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2021-10-24 00:14:47| Engadget

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen's leaks suggest its problems with extremism are particularly dire in some areas. Documents Haugen provided to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other outlets suggest Facebook is aware it fostered severe misinformation and violence in India. The social network apparently didn't have nearly enough resources to deal with the spread of harmful material in the populous country, and didn't respond with enough action when tensions flared.A case study from early 2021 indicated that much of the harmful content from groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bajrang Dal wasn't flagged on Facebook or WhatsApp due to the lack of technical know-how needed to spot content written in Bengali and Hindi. At the same time, Facebook reportedly declined to mark the RSS for removal due to "political sensitivities," and Bajrang Dal (linked to Prime Minister Modi's party) hadn't been touched despite an internal Facebook call to take down its material. The company had a white list for politicians exempt from fact-checking.Facebook was struggling to fight hate speech as recently as five months ago, according to the leaked data. And like an earlier test in the US, the research showed just how quickly Facebook's recommendation engine suggested toxic content. A dummy account following Facebook's recommendations for three weeks was subjected to a "near constant barrage" of divisive nationalism, misinformation and violence.As with earlier scoops, Facebook said the leaks didn't tell the whole story. Spokesman Andy Stone argued the data was incomplete and didn't account for third-party fact checkers used heavily outside the US. He added that Facebook had invested heavily in hate speech detection technology in languages like Bengali and Hindi, and that the company was continuing to improve that tech.The social media firm followed this by posting a lengthier defense of its practices. It argued that it had an "industry-leading process" for reviewing and prioritizing countries with a high risk of violence every six months. It noted that teams considered long-term issues and history alongside current events and dependence on its apps. The company added it was engaging with local communities, improving technology and continuously "refining" policies.The response didn't directly address some of the concerns, however. India is Facebook's largest individual market, with 340 million people using its services, but 87 percent of Facebook's misinformation budget is focused on the US. Even with third-party fact checkers at work, that suggests India isn't getting a proportionate amount of attention. Facebook also didn't follow up on worries it was tip-toeing around certain people and groups beyond a previous statement that it enforced its policies without consideration for position or association. In other words, it's not clear Facebook's problems with misinformation and violence will improve in the near future.


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2021-10-23 22:41:05| Engadget

Saudi Arabia is making a commitment to reduce its impact on the environment, although the timeframe won't please critics. Reutersreports Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman now expect Saudi Arabia to achieve net zero emissions by 2060. That's behind the 2050 target for the EU, United Arab Emirates, US and other countries.The kingdom hoped to reach net zero through a circular carbon economy program while trying to bolster the "security and stability" of the world's oil markets. While the princes said Saudi Arabia would more than double CO2 emissions reductions by 2030, they maintained that the country needed time to "properly" conduct a transition.The Crown Prince said there was a chance Saudi Arabia would hit its target before 2060, and state oil producer Saudi Aramco hopes to reach net zero by 2050. However, the country has been moving relatively slowly. It only opened its first renewable energy plant in April, and its first wind farm in August. It's still planning its first hydrogen fuel plant.The conservative schedule isn't surprising. Although Saudi Arabia has been diversifying its economy, oil and gas represent about 50 percent of the country's gross domestic product and 70 percent of its exports. Aggressive emissions reductions could affect the kingdom's core business.That dependence might also create problems, however. The UK and some US states are among those banning sales of new combustion engine passenger vehicles within the next 10 to 15 years, and others might not be far behind. Oil exporters like Saudi Arabia may have to adjust their emissions targets if electric vehicle sales grow quicker than expected.


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2021-10-23 20:59:24| Engadget

Facebook is taking legal action in response to another large-scale data heist. According to The Record, the social network has sued Ukraine national Alexander Solonchenko for allegedly scraping data for more than 178 million users. Solonchenko reportedly exploited Messenger's contact import feature by using an automated tool that mimicked Android devices. He fed Facebook millions of phone numbers and gathered data whenever the site returned info on accounts with phone numbers.The attacker supposedly conducted the campaign between January 2018 and September 2019 (when Facebook shut down the importer), and started selling it on a black market forum in December 2020. Facebook tracked Solonchenko down after he used his forum username and contact details for email and job boards. The man has also scraped data from other targets, Facebook said, including a major Ukranian bank.In its complaint, Facebook asked for undefined damages as well as bans preventing Solonchenko from accessing Facebook or selling its scraped data.This isn't the largest such incident. Hackers scraped data for 533 million users through the same feature. However, this illustrates Facebook's determination to crack down on data scraping it's willing to pursue attackers in civil court in hopes of discouraging similar data raiding campaigns.


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2021-10-23 19:21:59| Engadget

Eero will soon extend its mesh WiFi routers' smart home support to more universal formats. Company chief Nick Weaver told guests at a Verge event that all Eero routers with Thread support will receive an upgrade to the Matter smart home standard. Your 2017-era network could play nicely with smart devices from across the tech industry, to put it another way.Weaver further hinted Eero was considering routers with cellular data backups, although he didn't commit to any plans. He wasn't worried about the rise of 5G home internet, noting that people were primarily moving to gigabit (wired) internet "in droves."It wouldn't be a completely unexpected move when Amazon is upgrading most Echo speakers to support Matter. Eero is practically expected to follow along as an Amazon-owned company, and Ring has started building Eero routers into its alarm systems. Still, the update path may be particularly welcome if you were worried you might have to buy current-gen routers just to give Matter a try.


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2021-10-23 18:37:49| Engadget

You'll have to wait a while longer for NASA's Artemis I mission. Space.comnotes NASA now expects to launch the uncrewed Artemis I flight test in February 2022, with the liftoff window opening as soon as February 12th. The Orion capsule has been stacked on top of the Space Launch System rocket, and blastoff is now mainly contingent on testing.That testing could take a while, however. The space agency plans tests for interfaces, engineering, communications and the countdown system. The most important test is effectively the "Wet Dress Rehearsal," when the Artemis I crew will try loading and unloading the propellants several weeks before launch. NASA won't set a firm launch date until after a successful rehearsal, so you won't get definitive timing for a long while.Artemis I will send an Orion capsule with a sensor-equipped "moonikin" around the Moon (plus organ- and bone-like "phantoms") to study acceleration, radiation and vibration during the journey. Artemis II will carry a human crew. NASA hoped to land people on the Moon in 2024, although budgetary concerns and the fight over lander contracts have cast doubt on that target.A successful Artemis I mission would nonetheless represent an important milestone. It would demonstrate the viability of both Orion and SLS. More importantly, humans would take one step closer to venturing beyond Earth's orbit for the first time in decades.


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