Justice Department probes whether social media is 'stifling' speech

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general will meet this month to discuss concerns that social media platforms are “intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas,” the department said on Wednesday.

Its statement did not name Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), whose executives testified in Congress on Wednesday, but the firms have been harshly criticized by President Donald Trump and some of his fellow Republicans for what they see as an effort to repress conservative voices.

The companies deny any such bias.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions convened the meeting, set for Sept. 25, “to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said.

It was not known which state attorneys general would attend. Representatives for the attorneys general in New York, Connecticut and Iowa said that they had not been contacted.

Shares of social media companies slipped on Wednesday as the executives met skeptical lawmakers, with Twitter off 6.1 percent and Facebook around 2.3 percent lower in late afternoon trading. Shares of Google parent Alphabet Inc.(GOOGL.O) sank about 1 percent.

In the morning, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey testified at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on efforts to counteract foreign efforts to influence U.S. elections and political discourse.

The Senate panel has been examining reported Russian efforts to influence U.S. public opinion throughout Trump’s presidency, after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that entities backed by the Kremlin had sought to boost his chances of winning the White House in 2016.

Sandberg and Dorsey said the companies had stepped up efforts to fight such influence operations, but lawmakers said there was far more to be done and suggested Congress might have to take legislative action.

“Clearly, this problem is not going away. I’m not even sure it’s trending in the right direction,” said Senator Richard Burr, the committee’s Republican chairman.

Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s top Democrat said, “I’m skeptical that, ultimately, you’ll be able to truly address this challenge on your own. Congress is going to have to take action here.”

Legislation addressing the use of social media for political disinformation could resemble a bill passed earlier this year – and signed into law by Trump – that made it easier for state prosecutors and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media companies, advertisers and others who failed to keep exploitative material off their sites.

Committee members also criticized Google for refusing to send top executives to testify at the Senate hearing, with just weeks before the Nov. 6 congressional elections.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio said the company might have skipped the hearing because it was “arrogant.”

BIAS ALLEGATIONS

Dorsey then testified at a House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee hearing focused on the bias issue.

Representative Greg Walden, the committee’s Republican chairman, said Twitter had made “mistakes” that, he said, minimized Republicans’ presence on the social media site, a practice conservatives have labeled “shadow banning.”

Slideshow (7 Images)

“Multiple members of Congress and the chairwoman of the Republican Party have seen their Twitter presences temporarily minimized in recent months, due to what you have claimed was a mistake in the algorithm,” he said.

Dorsey denied any deliberate attempt to target conservatives, or promote liberals, during more than four hours of questioning.

“Recently we failed our intended impartiality. Our algorithms were unfairly filtering 600,000 accounts, including some members of Congress, from our search auto-complete and latest results. We fixed it,” he said.

Ahead of Wednesday’s hearings, Trump, without offering evidence, accused social media companies of interfering in the November elections, telling the Daily Caller conservative website that social media firms are “super liberal.”

Trump was quoted as saying in the interview on Tuesday that “I think they already have” interfered.

Democratic House committee members accused Republicans of calling the hearing for political reasons, noting that Trump had featured accusations of bias in fundraising letters. The mid-terms will decide whether Republicans will keep their majorities in the House and Senate.

“Over the past weeks, President Trump and many Republicans have peddled conspiracy theories about Twitter and other social media platforms to whip up their base and fundraise,” said Representative Frank Pallone, the committee’s top Democrat.

Wednesday’s hearings were attended by conspiracy theorists known as Trump supporters, who have dealt with bans on social media.

The conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who was temporarily suspended from Twitter, sat in the front row of the Senate hearing, and interrupted Rubio.

The House hearing was interrupted by Laura Loomer, a conspiracy theorist who has been banned from major social media sites. She shouted that Dorsey was lying, accusing him of banning conservatives and saying Twitter was going to help Democrats “steal” the November elections.

Loomer was removed from the room as Republican Representative Billy Long used the droning cadence of his former career as an auctioneer to drown her out.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bangalore; Editing by Susan Thomas and Grant McCool

Jon Kyl Will Take McCain's Senate Seat

On Tuesday, Arizona’s governor appointed former Republican senator Jon Kyl to fill the US Senate seat vacated by the late John McCain. The appointment could spell even more government scrutiny for tech giants like Facebook and Google—even though Kyl has only committed to serving until the start of the next Congressional session in January, though he may stay through 2020.

While McCain, who passed away on August 25, never focused his energies on the practices of technology platforms, Kyl has taken up the cause in his private endeavors, particularly as the head of an internal probe at Facebook into whether the platform is biased against conservatives, which was announced in May.

The results of that investigation have not been made public, and it is still ongoing. A Facebook spokesperson said that Kyl would leave the audit, but that it would continue with the team from law firm Covington and Burlington that he had led. Kyl did not immediately return a request for comment. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, also held meetings with Facebook executives about the question of liberal bias as part of the inquiry.

Kyl’s appointment comes just one day before representatives from Twitter, Google, and Facebook are set to testify again before the Senate over concerns about privacy, political bias, and anti-competitive practices. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will also tomorrow appear separately before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to address similar concerns.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing is slated to focus on “foreign influence operations use of social media platforms,” but tech executives will likely also face questions about whether their platforms are biased against certain political viewpoints.

Over the next several months, Jon Kyl will arguably be the senator best-equipped to ask such questions, having ostensibly spent the summer examining Facebook’s treatment of conservative viewpoints, both internally and on its platform. In late August, The New York Times reported that an extremely small group of Facebook employees have internally argued that the company isn’t welcoming to conservative viewpoints.

In recent months, a number of conservative lawmakers, including President Trump, have also accused tech companies like Google and Facebook of suppressing right-wing content, and have questioned whether they should be regulated as a result.

In April, for example, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress, half a dozen Republican lawmakers questioned whether the social network had suppressed content produced by conservative commentators Diamond and Silk. Just last week, President Trump accused Google of purposely favoring negative coverage about his administration in its news product.

The belief that tech companies intentionally censor certain political beliefs is also increasingly held by voters, especially Republicans, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in June.

For years, conservatives on Capitol Hill have alleged that prominent tech companies are biased against their beliefs. They often cite a 2016 Gizmodo article as evidence, which reported that Facebook employees suppressed the reach of conservative outlets in its trending product. But while Silicon Valley is notoriously a hub for liberal tech workers, many lawmakers’ specific accusations have largely been unfounded. Still, their complaints highlight the amount of power over Americans’ speech and access to information that a handful of California companies have consolidated.

Kyl appears well-poised to ramp up the questioning over whether Google and Facebook can keep that power while avoiding more government oversight. Aside from his experience with Facebook, the senator also has a history of pushing for the regulation of some internet activities. In the early aughts, he was one of the first lawmakers to advocate for the criminalization of some categories of online gambling and he ultimately helped to pass the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Act.

As a lobbyist at Covington and Burlington, where Kyl has worked since declining to seek reelection in 2013, he has represented clients like Walmart, Georgetown University, and the conservative political organization Judicial Crisis Network. His clients have also included some technology companies, like San Diego-based Qualcomm.

Kyl has also busied himself with more than just auditing Facebook this summer. In a sign of his deep commitment to conservative interests, Kyl has also been guiding Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, through his Senate confirmation hearings.

As Kyl’s fellow senators mull over proposed legislation like a national privacy law, that commitment may also increasingly mean towing the Republican line on regulating big tech. No one is poised better to lead the effort than Kyl.

UPDATED: 9/4/2018, 4:52 PM EST: This story has been updated with comment from Facebook


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In India, Google races to parry the rise of Facebook

SAN FRANCISCO/MUMBAI (Reuters) – Google retains only a slight lead over Facebook in the competition for digital ad dollars in the crucial India market, sources familiar with the figures say, even though the search giant has been in the country far longer and has avoided the controversies that have dogged its rival.

A woman walks past the logo of Google during an event in New Delhi, India, August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Facebook’s success has shaken Alphabet Inc’s Google, led by an Indian-born CEO, Sundar Pichai, who has made developing markets a priority.

Google officials in India earlier this year were alarmed to learn that Facebook Inc was likely to generate about $980 million in revenue in the country in 2018, according to one of the sources. Google’s India revenues reached $1 billion only last year.

Facebook and Google declined to comment on Indian revenue figures or the competition between the two companies.

Google is now pushing back, attempting to lure customers with better ad-buying tools and more localized services. The revamped strategy mirrors initiatives that have succeeded in boosting the time Indian consumers spend with Google services.

The battle in India reflects an epic challenge for Google in developing markets around the world that are crucial to the company’s long-term growth – many consumers in those country’s are gravitating to Facebook and it’s siblings, Instagram and WhatsApp, at the expense of Google search and YouTube, and advertising dollars are quick to follow.

“Facebook is a far more user-friendly platform even though they haven’t created features specifically for Indian advertisers,” said Vikas Chawla, who runs a small ad-buying agency in India.

Facebook ads, compared with those on Google search or YouTube, tend to transcend language barriers more easily because they rely more on visual elements, said Narayan Murthy Ivaturi, vice president at FreakOut Pte Ltd, a Singapore-headquartered digital marketing firm. Pinpointing younger consumers and rural populations is easier with Facebook and its Instagram app, he and other ad buyers said.

And Facebook is succeeding in India, which boasts the fastest-growing digital ad market of any major economy, despite internal turmoil and political controversy. It has been without a country head for the last year, and has faced a series of incidents in which rumors circulating on Facebook and WhatsApp have prompted mob violence.

Facebook and Google between them took 68 percent of India’s digital ad market last year, according to advertising buyer Magna. Media agency GroupM estimates digital advertising spending will grow 30 percent in India this year.

The Facebook phenomenon is evident close to home for Google. During a recent lunch period, six out of 10 people who walked out of Google’s Bangalore offices while looking at their phones told Reuters they were checking WhatsApp. All 10 said they regularly used Whatsapp.

Eight Indian ad buyers interviewed by Reuters were divided on whether Facebook would overtake Google in Indian ad revenue. That such a question would even be debated explains why Pichai, Google’s chief executive, has pressed to flip the company’s approach to emerging markets.

“India is the most important market for the ‘Next Billion Users’ initiative,” Caesar Sengupta, the head of the effort, told Reuters on the sidelines of the annual “Google for India” event in New Delhi last week.

A man walks past a Google hashtag during an event in New Delhi, India, August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW TACTICS

For many years Google designed its services for early adopters of new technology, who tended to be in Silicon Valley, said Nelson Mattos, who oversaw Google’s Europe and Africa operations for several years. Great products would then find a broad global audience.

“Over time, as you saw the growth of Facebook, the importance of WhatsApp and other tools in these new markets, and not the same adoption of Google, the company started to realize that maybe they had to change that approach,” Mattos said.

Shortly after taking the helm three years ago, Pichai mapped a new strategy for places such as India: More services tailored to locals; more marketing on radio, billboards and TV; more local staff and start-up investment.

Google’s India workforce has more than doubled since to more than 4,000 employees, or about eight times Facebook’s presence, according to a tally of LinkedIn profiles and company statements.

Its products evolved too, becoming easier to use with low data plans. Smartphone apps such as Files Go and Tez – rebranded last week as Google Pay – were aimed at Indians.

“There’s definitely a sea change,” said Asif Baki, a user researcher at Google who oversees two-week “immersion trips” in developing markets for senior executives and staff.

The efforts are bearing fruit. Indian users during the first half of this year spent more time on Google services than on Facebook services, according to estimates from audience measurement firm Comscore. Over a similar period a year ago, Facebook came out on top.

Extending those gains to the ad business is a work in progress. A handful of Google executives, including leaders for display ads and small business advertisers, traveled to India earlier this year in a previously unreported trip to better understand the needs of Indian clients.

The visit spurred them to consider ideas such as enabling advertisers to reach users only in a particular Indian state, since language and literacy vary greatly around the country, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

At the New Delhi event, Google unveiled a plan to bring Indian newspaper content online, to increase the supply of search results – and ads – available in regional languages. 

Google still has to reckon with other issues. Small businesses in emerging markets are less likely to have websites, a foundation for Google ad campaigns but unnecessary for Facebook.

Executives met with one Indian merchant who recorded product videos on YouTube then messaged the links to potential customers on WhatsApp, said Kim Spalding, the company’s general manager and product lead for small business ads. 

    Facebook, meanwhile, is already on to commercializing such behavior. Just weeks ago, it began charging for text-based marketing features on WhatsApp, with video ads expected to launch next year.

Reporting by Paresh Dave and Sankalp Phartiyal; Additional reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bangalore; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Alex Richardson

Tesla, Software And Disruption

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Google Is Taking Down Tech Support Scammers

Google is taking action against the tech support scams that advertise on its platform.

The tech giant is making a commitment to removing misleading ads. Google told the Wall Street Journal it removed more than 100 ads every second for violating some part of its policies. Now, it’s also implementing a verification program to further combat bad actors.

The program is meant to ensure that only legitimate third-party tech support companies will be able to advertise on Google. The company announced it will also restrict the category globally in a blog post Friday.

The move comes after an investigation from the Wall Street Journal found fraudulent tech support ads masquerading as larger companies like Apple. Scammers would utilize Google’s advertising system to create misleading ads. The ads would display a link to Apple’s website, but the number in the ad would direct to a call center that the Wall Street Journal says “engages in tech-support scams.”

New OpenStack cloud release embraces bare metal

OpenStack is getting bigger than ever. It now powers more than 75 public cloud data centers and thousands of private clouds at a scale of more than 10 million compute cores. But it’s always been hard to upgrade from one version of OpenStack to another, and it’s been hard to deploy on bare metals. With OpenStack 18, Rocky, both problems are much easier to deal with now.

The open-source OpenStack cloud, like its ancestors, has always run well on diverse hardware architectures — bare metal, virtual machines (VMs), graphics processing units (GPUs), and containers. Bare metal was always a bit tricky. OpenStack Ironic, its bare metal provisioning module, is bringing more sophisticated management and automation capabilities to bare metal infrastructure. Nova, which provisions compute instances, now supports creating both virtual machines (VM)s and bare metal servers. This means it also supports multi tenancy, so users can manage physical infrastructure in the same way they manage VMs.

Also: Open-source community has an integration problem: OpenStack

Other new Ironic features include:

  • User-managed BIOS settings: BIOS (basic input output system) performs hardware initialization and has many configuration options that support a variety of use cases when customized. Options can help users gain performance, configure power management options, or enable technologies like single root input/output virtualization (SR-IOV) or Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK). Ironic also enables users to manage BIOS settings, supporting use cases like Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and giving users more flexibility.
  • Conductor groups: In Ironic, the “conductor” is what uses drivers to execute operations on the hardware. Ironic has introduced the “conductor_group” property, which can be used to restrict what nodes a particular conductor (or conductors) have control over. This allows users to isolate nodes based on physical location, reducing network hops for increased security and performance.
  • RAM Disk deployment interface: A new interface in Ironic for diskless deployments. This is seen in large-scale and high performance computing (HPC) use cases when operators desire fully ephemeral instances for rapidly standing up a large-scale environment.

Julia Kreger, Red Hat principal software engineer and OpenStack Ironic project team lead, said in a statement, “OpenStack Ironic provides bare metal cloud services, bringing the automation and speed of provisioning normally associated with virtual machines to physical servers. This powerful foundation lets you run VMs and containers in one infrastructure platform, and that’s what operators are looking for.”

This isn’t just theory. It works. And it heading into production.

James Penick, Oath’s IaaS architect (Oath is AOL and Yahoo’s parent company), said Oath is already using OpenStack to manage “hundreds of thousands of bare metal compute resources in our data centers.” He added, “We have made significant changes to our supply chain process using OpenStack, fulfilling common bare metal quota requests within minutes.”

That’s good, but it’s not good enough.

“We’re looking forward to deploying the Rocky release to take advantage of its numerous enhancements such as BIOS management, which will further streamline how we maintain, manage and deploy our infrastructure,” Penick said.

Also: How to install OpenStack on Ubuntu Server with Devstack TechRepublic

That’s great, but many OpenStack users are already saying, “Maybe I’ll install this in 2021.”

Upgrading OpenStack isn’t easy. But OpenStack Rocky’s Fast Forward Upgrade (FFU) feature is ready for prime time, and it’s all set to help users overcome upgrade hurdles and get on newer releases of OpenStack faster. Now, FFU lets a OpenStack on OpenStack (TripleO) user on Release “N”, and they can quickly speed through intermediary releases to get on Release “N+3” (the current iteration of FFU being the Newton release to Queens). You can’t jump all the way to Rocky, but you can a lot closer to it more quickly than you ever could before.

Other new features are:

  • Cyborg provides lifecycle management for accelerators like GPUs, FPGA, DPDK, and SSDs. In Rocky, Cyborg introduces a new REST API for FPGAs. These floating point chips are used machine learning, image recognition, and other HPC use cases. This enables users to dynamically change the functions loaded on an FPGA device.
  • Qinling is introduced in Rocky. Qinling (“CHEEN – LEENG”), a function-as-a-service (FaaS) project. This delivers serverless capabilities on top of OpenStack clouds. It also enables developers to run functions on OpenStack clouds without managing servers, VMs or containers — while still connecting to other OpenStack services like Keystone.
  • Masakari, which supports high availability by providing automatic recovery from failures, expands its monitoring capabilities to include internal failures in an instance, such as a hung OS, data corruption, or a scheduling failure.
  • Octavia, the load balancing project, adds support for UDP (user datagram protocol). This brings load balancing to edge and IoT use cases.
  • Magnum, a project that makes container orchestration engines and their resources first-class resources in OpenStack, has become a Certified Kubernetes installer. This makes it easier to deploy Kubernetes on OpenStack.

Want to check the new OpenStack out? You can download Rocky today.

Related Stories:

Apple Vs. Amazon: The Right Choice Is Simple

Image result for apple seeking alpha

With each stock trading at all-time highs, both Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) have performed well so far this year for investors. Both continue to be on a torrid growth path and have a similar enterprise value, but that’s where I see the similarities stop. I consider Apple to still be one of the best stocks on the market. Apple’s combination of operating performance, growth rate, balance sheet, and valuation make it an attractive stock. As an added bonus, Apple has begun returning significant amounts of capital back to shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchases. Amazon’s revenue is growing at a faster rate, but it’s yet to result in meaningful operating margins, profits, or free cash flow. Right now, Amazon’s valuation is difficult to quantify from a fundamental approach. The stock price is more based on its potential, but I believe this is speculative and greatly increases the stock’s risk. For Amazon’s stock price to make sense, some pretty outrageous assumptions need to be made and it’s still unclear if or when the company can make those achievements.

Operating Performance – Winner: Apple

Amazon is growing its sales at a faster rate, but I consider Apple the superior performer given the rate at which its revenue is turned into real profits. Year-to-date, Apple has grown revenue by 15% compared to last year and is on pace for a record year across all major operating metrics. In my opinion, Amazon’s performance still falls a little flat with operating and profit margins that are still less than 5%.

Free Cash Flow – Winner: Apple

If there’s something to really pay attention to, it’s the free cash flow that Apple and Amazon produce. No company produces cash flow like Apple, which has been funding a massive share buyback program. This has amounted to $53.3 billion spent this year already. Amazon is valued almost as much as Apple, yet produces a fraction of the free cash flow. Just like operating performance, Amazon has yet to turn its large amount of revenue into meaningful free cash flow. I think that Amazon has the potential to reach the levels that Apple is currently at, but how long will this take? It could be 10 years from now and I believe that kind of speculation makes it a risky stock to bet on.

Balance Sheet – Winner: Apple

With a net cash balance of $129 billion, Apple is the true king of cash and has the far superior balance sheet. This level of cash provides a level of operating flexibility that no company can match in terms of investment and acquisition potential. Amazon has been taking on debt recently and actually has a negative net cash balance, which is a result of some of the things I’ve already pointed out (e.g. no meaningful profits yet). While its level of debt is still small compared to its enterprise value, I do think this is something to watch.

Valuation – Winner: Apple

Apple’s valuation is rooted in fundamental analysis and looks attractive across the board. I especially like Apple’s 18.7x EV/FCF ratio and a growth rate above 10%. Amazon’s valuation on the other hand is hard to make sense of from a fundamental perspective. As an example, Amazon’s price/sales ratio of 4.52x is extremely high for a company that has had profit margins of only 4% so far this year.

  • Forward P/E, Price/Sales, and PEG Ratio provided by Yahoo Finance.
  • EV/FCF provided by Ycharts
  • LT Growth Rate derived from Forward P/E and PEG Ratio
  • Averages for Forward P/E and EV/FCF do not include Amazon

Wall Street’s Opinion – Winner: Draw

Wall Street is considerably more bullish on Amazon than Apple. The majority of analysts recommend Amazon as a ‘Buy” and the average target price represents more upside potential. According to MarketWatch, the average target price for Apple is $214, which represents 2% downside based on the current share price of $219. The average target price for Amazon is $2,127, which represents 10% upside based on the current share price of $1,936.

Risk Profile

I’ve believed for a long time that there’s tremendous risk in Amazon’s valuation returning back to historical averages. A large percentage of the stock price increase has been a result of increasing price/sales multiples, which is now at 4.52x (a crazy number for an e-commerce company) and more than doubled over the last couple of years. For comparison, Walmart’s (NYSE:WMT) price/sales ratio is only 0.55x. Apple’s stock does not have this risk given its current price/sales, forward earnings, and EV/FCF are all very reasonable.

Chart

AMZN PS Ratio (TTM) data by YCharts

Chart

AAPL PE Ratio (TTM) data by YCharts

Conclusion

In my opinion, there’s a number of factors that make Apple look much more attractive when compared to Amazon:

  • Apple trades cheaper at every major valuation multiple. In particular, a significantly lower EV/FCF and PEG ratio are compelling.
  • Apple produces significantly more free cash flow, which has allowed it to amass a cash war chest, fund a dividend, and repurchase stock.
  • Apple’s stock price is a result of strong performance, which is identifiable through its valuation multiples.
  • Apple has tremendous untapped potential, but the stock is valued on today’s performance. Any untapped potential will likely yield additional upside in the stock.

Disclosure: I am/we are long AAPL.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Brussels loans Nokia €500m to fund European 5G research

Finnish networking and comms giant Nokia has been awarded a €500m (£453.6m) loan by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to further accelerate its research and development around the next-generation 5G mobile network standard.

Backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), part of the European Commission’s (EC’s) Investment Plan for Europe, or Juncker Plan, the loan will provide much-needed support to Nokia as it develops its 5G proposition – an area where European firms are widely regarded as having fallen behind their counterparts in Asia and North America.

Nokia proposes to deliver an end-to-end 5G network proposition, from the radio access network (RAN) to internet protocol (IP), as well as optical and packet core networks, service platforms, and other software and services associated with 5G, making it capable of acting as a one-stop shop for mobile network operators (MNOs).

“We are pleased to land this financing commitment from the EIB, which shares our view of the revolutionary nature of 5G – and the realisation that this revolution is already under way,” said Nokia CFO Kristian Pullola.

“This financing bolsters our 5G research efforts and continues the broader momentum we have already seen this year in terms of customer wins and development firsts, supporting our relentless drive to be a true leader in 5G – end to end.”

EC vice-president Jyrki Katainen, who is responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said: “Ensuring that Europe embraces and benefits from new technologies requires sustained investment. That is where the Investment Plan for Europe can play a crucial role.

“I am delighted that, with today’s agreement, the plan is contributing to Nokia’s research and development activities across multiple European countries to advance the development of 5G technology.”

Viavi vice-president of wireless, Li-Ke Huang, said: “The US, China and South Korea have invested early and heavily to try to establish a leadership position in the ‘5G race’. This investment from the EIB is a crucial show of 5G support in Europe, and a demonstration of the region’s commitment to developing next-generation networks.

“Sustained backing from private, public and governmental bodies is essential to ensuring that Europe continues to be a major player in cellular communications.

“In order to be granted enough spectrum and gain the necessary support from regulators and governments, operators and vendors in Europe need to demonstrate that 5G development can solve existing problems in today’s networks.”

Huang said that the strength of its mobile ecosystem through the likes of Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson meant Europe was still in a strong position to drive development of 5G networks, with support from governments, universities, consultancies, R&D specialists and the wider industry.

“Continued financial investment, along with collaboration and knowledge-sharing, will help to promote 5G development across the continent,” he added.

Earlier in August 2018, Nokia revealed that it would charge a flat fee of €3 per device to license its 5G patents, substantially undercutting rivals such as Ericsson and Qualcomm. The move has been read as an attempt to reduce the chances of it getting into legal battles with smartphone manufacturers, as well as to increase the attractiveness of its 5G portfolio.

Instagram Adds 2FA, Account Verification in Security Update

Social media platforms’ struggle with safety and security is like a game of Whac-A-Mole. One day, the threat is coordinated bot activity; the next, it’s SIM hijackers stealing the identities of regular users. In an effort to protect Instagram users from those and future threats, the company announced today a set of features designed make Instagram feel “safer,” including ways to protect your own account and to verify whether the accounts you follow are genuine or not.

Instagram

First, all users will soon be able to use a more robust form of two-factor authentication to log into Instagram. Previously, Instagram offered two-factor authentication with a code sent via SMS—better than nothing, but insufficient to protect all Instagram users from having their accounts compromised. (Users with “valuable” handles may be more vulnerable to scams like SIM hijacking, where hackers access a person’s phone number and use it to log into their accounts and steal their usernames.) Now, the platform will allow integration with third-party authenticators, like DUO Mobile and Google Authenticator, which supply two-factor codes locally and provide an additional layer of security against account hacking.

Instagram

To help users differentiate between real and fake accounts, Instagram will now make it easy to look up information about individual accounts, including the date the account was created, its country of origin, and a record of username changes over the past year. You’ll also be able to see any ads the account is running and similar accounts with shared followers. To surface this information, tap the three dots on an Instagram profile page and select the new tab, “About This Account.” The feature will roll out first to accounts with large followings—celebrities, public figures, influencers—and later to all Instagram accounts.

Lastly, accounts with large numbers of followers will now be able to request verification from Instagram. The platform already gives blue checkmarks to some celebrity users and brands—WIRED’s Instagram, for example, has one—but the verification process is mysterious, and Instagram hasn’t previously let users request verification. The new verification process involves a request form along with a place to upload a photo of a government-issued photo ID.

Post Mates

Instagram says the new changes are part of a roadmap to help the platform feel safe, and to empower users to follow genuine accounts over fake ones.

“Keeping people with bad intentions off our platform is incredibly important to me,” Instagram’s co-founder and CTO, Mike Krieger, wrote in a blog post today. “That means trying to make sure the people you follow and the accounts you interact with are who they say they are, and stopping bad actors before they cause harm.”

The platform is also hoping not to repeat the same mistakes of its parent company, Facebook, which has struggled to keep fake accounts, misinformation campaigns, and untrustworthy pages off its platform. In the past few weeks, Facebook has removed millions of fake accounts in the past year, and which are becoming harder to trace on the platform.

Instagram is, of course, a different beast. As it grows, it will have to face hard decisions about how to create community and trust on a global platform of over a billion users. Checkmarks and two-factor authentication aren’t the end of that story. But they’re a good place to start.


More Great WIRED Stories

China’s Didi Chuxing Suspends Carpool Service After Woman Is Killed

Didi Chuxing said it will suspend a carpool service and has removed two executives after a second female customer in three months was allegedly killed by a driver in China.

The ride-hailing app company said in an emailed statement on Sunday that it will halt its Hitch service starting Monday and reevaluate the carpool operation’s business model. Didi has removed Huang Jieli as Hitch’s general manager and Huang Jinhong as vice president for customer services, according to the statement.

A driver in the eastern city of Wenzhou suspected of killing a female passenger on Aug. 24 has been detained, Chinese state media reported. Didi came under intense scrutiny in May, when state media reported a driver used his father’s account to pick up and kill a woman in the central city of Zhengzhou.

Didi apologized for the latest incident and said that it would upgrade its processes for handling complaints. The Hitch service, which the company said handled 1 billion trips over the past three years, was being suspended “because of our disappointing mistakes.”

“Growth of our service scale puts our safety management mechanisms under huge pressure, especially in terms of identifying potential risks, designing effective and efficient processes, and rapid response,” Didi said. “We take to our heart all criticisms from the public and the relevant authorities.”

Officials from China’s ministries of transport and public security said in a statement they met with Didi representatives on Sunday. The government said it ordered the firm to immediately rectify its Hitch service, protect the safety and rights of passengers, and publish the details of any progress it makes. Didi agreed to submit a compliance plan and submit it to the government before Sept. 1, and to add more customer service personnel.

The company said the suspect in the second alleged killing provided full and authentic documentation, and had no criminal record. He passed a facial-recognition test before starting work for the day, Didi said.

Hitch has been marketed as a social ride-sharing service, allowing drivers and passengers to label or rate each other by appearance. Such features have attracted criticism because the platform was rife with comments that marked female passengers as “goddesses” and “beauties.”

Didi said in May it was overhauling safety measures across its business after the first killing. One of the changes would involve the redesign of its emergency help button to display it more prominently on the app interface, it said.

Users of carpooling or similar services should send information including the car’s license plate number and the driver’s name to relatives, the Wenzhou Public Security Bureau said in a statement on its WeChat account.