like a light, space heater, or coffee maker, and you can now turn that device on or off with your voice. Neat!

Fire TV Now Means Actual TV

Amazon

No new Amazon Fire TV box or stick was announced today—Amazon just released a new cube-shaped streamer in June—but there was a new piece of hardware that’s compatible with Fire TV. It’s called the Fire TV Recast, and it’s a DVR device that works with either a Fire TV box or stick or an Echo Show to cast and record live TV streams.

We’re talking about good ol’ over-the-air local TV, not streaming video or cable shows. You can also access all of these TV streams and DVR’ed content on iOS or Android.

“We realized that the average person in the US has access to several dozen channels coming into their home over the air,” Marc Whitten, vice president and general manager of Fire TV, said in an interview. “And it’s not a very convenient or integrated experience as it exists today. So we saw this as a way to go after that particular problem.” The Fire TV Recast will ship sometime before the holidays, Amazon says, and will cost $230 for a version with two tuners, and a 500GB DVR; and $280 for a Recast with four tuners and 1 terabyte of storage.

Sticky Fingered Intruders

Ring

In February, Amazon acquired the home security company Ring for a reported $1 billion. Today, two new Ring security cameras were unveiled, although they’re still selling under the Ring brand, rather than with Amazon or Echo badging.

Called the Stick Up Cam, as were previous versions of Ring cameras, these are indoor/outdoor cameras that sell for $180 and stream live video feeds in 1080p HD, include motion detection features, and offer two-way talk functionality. One version, the Ring Stick Up Cam Wired, is powered either by an Ethernet cable or a micro-USB power supply, while the battery-powered version lasts for six to 12 months, depending on usage. In the future, Limp said, Ring’s Stick Up Cams will also work with Alexa.

Things We Didn’t Hear About (Like Privacy)

Amazon made no mention of some of the other Echo-branded products it’s released in the past year, including the Echo Look, a camera that judges your outfits; or the Echo Spot, a touchscreen alarm clock. Amazon did tell WIRED, however, that it is still producing these products. There was also no mention of Kindle hardware, although that’s not entirely surprising, since Amazon just updated the Kindle Oasis this year, and Kindles don’t have built-in voice control like nearly everything else that was shown off today.

But another glaring omission on Amazon’s part was any kind of deep dive into how the company plans to keep your voice commands, your location, and your purchasing history private. Amazon has faced criticism over the past couple years for unclear privacy policies or outright missteps, including an incident back in May where a woman reported that Alexa had recorded and shared a private conversation she was having with her husband.

At the launch of the Echo Look, the aforementioned smart camera that gives you style advice, WIRED’s Brian Barrett reported that it had no separate privacy policy, citing a policy expert who noted that “Amazon doesn’t say anywhere in any kind of clear language what the risks are.”

Personally, I find last year’s Echo Show to be an incredibly useful product in my kitchen. And the updated Show might be, too. But I keep a piece tape over the camera on my Show, and I’ll stick a strip of tape over the camera on the new one too. Other “smart displays” that have been introduced, like Lenovo’s Google-powered screen, have a physical tab that acts as a shutter over the camera lens.

As Amazon makes more and more connected devices, and as Alexa gets that much smarter, Amazon’s press events might be well spent addressing that particular elephant in the room.


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Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase hires chief legal officer from Fannie Mae

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Coinbase has hired finance executive Brian Brooks as chief legal officer, it said on Wednesday, as the cryptocurrency exchange grows its compliance and government affairs capabilities amid intensifying regulatory scrutiny of the nascent market.

Brooks was most recently executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Fannie Mae, the U.S. mortgage finance company. In that role he led the company’s legal department and government relations group, and was a senior advisor to the CEO and board of directors, said Coinbase, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges based in the United States.

“His arrival is part of our effort to expand our legal, compliance and government affairs capabilities as we head into this next chapter for the company and the cryptocurrency industry as a whole,” Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said in a blogpost.

Mike Lempres, who was previously chief legal and risk officer at Coinbase, will now focus on growing the company’s government affairs program, Coinbase said.

The appointment comes as regulators and governments start ramping up their focus on cryptocurrency markets, which have been the subject of growing investor interest over the past 18 months.

On Tuesday the New York Attorney General’s office issued a report stating that several cryptocurrency exchanges are plagued by poor market surveillance, pervasive conflicts of interest and lack of sufficient customer protections.

In April the attorney general office had asked 13 platforms, including Coinbase, to voluntarily share information about their practices.

The report noted that some platforms engage in proprietary trading on their own venues, which it said could create potential conflicts of interest. Coinbase disclosed to the attorney general’s office that almost 20 percent of executed volume on its platform was attributable to its own trading.

Coinbase did not immediately comment on the report.

The hire announced Wednesday, follows appointments of other former finance executives to senior compliance posts at the startup. In July Coinbase hired a former Pershing LLC executive as chief compliance officer.

Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

This Ridiculous Video for United Airlines 'Explains' the New Boarding Process

Some explanations are better left to a simple card or even a text message.

A new video on YouTube, created by United Airlines, tries to explain the new boarding process, which went into effect this week.

Sadly, it makes it seem like an intricate maze.

Before we get into the video and what makes it so confusing, know this: There’s hope. United Airlines did simplify how it all works to board a plane now, trimming the lines down to just two options, green or blue. At first glance, you might wonder if things would be far simpler if there was one lane, but that might also be an indication that you have only flown with really polite people. One lane means way more crowding. People bud in line. Multiple lanes beyond two means more confusion. So I do understand why this two lane approach is much easier.

Then, there’s the video. Here it is:

That’s right. Text pops up in the video in a chaotic fashion, a guy gives you all of the boarding pass advice, a cheesy music tracks plays in the background, and there are blue and green colors flashing at you like crazy. By about halfway in or maybe two-thirds, it starts to feel like someone went overboard with the two primary colors. It’s not a terrible video, but it also doesn’t help explain a simple process. And it probably shouldn’t exist.

The problem with visual communication, of course, is that it can go way too far. The video is two minutes and 21 seconds long when it should have been about 30 seconds. A voiceover saying “there are now only two lanes, and you’ll split into two groups depending on which zone you’re in” would have been just about right. Text me that, then snap–done.

There’s something to be said for “you’ll figure it out” after giving a teaser or a hint of what’s going to happen when you board. A sign is sometimes better than a video.

It would be like trying to explain the airport kiosks. You know, they are super simple. Insert your ID or a credit card, punch a few buttons, grab your boarding pass.

If a video tried to explain things like multiple layovers, what to do if your ID doesn’t work, or just about any other scenario that would make it seem complicated would…make it seem complicated. Very few people get confused by kiosks. It’s actually better to skip a video altogether. I always notice someone hovering around the kiosks anyway. And, if you don’t watch the United Airlines video explaining the new process, you’ll figure it out. It speaks for itself. And there are screens everywhere. And gate agents are readily available.

It’s a bit ironic, actually.

By making an explainer video, it makes passengers more stressed instead of less stressed. The video itself tells you ot to be stressed, which is a sure sign that you might want to be stressed. What would be far less stressful? No video at all.

And, this is where things get interesting, by the way. For anyone trying to communicate about a slightly complex topic, the first question to ask is: Should this even be a video? Or is it better to include a few directional indicators at the point where someone needs to know a new process? Think about something as simple as placing an order for products and services. Sometimes, not explaining something makes it all seem easier.

My best example of this has to do with McDonald’s kiosks.

They are not as common in the U.S., but I started using them on a trip to Austria recently. I can’t imagine how anyone could improve them. They have huge icons, you click things to order. That’s it. Making the process itself easier–which United Airlines has done–is the big win. Trying to explain why something is easier–which is the mistake United Airlines made in the video–is a sure way to create even more confusion.

Britain's 'Wild West' crypto market should be regulated, say lawmakers

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s cryptocurrency market resembles the Wild West and should be regulated, lawmakers said on Wednesday, urging the government to bring to heel a sector plagued by volatile price swings, vulnerability to hacking and weak consumer protection.

FILE PHOTO: A cryptocurrency mining computer is seen in front of bitcoin logo during the annual Computex computer exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

The government’s current approach to the sector is vague and unsustainable, Parliament’s Treasury Committee said in a report, calling for regulation that protects consumers and prevents illicit uses such as money laundering.

Still, Britain could become a global center for cryptocurrencies with proportionate regulation, it said, adding that the government should weigh whether it would encourage growth in the sector against its numerous risks.

Cryptocurrencies are virtual tokens that can be used as forms of payments. They can also be traded on online exchanges, a usage that has become widespread.

Though the Financial Conduct Authority, Britain’s watchdog, has issued warnings against scams involving cryptocurrencies, the lack of a comprehensive set of rules drew strong criticism from the lawmakers.

“It’s unsustainable for the government and regulators to bumble along issuing feeble warnings to potential investors, yet refrain from acting,” said Nicky Morgan, the committee’s chair.

Extending existing laws to cover cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings would be the quickest way to give regulators oversight of the industry, the report said.

STRIKING A BALANCE

CryptoUK, an industry body, welcomed the recommendations.

The government should “introduce regulation that strikes the right balance between establishing safeguards and enabling the UK to become the global leader in crypto,” said Iqbal Gandham, its chair.

Cryptocurrencies saw a surge in interest last year, especially from individual investors. The price of bitcoin, the most well-known cryptocurrency, soared more than 1,300 percent in 2017 to approach a record high of almost $20,000 but has since slumped. It was trading on Tuesday around $6,370.

Policymakers across the world are wrestling with how to treat cryptocurrencies and their underlying blockchain technology, said by proponents to have the potential to transform industries such as finance and insurance.

Still, few major jurisdictions have looked in earnest at how to regulate digital money, despite a spate of thefts from exchanges and worries that cryptocurrencies enable criminality.

Japan last year became the first country to oversee cryptocurrency exchanges at the national level, aiming to tame an unruly sector and harness the industry’s growth potential. Others, including China and South Korea, have clamped down on cryptocurrencies.

In contrast, Western states have taken little concrete action. U.S. securities regulators have stepped up scrutiny, noting that cryptocurrencies could be seen as securities and as such subject to federal laws.

The European Union has so far avoided regulation because of the sector’s relatively small size, though a report prepared for the bloc this month said it should adopt common rules on cryptocurrencies.

Reporting by Tom Wilson; Editing by Gareth Jones

Eventbrite Raises IPO Pricing Range, Now Hopes to Raise as Much as $230 Million

Eventbrite, an online platform for live-event ticketing, raised the proposed price of its planned IPO to a range of $21 a share to $23 a share from its previous range of $19 a share to $21 a share.

When IPO candidates increase the price of their offerings, it can signal a strong demand among institutional investors. Eventbrite is planning to sell 10 million shares later this week, listing its shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker EB. At the high end of the new range, Eventbrite’s proceeds from the IPO would total $230 million.

The company was founded in 2006 as a way to make it easier for people to organize and distribute tickets for free and paid live events. Last year, Eventbrite created tickets for 3 million events in 170 countries. Its revenue grew 51% to $202 million in 2017 while its net loss declined to $1.98 a share from $2.48 a share.

In the first six months of 2018, revenue growth accelerated to 61%, while its net loss increased to 73 cents a share from 44 cents a share a year earlier.

Despite the higher net loss so far this year, demand for Eventbrite shares was enough to prompt a higher price. Part of that popularity may come from the successful tech IPOs in the last 12 months, including Roku, Dropbox, Sonos, as well as the direct listing of Spotify. Outside of Eventbrite and SurveyMonkey, there aren’t a lot of well-known tech startups heading through the IPO pipeline later this year.

2018 has been the strongest year for IPOs in several years. According to Dealogic, 120 companies have staged IPOs in the first half of 2018, raising an aggregate of of $35 billion. It’s the best first half for U.S. IPOs since 2014 and one of the busiest periods in the 24 years that Dealogic has been tracking IPO data. Tech offerings have been among the most successful IPOs.

Evacuating for Florence, Tesla's Security Flaw, and More in This Week in Cars

Sure, we’re a little biased around here. But when storms bear down on this country’s coasts—scary ones, like Hurricane Florence (since downgraded to a tropical storm), threatening floods and high winds—our minds zero in on the transportation aspects. Some people need to leave their homes, but how? Some need to get to shelters, but when, and how quickly? And then, after the storm is over, someone needs to get in and assess it all. And then the residents need to come back. This week, WIRED Transpo spent some time thinking about these thorny questions, from the perspective of residents, government emergency planners, logistics-obsessed officials, even drone pilots.

Elsewhere in transportation world, we talked to people who had solved other intimidating issues: How to stop someone hacking your Tesla, how to get around flying cars’ battery problems, and how to help someone ride a bike at 168 mph. It’s been a week—let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

  • Tesla owners, remember to turn on your dashboard display PIN. WIRED security writer Andy Greenberg tells the tale of KU Leuven researchers who discovered that anyone with a bit of savvy and $600 in radio and computing equipment should be able to wirelessly read and decrypt Tesla key fobs, allowing them to swipe cars without a trace. Tesla rolled out its new antitheft PIN feature two weeks ago, and says no Model S units sold after June are vulnerable to the hack.
  • Don’t call it a concept car. Mercedes-Benz’s Vision Urbanetic is a “mobility concept,” a body-swappable hybrid that can haul people or packages, depending on its fancy. The concept is an excuse for the Germans to start thinking (and messaging) about new forms of moving stuff—without adding to cities’ already oppressive traffic issues.
  • Another pack of Germans, another mobility concept. Transportation editor Alex Davies meets BMW’s Vision iNEXT, an electric, autonomous, baby SUV that BMW hopes points to the future of driving. Or not driving, as it were.
  • Led by Los Angeles, 30 cities teamed up this week to create an online portal for collectively bargaining with electric car, street sweeper, garbage truck and bus manufacturers over the price of their products. Together, these cities will need to replace 115,000 vehicles valuing about $10 billion, senior writer Jack Stewart reports. And going electric is a lot easier when you can get a good deal.
  • As Hurricane Florence continues to batter the East Coast, it’s important to remember: When governors and mayors declare mandatory evacuations, they’re the products of years of planning and thought.
  • But some have more planning and thought than others. A disaster and urban planning expert tells me that some places just don’t have the resources for robust hurricane plans—and that the vulnerable, and especially those without cars, suffer for it.
  • As the rains continue to fall, Jack Stewart catches up with the professional drone pilots prepping to help out in the recovery effort—beef jerky, pretzels, and all.
  • Waze and tech company SpotHero install specialized beacons in Chicago’s labyrinthine tunnels, where no functioning GPS dare go. Just one problem: Locals love their shortcut tunnel secrets.
  • Lyft adds public transit data to its app in Santa Monica—meaning Californians might open it every time they travel, no matter the mode.
  • What’s better than a flying car? A flying car with all of its complex electric battery issues solved, because it’s in fact tethered to a power line for much of every trip. Eric Adams speaks to the (quixotic?) inventors behind the Karman Electric concept.
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Facebook's AI Can Analyze Memes, but Can It Understand Them?

Billions of text posts, photos, and videos are uploaded to social media every day, a firehose of information that’s impossible for human moderators to sift through comprehensively. And so companies like Facebook and YouTube have long relied on artificial intelligence to help surface things like spam and pornography.

Something like a white supremacist meme, though, can be more challenging for machines to flag, since the task requires processing several different visual elements at once. Automated systems need to detect and “read” the words that are overlaid on top of the photo, as well as analyze the image itself. Memes are also complicated cultural artifacts, which can be difficult to understand out of context. Despite the challenges they bring, some social platforms are already using AI to analyze memes, including Facebook, which this week shared details about how it uses a tool called Rosetta to analyze photos and videos that contain text.

Facebook says it already uses Rosetta to help automatically detect content that violates things like its hate speech policy. With help from the tool, Facebook also announced this week that it’s expanding its third-party fact checking effort to include photos and videos, not just text-based articles. Rosetta will aid in the process by automatically checking whether images and videos that contain text were previously flagged as false.

Rosetta works by combining optical character recognition (OCR) technology with other machine learning techniques to process text found in photos and videos. First, it uses OCR to identify where the text is located in a meme or video. You’ve probably used something like OCR before; it’s what allows you to quickly scan a paper form and turn it into an editable document. The automated program knows where blocks of text are located and can tell them apart from the place where you’re supposed to sign your name.

Once Rosetta knows where the words are, Facebook uses a neural network that can transcribe the text and understand its meaning. It then can feed that text through other systems, like one that checks whether the meme is about an already-debunked viral hoax.

The researchers behind Rosetta say the tool now now extracts text from every image uploaded publicly to Facebook in real time, and it can “read” text in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, German, and Arabic. (Facebook says Rosetta is not used to scan images that users share privately on their timelines or in direct messages.)

Rosetta can analyze images that include text in many forms, such as photos of protest signs, restaurant menus, storefronts, and more. Viswanath Sivakumar, a software engineer at Facebook who works on Rosetta, said in an email that the tool works well both for identifying text in a landscape, like on a street sign, and also for memes—but that the latter is more challenging. “In the context of proactively detecting hate speech and other policy-violating content, meme-style images are the more complex AI challenge,” he wrote.

Unlike humans, an AI also typically needs to see tens of thousands of examples before it can learn to complete a complicated task, says Sivakumar. But memes, even for Facebook, are not endlessly available, and gathering enough examples in different languages can also prove difficult. Finding high-quality training data is an ongoing challenge for artificial intelligence research more broadly. Data often needs to be painstakingly hand-labeled, and many databases are protected by copyright laws.

To train Rosetta, Facebook researchers used images posted publicly on the site that contained some form of text, along with their captions and the location from which they were posted. They also created a program to generate additional examples, inspired by a method devised by a team of Oxford University researchers in 2016. That means the entire process is automated to some extent: One program automatically spits out the memes, and then another tries to analyze them.

Different languages are challenging for Facebook’s AI team in other ways. For example, the researchers had to find a workaround to make Rosetta work with languages like Arabic, which are read from right to left, the opposite of other languages like English. Rosetta “reads” Arabic backwards, then after processing, Facebook reverses the characters. “This trick works surprisingly well, allowing us to have a unified model that works for both left to right and right to left languages,” the researchers wrote in their blog post.

While automated systems can be extremely useful for content moderation purposes, they’re not always foolproof. For example, WeChat—the most popular social network in China—uses two different algorithms to filter images, which a team of researchers at the Univeristy of Toronto’s Citizen Lab were able to successfully trick. The first, an OCR-based program, filters photos that contain text about prohibited topics, while the other censors images that appear similar to those on a blacklist likely created by the Chinese government.

The researchers were able to easily evade WeChat’s filters by changing an image’s properties, like the coloring or the way it was oriented. While Facebook’s Rosetta is more sophisticated, it likely isn’t perfect either; the system may be tripped up by hard-to-read text, or warped fonts. All image recognition algorithms are also still potentially susceptible to adversarial examples, slightly altered images that look the same to humans but cause an AI to go haywire.

Facebook and other platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit are under tremendous pressure in multiple countries to police certain kinds of content. On Wednesday, the European Union proposed new legislation that require social media companies to remove terrorist posts within one hour of notification, or else face fines. Rosetta, and other similarly automated tools, are what already help Facebook and other platforms abide by similar laws in places like Germany.

And they’re getting better at their jobs: Two years ago CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s AI systems only proactively caught around half of the content the company took down; people had to flag the rest first. Now, Facebook says that its AI tools detect nearly 100 percent of the spam it takes down, as well as 99.5 percent of terrorist content and 86 percent of graphic violence. Other platforms, like YouTube, have seen similar success using automated content detection systems.

But those promising numbers don’t mean AI systems like Rosetta are a perfect solution, especially when it comes to more nuanced forms of expression. Unlike a restaurant menu, it can be hard to parse the meaning of a meme without knowing the context of where it was posted. That’s why there are whole websites dedicated to explaining them. Memes often depict inside jokes, or are highly specific to a certain online subculture. And AI still isn’t capable of understanding a meme or video in the same way that a person would. For now, Facebook will still need to to rely on human moderators to make decisions about whether a meme should be taken down.


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Enter the Age of Borderless Memes

English-speaking YouTube has established tropes—workhorse video concepts like unboxing, shopping hauls, and microwaving things you’re not supposed to. Over the last few years (but especially in the last six months), a new second-hand delight has started gobbling up YouTube viewers’ attention. It’s called mukbang, and the rules are simple: Acquire a truly astonishing amount of food, arrange your feast in front of you, hit Record, and gorge.

But mukbang clearly didn’t get its start in the anglophone world. It’s a portmanteau of the Korean words for “eat” (muok-da) and “broadcast” (bang song)—essentially, “eating show.” The trend took off on the South Korean streaming service AfreecaTV in the early 2010s and then slowly wended its way across the Pacific, acquiring new devotees and new cultural contexts. It isn’t really an outlier, either: Mukbang is just one of Asia’s most successful entrants to a new class of global internet phenomena—simple visual- and video-focused memes that are so basic in their appeal that the boundaries of geography and culture don’t apply.

In just over a year, mukbang has shifted from a Youtube niche to a mainstream trope—a high-calorie riff on the haul video. It’s acquired American-ness along the way with its food choices (more pizza, Taco Bell, and Chick-fil-A than Korean barbecue), and social cues (American eaters tend to chat more than their South Korean counterparts.) But mukbang has remained shockingly unchanged by its cross-continental journey. And that’s because it didn’t have to change. It was a borderless meme, ready to travel across cultures and continents in its original form.

Mukbang’s success as a borderless meme has precedent. Earlier this year, a Chinese meme called “Karma’s a bitch” struck a similar vein of gold: Young Weibo users post clips of themselves shabbily dressed and without makeup, then, to the sounds of a scene from CW’s Riverdale (Veronica Lodge saying “Karma’s a bitch”) and Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci,” reemerge triumphant in full glam hair, clothes, and makeup. It’s the dramatic glow-up every adolescent hopes for, condensed into a few shareable seconds—and it wasn’t long until the Roots were doing it on the Tonight Show. These continent-crossing memes don’t even have to be that complicated. Take Japan’s Hadouken craze (in which people take photos that make it appear one of them can fling the others across the room with magic) or China’s (questionable fad of putting pantyhose and heels on dogs, which caught on everywhere because of its weird visual intrigue.

South Korean mukbangs aren’t silent—the ramen slurping, fried chicken ripping, and other lip-smackings and munchings are part of the appeal—but they are often nearly wordless. The only language consistently involved is the live feed of comments from viewers, who can also show their appreciation by making micropayments during the stream. As soon as the South Korean mukbang trend became a lucrative craze—some of the top broadcasting jockies reportedly earn $10,000 per month before sponsporships—it jumped continents.

Mukbang’s first big US YouTube spotlight came in 2015, when Fine Brother’s Entertainment made a video showing popular YouTubers like Tyler Oakley reacting to South Korean mukbang. Some were bored by the low-action spectacle, others disgusted, but, importantly, none of them were confused or alienated. “I am delighted by this,” says Oakley, who had about 7 million subscribers at the time, in the video, grinning as a young woman lip-smacks her way through a chicken wing. “I hope they’re monetizing.”

Oakley wasn’t alone. The birth of the American mukbang was only weeks away. YouTuber Trisha Paytas, probably the most popular American mukbanger, with over 4 million subscribers, started posting her own mukbang videos soon after. In the time since, the Western mukbang trend has swelled on YouTube and Twitch, where hundreds of mukbang-dedicated accounts have sprung up. In the last few months, it’s become fodder for BuzzFeed quizzes and a very active hashtag, while attracting YouTube mega-celebrities like James Charles, Manny Mua, Jeffree Star, Shane Dawson, Tana Mongeau, and, yes, Logan Paul. Even former TV stars like Josh Peck and Kathy Griffin are doing it.

In the past, international memes have had only niche appeal—usually among people already interested in the original creator’s culture and language, like Western anime fans. But now memes have begun to cross continents and cultures much more easily—and there’s a reason for that. Internet connectivity has increased worldwide, and internet culture has moved from its text-and-emoticon roots to something that thrives on images and video. Creating a truly global meme becomes more possible because we’re leaving language—with its pesky regional limitations—almost entirely behind.

But that doesn’t mean that every relatively wordless clip is going to be an automatic smash hit. Things that require specific regional knowledge, like politics or news events, won’t fly. The most successful of these memes echo Socially Awkward Penguin or Philosoraptor: By appealing to basic experiences that the majority of humans share, these memes have a longer life cycle than our modern-day digital ephemera and are simple enough that each creator can graft their own cultural and emotional context onto them.

Mukbang in its original form is exactly that: The people in front of the camera are ciphers shoveling food down their gullets. The appeals in South Korea and in the West vary widely: Some viewers come for the apparently ASMR-inducing audio component, others tune in for the vicarious thrill of watching someone else binge-eat, some are drawn to the fetishistic appeal, and many others find comfort in digital dining companions.

What we’re witnessing is the infancy of global internet culture through the birth of its first-born—the borderless meme. Still, it’s too early to tell if these borderless memes will really bring the world closer together or if a shared video vocabulary will be too limited to create valuable connections. Maybe the ideas that spread will be too universal for the average person to realize they’re giggling along to a trend that was born on the other side of the world, though the fact that mukbang has retained its Korean name might suggest otherwise.

But even if these memes are just examples of cultures performing the same actions alone, simultaneously, there’s something hopeful about knowing that, stripped of language and other cross-cultural confusions, people relate to the strangers who cross their screens.


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