Private Texts Reveal World’s Rich and Famous Groveling to Elon Musk

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 11:43

As part of Twitter's lawsuit against Elon Musk for his attempt to renege on acquiring the company for $44 billion, countless of Musk’s text messages were made public and published by the New York Times yesterday. The gang's all there: tech executives, various podcasters, media executives, and more, all vying for Musk’s attention to pitch ideas about Twitter, social media companies, or a chance to be part of Musk’s purchase.

It’s clear from the texts that, for a long while, Musk was quite serious about acquiring the company and cast a wide web in pursuit of funding (and also brow beat anyone who was complicating his attempts at fundraising). The texts span from January to June, with Musk expressing concerns early in May before turning on a heel and trying to scuttle the deal altogether.

dIt’s also clear that, in private, some of the richest and most famous people in the world are not all that different from the random reply guys that appear underneath every single one of Musk’s tweets. They encourage him to take control of Twitter, kiss his ass, and offer all types of help to one of the richest men that has ever lived. Tech investor Jason Calacanis literally offers to jump on a grenade for him.

Calanacis is a persistent presence in Musk's texts, usually in the form of long chains of texts and ideas that Musk only sometimes engaged with. After Musk makes public his offer to take Twitter private at $54.20, a stream of unsolicited advice begins to pour in on April 14. He suggests that Musk should troll a Saudi Arabian prince shareholder who rejected Musk's deal with $54.21 (“the perfect counter”).

Those texts go unanswered, so Calacanis continues the next day with more. "You could easily clean up bots and spam and make the service viable for many more users — removing bots and spam is a lot less complicated than what the Tesla self driving team is doing," Calacanis tells Musk. "And why should blue check marks be limited to the elite, press and celebrities? How is that democratic?"

He does quick envelope math to calculate revenue per employee, which gets a reply from Musk about the "Insane potential for improvement" and so another stream follows. Calacanis drools over the prospect of a 20 percent “voluntary departures” if Twitter institutes an in-person work requirement, then shares a reply he made to Musk on Twitter just in case he didn't see it suggesting "Twitter Essays" as a premium feature for paid members. You’d be able to write up to 5,000 words, have it featured on your profile, and ensure every follower sees it at least once, he maintains. "I mean, the product road map is beyond obviously[sic]."

There’s a funny moment of juxtaposition when Palantir cofounder Joe Lonsdale (more on him later) texts Musk that "even Governor DeSantis just called me just now with ideas how to help you and outraged at that board and saying the public is rooting for you.” While Lonsdale is offering to connect DeSantis to Musk, Calacanis is talking about building a DAO to help buy Twitter shares: "Money goes to buy twitter shares, if you don't wine[sic] money goes to open source twitter competitor [laughing emojis]"

At one point, the bootlicking seems to have paid off. Musk asks Calacanis if he'd want to serve as a strategic advisor and the investor jumps: "Board member, advisor, whatever… you have my sword," he tells Musk. "Put me in the game coach! Twitter CEO is my dream job."

Calcanis wasn't the only one pushing Musk to buy Twitter and let them run it. Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of Axel Springer pitched Musk as well: "We run it for you. And you establish a true platform of free speech. Would be a real contribution to democracy." Musk said it was an "Interesting idea" and Döpfner continued on: "I'm serious. It's doable. Will be fun."

Back to Calacanis, things began to shift when it became clear Calacanis was a little too eager to help out. "What is going on with you marketing an SPV to randos? This is not okay," Musk writes later in May. SPVs are Special Purpose Vehicles, legal instruments usually used for a specific purpose—here, it was likely to raise money from investors eager to get in on Twitter (and earn fees on handling those funds).

"Not randos, I have the largest angel syndicate and that's how I invest. We've done 250+ deals like this and we know all the folks. I though[sic] that was how folks were doing it," Calacanis explains. "$100m+ on commitments, but if that not ok it's fine. Just wanted to support the effort. ~300 QPs and 200 accredited investors said they would do it. It's not an open process obviously, only folks already in our syndicate. There is massive demand to support your effort btw…people really want to see you win."

"Morgan Stanley and Jared think you are using our friendship not in a good way. This makes it seem like I'm desperate," Musk replies. "Please stop."

Calacanis quickly backs off, alternating between defending himself and buttering up Musk to minimize the damage. "Candidly, This deal has just captures[sic] the worlds imagination in an unimaginable way. It's bonkers…," Calacanis wrote. "And you know I'm ride or die brother — I'd jump on a grenade for you."

And for that, Musk gave his message a heart react. Heartwarming.

Lonsdale is another interesting person to appear in Musk’s texts. After Musk posted on Twitter asking "Should Twitter be an open source?" Lonsdale hits up Musk to gush about how brilliant that question was. 

“I love your ‘Twitter algorithm should be open source; tweet - I'm actually speaking to over 100 members of congress tomorrow at the GOP policy retreat and this is one of the ideas I'm pushing for reigning in crazy big tech,” Lonsdale wrote. “Now I can cite you so I'll sound less crazy myself :). Our public squares need to not have arbitrary sketchy censorship."

Musk fires back: "What we have right now is hidden corruption!"

On April 4, after news of the Twitter stake broke, Lonsdale appears again: “Excited to see the stake in Twitter - awesome. “Back door man” they are saying ha ha. Hope you’re able to influence it. I bet you the board doesn’t even get full reporting or see any report of the censorship decisions and little cabals going on there but they should - the lefties on the board likely want plausible deniability!”

Twitter’s former chief executive CEO Jack Dorsey and Musk began exchanging messages around March 26—before Musk’s Twitter stake was publicly revealed but after Musk had asked on Twitter if a new platform was needed. “Yes, a new platform is needed. It can’t be a company. This is why I left,” Dorsey texted him later that day before pitching him on the idea of turning Twitter into an open source protocol. Musk would later advocate on Twitter for making Twitter’s algorithm open source—it’s not clear if he understands how different the two proposals are.

“Super interesting idea,” Musk replied before Dorsey revealed that he had wanted Musk on the board last year before leaving but was blocked by activist Elliot Management who demanded changes of Twitter in pursuit of profitability.

“I think the main reason is the board is just super risk averse and saw adding you as more risk, which I thought was completely stupid and backwards, but I only had one vote, and 3% of company, and no dual class shares. Hard set up. We can discuss more.”

Their conversation picks up again on April 5, after it’s announced Musk would join the company’s board. Dorsey warns Musk about the board again, hypes up Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and adds that "I couldn't be happier you're doing this. I've wanted it for a long time. Got very emotional when I learned it was finally possible.”

On April 4, Joe Rogan pops up to ask Musk "Are you going to liberate twitter from the censorship happy mob?" Musk replies that he'll just "provide advice, which they may or may not choose to follow." Weeks later, Rogan pops up again: "I REALLY hope you get Twitter,” Joe Rogan texted on April 25. “If you do, we should throw a hell of a party.” Musk shot back a 100 emoji. 

Other media personalities were hitting Musk up as well, including host of CBS Mornings Gayle King and Justin Roiland, the voice of the titular main characters of the cartoon TV show “Rick & Morty.” 

King texts Musk on April 6 in an attempt to convince him to come on her show, but after learning Musk wants to buy Twitter, she fires off a more urgent text on April 14: "ELON! You buying twitter or offering to buy twitter Wow! Now Don't you think we should sit down together face to face this is as the kids of to say say a 'gangsta move' I don't know how shareholders turn this down ..like I said you are not like the other kids in the class…."

King’s not alone in her love for the move. "I fucking love that you're the majority owner of Twitter," Roiland text Musk on April 6, when Musk only owned 9 percent of the company. Roiland offers to connect Musk to friends that were working on identity verification software.

We've also got the president of Riot Games, Mark Merril, who is not a TV personality, but had an interesting comment related to one: "You are the hero Gotham needs — hell F'ing yes!"

There is one appearance that was surprising, but probably shouldn’t have been given their already established ideological ties, and it’s of Will MacAskill. MacAskill has been integral in catalyzing effective altruism's transformation into longtermism, ingratiating the movement with Silicon Valley funders. This makes sense given the ideology, at its core, uses fear of artificial intelligence and far-flung humanity extinction risks to paper over a multitude of today's political, social, and economic problems—sound familiar?

On March 29, MacAskill texts him after seeing his Twitter poll on free speech and pitches introducing Musk to Sam Bankman-Fried, a crypto billionaire who runs the FTX exchange and also described key sectors of crypto as glorified Ponzi schemes. "I'm not sure if this is what's on your mind but my collaborator Sam bankman-Fried has for a while been potentially interested in purchasing it and then making it better for the world. If you want to talk with him about a possible joint effort in that direction, his number is [redacted] and he's on Signal."

Elon’s follow up is simple: "Does he have huge amounts of money?"

MacAskill dithers a bit. "Depends on how you define 'huge'! He's worth $24B, and his early employees (with shared values) bump that up to $30B. I asked about how much he could in principle contribute and he said: "$1-3b would be easy 3-8b I could do ~$8-15b is maybe possible but would require financing."

After offering to facilitate a meeting in Austin next week, Musk says "That's a start." MacAskill double texts Musk "Would you like me to intro you via text" before Musk asks if MacAskill vouches for him (he does) then agrees. MacAskill shares some more information about SBF after introducing the two, Musk offers to talk later that day, but it seems whatever discussions they may have had went nowhere. On April 21, Musk's wealth manager brings up SBF when Musk is shooting around his blockchain social media idea as someone who is thinking along similar lines, but nothing comes from it.

That SBF wasn’t able to get in on this Twitter deal is interesting because Musk ended up going with Changpeng Zhao, the head of cryptocurrency exchange Binance, as an investor to the tune of $500 million—a far cry from the money MacAskill claimed SBF could raise easily ($1-8b). Both SBF and Zhao have ideas about combining blockchain technology and social media platforms, both have hoards of capital to sit on from crypto speculation even after the most recent crypto crashes and slumps, but Binance is arguably the more sketchy one. It’s Binance, after all, that has been accused of interfering with crypto markets to keep the speculative asset afloat and a history of lax enforcement of anti-money laundering rules in pursuit of persistent customer and market growth. FTX, by contrast, was just involved in propping up key crypto platforms to prevent a deeper collapse of crypto asset prices earlier this year.

Categories: Tech News

Japan 5G network tests Arm chips, claims power draw down by 72%

The Register - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 11:34
Graviton2 processors trials with infrastructure vendors and telco as work on standalone 5G continues

NTT Docomo and NEC have conducted tests that demonstrate Arm-based Graviton2 processors consume 72 percent less power compared to X86 chips while running NEC's 5G core software as part of the NTT Docomo 5G network.…

Categories: Tech News

Kids Never Asked for Mid-Century Modern Toys, But Here They Are

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 11:26

When I was a kid, I saw just as much play value in Furbies (villains, obviously) as I did broken tree branches (wizard staffs) in our canyon. Legos were tight, but so were planks of wood; Polly Pocket was my ride-or-die, but so was the rusty, abandoned Skilsaw in the yard. 

You don’t always need to give kids intense, light-up plastic thingymajigs that cost a lot of money to keep them entertained. They’re new here. They just learned about marshmallows, gravity, and the color red. If you’re trying to spark creativity, sometimes less is more. At least, that’s part of the ethos behind this sustainably minded toy company Piccalio, whose toys have me… jealous? Intrigued? Maybe some of the beautiful, minimalist wooden toys could have their own Nugget After Dark arc. If anything, they’ll train the obligatory child in your life, whether they’re a nephew or your BFF’s kid, to be on American Ninja Warrior

Peep this wooden balance board, which is ideal for honing motor skills/training the next Kelly Slater. 

Screen Shot 2022-09-30 at 12.09.50 PM.pngPhoto courtesy of Piccalio

… Or this extendable, acrobatic balancing beam; we can see the headline already: “Legacy of ‘Man On Wire’ Usurped by Tightrope Beast Baby.”

Screen Shot 2022-09-30 at 12.23.28 PM.pngPhoto courtesy of Piccalio

All of the toys have a Japandi, Werner Herzog-ascetic sensibility. This step ladder won’t clash with our Noguchi lamps, and it’s way more visually appealing than anything made for adults that we’ve seen at Home Depot. Peruse the rest of the brand’s wares here.

Piccalio is a California brand, and one that takes pride in sourcing materials for its products from ethical suppliers who believe in fair wages for workers. All of its products are made out of non-toxic, FSC certified wood, and for every order placed the brand will donate to One Tree Planted, a nonprofit combating deforestation. Most importantly, the name is “homey, but just hard enough to pronounce to intimidate the riff-raff” (to paraphrase Frasier), and the furniture reconciles one of life’s biggest problems: keeping your home decor chic, even when it's filled with babycore (no, not like that) stuff. Piccalio makes children’s furniture for people who don’t like children, and that’s why it’s, we must admit, so damn attractive. As for whether kids will get their grubby paws all over every piece…. who’s to say?

Now, go read your niece some Struwwelpeter, and get her back on that balancing board. She has a country to run one day. 

Check out the rest of Piccalio’s children’s furniture and toys here.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.

Categories: Tech News

USB-IF says goodbye to confusing SuperSpeed USB branding

ARS Technica - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 11:12
Usb-c cable type connect to laptop computer

Enlarge / The USB-IF no longer recommends SuperSpeed logos or branding for speedy USB ports. (credit: Getty)

When SuperSpeed USB was announced in 2007, the branding was a logical differentiator. The term launched with USB 3.0, which brought max data transfer rates from USB 2.0's measly 0.48Gbps all the way to 5Gbps. But by 2022, there were three versions of SuperSpeed USB in various connector types facing consumers, plus the potentially faster USB4. Looking ahead, USB products will continue to offer different performance capabilities while looking the same, but there's at least one thing we can all agree on: The word "SuperSpeed" isn't a helpful differentiator anymore.

SuperSpeed branding already felt pretty unremarkable by 2019, when the USB-IF, which makes USB standards, renamed USB 3.0 to USB 3.1 Gen 1; USB 3.1 to USB 3.1 Gen 2, and then USB 3.2 Gen 2; and USB 3.2 to USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. The group sought to make things easier for consumers by recommending to vendors that they label products not by specification name but by "SuperSpeed USB" followed by max speed (USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, for example, would be SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps).

Per updated guidelines and logos that started coming out this quarter and that you may see before 2022 ends, as reported by The Verge today, the USB-IF now recommends vendors label products as, simply, USB 20Gbps (for USB 3.2 Gen 2x2), USB 10Gbps (for USB 3.2 Gen 2), etc. No SuperSpeed necessary.

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Coroner lists Instagram algorithm as contributing cause of UK teen’s death [Updated]

ARS Technica - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 11:04
Coroner lists Instagram algorithm as contributing cause of UK teen’s death [Updated]

Enlarge (credit: ljubaphoto | E+)

In a London court this week, coroner Andrew Walker had the difficult task of assessing a question that child safety advocates have been asking for years: How responsible is social media for the content algorithms feed to minors? The case before Walker involved a 14-year-old named Molly Russell, who took her life in 2017 after she viewed thousands of posts on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest promoting self-harm. At one point during the inquest, Walker described the content that Russell liked or saved in the days ahead of her death as so disturbing, the coroner said in court, that he found it "almost impossible to watch."

Today, Walker concluded that Russell's death couldn't be ruled a suicide, Bloomberg reports. Instead, he described her cause of death as "an act of self-harm whilst suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content."

Bloomberg reported that Walker came to this decision based on Russell's "prolific" use of Instagram—liking, sharing, or saving 16,300 posts in six months before her death—and Pinterest—5,793 pins over the same amount of time—combined with how the platforms catered content to contribute to Russell's depressive state.

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Why Is Jordan Peterson Crying About Olivia Wilde's 'Don't Worry Darling'

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 11:03

Olivia Wilde’s dystopian cautionary tale about relationships that look idyllic on the surface, Don’t Worry Darling, was the top movie in box offices this week. One man isn’t happy about this. In fact, he’s crying.

If you haven’t seen Don’t Worry Darling and are concerned about spoilers, then I am sorry to say that in order to explain this controversy I must spoil the movie. It turns out Wilde’s film doesn’t take place in a mysterious 1960s planned community, as is suggested by the trailers. Instead, it takes place in a computer simulation of a mysterious 1960s planned community called Victory, inspired and run by the patriarchal Frank, played by Chris Pine. You see, all the men in this community are incels who have kidnapped and brainwashed women to roleplay as their wives, and the men have all been radicalized in the outside world by Frank’s podcast, which we hear inside of Victory as a kind of radio broadcast.

Wilde recently said in an interview that Frank’s character was inspired by Jordan Peterson, which is extremely evident in the movie even before you learn the twist. He’s non-stop spouting the sort of “consider the lobster”-esque catchphrases to the men in the community that Peterson became so famous for. In one scene, Frank asks a man in Victory what the opposite of progress is, and he replies “chaos.” In his lectures, Peterson consistently defines femininity as chaos, sometimes a “dragon of chaos.” In another charged scene, Frank pointedly asks Jack, played by Harry Styles, if he is the kind of man he says he is, with such a specific emphasis that you can practically see that phrase in your mind as a chapter of a book title. Later on, the phrase is repeated in the real world as part of Frank’s podcast.

Wilde described Peterson as  “this pseudo-intellectual hero to the incel community,” and went on further to describe how Peterson’s aesthetics work to legitimize his anti-feminist stances and radicalize his fans.

“They believe that society has now robbed them—that the idea of feminism is working against nature, and that we must be put back into the correct place,” Wilde said in Interview. “This guy Jordan Peterson is someone that legitimizes certain aspects of their movement because he’s a former professor, he’s an author, he wears a suit, so they feel like this is a real philosophy that should be taken seriously.”

(Peterson’s ostensibly traditional sartorial style is a fitting subject for a blog post in its own right, and indeed has been.)

Upon hearing Wilde’s assessment of him on Piers Morgan Uncensored, Peterson did what any strong, masculine figure would do: cry. This is far from the first time Peterson has been in the news for crying, which he does with a startling regularity.

“It’s very difficult to understand how demoralized people are, and certainly many young men are in that category,” Peterson said, bursting into tears. “You get these casual insults, these incels—what do they mean? These men, they don’t know how to make themselves attractive to women who are very picky, and good for them. Women, like, be picky. That’s your gift, man. Demand high standards from your men. Fair enough. But all these men who are alienated, it’s like they’re lonesome and they don’t know what to do and everyone piles abuse on them.”

Peterson said later in the interview that he was crying out of a sense of empathy for these young, disenfranchised men.

“It’s really something to see—constantly how many people are dying for lack of an encouraging word and how easy it is to provide that if you’re careful,” he said.

In the course of Wilde’s movie, Frank’s character does a lot more than just give men like Jack an encouraging word. He convinces Jack and his cohort to see the women in their lives as not knowing what’s good for them, as agents of chaos trying to distract from progress, and ultimately not as human beings, but as props and rewards in men’s lives as they pursue their manly pursuits. In fact, the only real issue with Frank as being played by Chris Pine in Don’t Worry Darling is that he gives the denizens of Victory too much concrete ideology, as opposed to Peterson’s feel-good pablum about cleaning your room. Frank is just much cooler than Peterson; while Peterson had to be put in a medically induced coma for a benzo addiction and more or less looks like a walking corpse, Frank throws swinging parties in his virtual reality pad. He’s not crying. He’s having fun.

Categories: Tech News

This $19 Diffuser Oil Smells Tom Ford's Oud Wood (for Way Cheaper)

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 11:00

Oud: Ever heard of it?

If you’re unfamiliar with what oud is and what it smells like, it’s somewhat hard to describe, as it is completely unique. If you’ve smelled musk or santal before, you’ll understand its general vibe: a dark, woody scent that can be quite polarizing for its “slightly sour, dungy… barnyard animal smell with a hint of sweetness,” per Town & Country.

So… what is oud anyway? Thanks for asking; it’s a beautiful story. When the inside of an aquilaria tree becomes infected with a particular mold, the tree attempts to defend itself by creating a resinous material called agarwood. That earthy, possibly stinky, definitely intriguing-smelling substance is what makes it into fragrances as “oud.” There’s more to it if you’re really into botany, but we’ll leave it at that for now. 

Real scentheads know that oud can be polarizing, but those who get it, get it. It’s been popular in the Middle East for ages, and is “one of the most expensive perfume ingredients known to the human nose,” according to Town & Country. But don’t run off—that’s oud in its purest form. Mixed with other scents, it can add a deep earthy, woody aroma, making it a popular fragrance note in colognes, candles, and beyond. Tom Ford’s Oud Wood has become one of the brand’s most iconic scents, and was the first mainstream cologne to feature the mysterious aroma. It also rings in at an eye-watering $285.

But if Tom Ford is a bit out-of-budget for you, consider this sultry diffuser oil from Amazon, which features a blend of notes including Chinese pepper, rosewood, cardamom, vetiver, tonka bean, and musk that mellow out oud’s danker qualities. It also smells a hell of a lot like Oud Woodjust saying!

Of course, this $19 oud diffuser oil from Sesneslabs doesn’t contain the real deal, but a surprisingly convincing synthetic version. The reviews on Amazon are quite positive (aside from the few people who purchased it without any concept of what oud smells like), and the only recurring complaint was the size for the price, but considering the cost of a Tom Ford candle, we’ll take the much more affordable option, thank you. Per one happy customer, if you’ve been searching for a sexy scent to “make your home smell like a luxury hotel lobby,” your prayers have been answered. “[It smells] like you have your life together… like a clean house, even if you just pushed all your crap in a closet,” commented another enthusiastic reviewer, who also mentioned that the oil has great throw, filling the entire house.

If you’re still trying to grasp just what this will smell like once warmed in a diffuser, another 5-star reviewer described it as, “masculine, like a 40s businessman cleaned up, purchasing clubs from a golf store after swimming 2 miles and lifting weights at the gym.” Oh hell ya, that’s what we’re talking about. Sounds like the scent embodiment of Don Draper, mixed with Aquaman and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. 

When someone asks what smells so good, look at them mysteriously and purr, “ouuuuud”. 

The Sesneslabs Oud Diffuser Oil diffuser is available on Amazon—or, if you want the real deal, buy Tom Ford’s Oud Wood at Sephora or Nordstrom, where it’s currently on sale.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals?Sign up for our newsletter.

Categories: Tech News

Rewritten OpenGL drivers make AMD’s GPUs “up to 72%” faster in some pro apps

ARS Technica - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 10:56
Rewritten OpenGL drivers make AMD’s GPUs “up to 72%” faster in some pro apps

Enlarge (credit: AMD)

Most development effort in graphics drivers these days, whether you're talking about Nvidia, Intel, or AMD, is focused on new APIs like DirectX 12 or Vulkan, increasingly advanced upscaling technologies, and specific improvements for new game releases. But this year, AMD has also been focusing on an old problem area for its graphics drivers: OpenGL performance.

Over the summer, AMD released a rewritten OpenGL driver that it said would boost the performance of Minecraft by up to 79 percent (independent testing also found gains in other OpenGL games and benchmarks, though not always to the same degree). Now those same optimizations are coming to AMD's officially validated GPU drivers for its Radeon Pro-series workstation cards, providing big boosts to professional apps like Solidworks and Autodesk Maya.

"The AMD Software: PRO Edition 22.Q3 driver has been tested and approved by Dell, HP, and Lenovo for stability and is available through their driver downloads," the company wrote in its blog post. "AMD continues to work with software developers to certify the latest drivers."

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Categories: Tech News

Ex-eBay security execs imprisoned for stalking journalists who cover eBay

ARS Technica - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 10:46
Former eBay executive James Baugh, wearing a suit, walks to court for his sentencing.

Enlarge / Former eBay executive James Baugh arrives at court for his sentencing in Boston on September 29, 2022. (credit: Getty Images | Boston Globe )

Two former eBay executives were sentenced to prison yesterday for cyberstalking and harassing journalists whose news coverage had rankled the eBay CEO. One other former eBay employee was sentenced last year, and four others await sentencing.

James Baugh, 47, eBay's former senior director of safety and security, was sentenced to 57 months in prison and two years of supervised release, a Justice Department press release said yesterday. David Harville, 50, eBay's former director of global resiliency, was sentenced to two years in prison and two years of supervised release. Baugh and Harville were also ordered to pay fines of $40,000 and $20,000, respectively.

Charges against those two and several other ex-eBay employees were announced in June 2020. The victims were Ina and David Steiner, who operate the website EcommerceBytes and live in Natick, Massachusetts.

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Delivery drone crashes into power lines, causes outage

The Register - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 10:30
Google-owned Wing said it was a 'precautionary controlled landing' – right into 11,000 volts

A delivery drone operated by Alphabet subsidiary Wing crashed into power lines in the Australian town of Browns Plains yesterday, knocking out power for more than 2,000 customers.…

Categories: Tech News

SafeGraph to Close Digital Shop That Sold Abortion Clinic Location Data

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 10:28

Data broker SafeGraph says it will close its data shop next week, according to an email sent to SafeGraph customers on Friday.

The news signals a change in the business model in one data broker that has hit headlines recently. In May, Motherboard found SafeGraph was selling location data related to people who visited Planned Parenthood clinics in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Next week we’ll be closing SafeGraph’s data shop. We see this as an opportunity to focus more on what matters the most to us: building the most accurate and usable dataset of global POIs [points of interest] in the market,” the email reads. SafeGraph sells POI data that can include the locations of coffee shops, stores, and other landmarks. This can be useful to customers who may want to combine it with their own datasets and to ensure accuracy.

Do you know about any other recent changes inside location data companies? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

On its data shop, SafeGraph offers more data, such as its “Patterns” product, which is based on location data harvested from mobile phones. “Foot traffic data that answers: how often people visit a place, how long they stay, where they came from, and more,” SafeGraph’s shop currently reads. This is the product that included data related to Planned Parenthood clinics. (Motherboard received the announcement email because we previously bought $160 worth of data related to abortion clinics to verify that the purchase of such data was possible). The email adds that customers should pull out any data they previously purchased in the last year within the next two business days if needed.

On its site, SafeGraph says that its location data is aggregated for privacy. But as Zach Edwards, a cybersecurity researcher who has followed the data trade previously told Motherboard, that sort of data can still present an issue. “It's bonkers dangerous to have abortion clinics and then let someone buy the census tracks where people are coming from to visit that abortion clinic,” he said at the time. “This is how you dox someone traveling across state lines for abortions—how you dox clinics providing this service.”

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SafeGraph did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the planned closure of its data shop.

After Motherboard reported SafeGraph’s sale of abortion clinic related data, the company stopped offering such data for sale from the self-serve shop and its API. In the wake of that reporting, an investor in SafeGraph sold their stake in the company and said they planned to donate the money to Planned Parenthood. SafeGraph’s investors include a former head of Saudi intelligence. 

Last August, Motherboard reported that Google had banned SafeGraph, meaning that any apps which were working with SafeGraph had to remove code that was sending location data to the company.

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Categories: Tech News

Chrome’s new ad-blocker-limiting extension platform will launch in 2023

ARS Technica - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 09:55
Chrome’s new ad-blocker-limiting extension platform will launch in 2023

Enlarge (credit: Isaac Bowen / Flickr)

Google's journey toward Chrome's "Manifest V3" has been happening for four years now, and if the company's new timeline holds up, we'll all be forced to switch to it in year 5. "Manifest V3" is the rather unintuitive name for the next version of Chrome's extension platform. The update is controversial because it makes ad blockers less effective under the guise of protecting privacy and security, and Google just so happens to be the world's largest advertising company.

Google's latest blog post details the new timeline for the transition to Manifest V3, which involves ending support for older extensions running on Manifest V2 and forcing everyone onto the new platform. Starting in January 2023 with Chrome version 112, Google "may run experiments to turn off support for Manifest V2 extensions in Canary, Dev, and Beta channels." Starting in June 2023 and Chrome 115, Google "may run experiments to turn off support for Manifest V2 extensions in all channels, including stable channel." Also starting in June, the Chrome Web Store will stop accepting Manifest V2 extensions, and they'll be hidden from view. In January 2024, Manifest V2 extensions will be removed from the store entirely.

Google says Manifest V3 is "one of the most significant shifts in the extensions platform since it launched a decade ago." The company claims that the more limited platform is meant to bring "enhancements in security, privacy, and performance." Privacy groups like the EFF dispute this description and say that if Google really cared about the security of the extension store, it could just police the store more actively using actual humans instead of limiting the capabilities of all extensions.

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Deepfake Bruce Willis may be the next Hollywood star, and he’s OK with that

ARS Technica - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 09:35
Deepfake Bruce Willis as he appeared in a 2021 commercial for Russian mobile company MegaFon.

Enlarge / Deepfake Bruce Willis as he appeared in a 2021 commercial for Russian mobile company MegaFon. (credit: MegaFon)

Bruce Willis has sold the "digital twin" rights to his likeness for commercial video production use, according to a report by The Telegraph. This move allows the Hollywood actor to digitally appear in future commercials and possibly even films, and he has already appeared in a Russian commercial using the technology.

Willis, who has been diagnosed with a language disorder called aphasia, announced that he would be "stepping away" from acting earlier this year. Instead, he will license his digital rights through a company called Deepcake. The company is based in Tbilisi, Georgia, and is doing business in America while being registered as a corporation in Delaware.

In 2021, a deepfake Bruce Willis appeared in a Russian cell phone commercial for MegaFon.

Deepcake obtained Willis' likeness by training a deep learning neural network model on his appearances in blockbuster action films from the 1990s. With his facial appearance known, the model can then apply Willis' head to another actor with a similar build in a process commonly called a deepfake. Deepfakes have become popular in recent years on TikTok, with unauthorized deepfakes of Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves gathering large followings.

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Amazon lets you rent Ubuntu Pro. Yes, it's Linux on the virtual desktop

The Register - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 09:30
Insert your Year of Linux joke here, we dare you

Amazon WorkSpaces, the company's persistent desktop virtualization product, now offers Ubuntu as an option.…

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Savor the sinister delights of del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities trailer

ARS Technica - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 09:07

Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities is a new anthology series coming this month to Netflix.

So-called cabinets of curiosities—aka wunderkammers ("wonder-rooms")—were hugely popular in the 17th century. They were largely random collections of strange-yet-fascinating stuff, including natural history specimens, archaeological artifacts, religious or historical relics, the odd work of art, and any other quirky item that caught the cabinet creator’s fancy.  The concept also inspired auteur director Guillermo del Toro when putting together a new anthology horror series for Netflix: Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities. The streaming platform just dropped the official trailer for the series, and it looks like just the right kind of fright fare to bring some stylishly spooky frissons to the Halloween season.

As we've reported previously, the series was first announced in 2018 and features eight episodes written and directed by filmmakers handpicked by del Toro. The list of directors includes Jennifer Kent, who directed 2014's phenomenal The Babadook; her episode, "The Murmuring," is based on an original story by del Toro and features Babadook star Essie Davis (aka Miss Fisher). "Dreams in the Witch House," based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, is directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Lords of Dogtown, Twilight).

"Graveyard Rats" is directed by Vincenzo Natali (In the Tall Grass, Splice), while Guillermo Navarro (Narcos) directed "Lot 36," also based on an original story by del Toro. Keith Thomas (Firestarter) directed "Pickman's Model," another episode based on a Lovecraft short story; David Prior (The Empty Man) directed "The Autopsy"; Panos Cosmatos (Mandy) directed "The Viewing"; and Ana Lily Amirpour—who directed the exquisite A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night—directed "The Outside."

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The best Mac desktop clients for Gmail aficionados

ARS Technica - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 08:32
The best Mac desktop clients for Gmail aficionados

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images / Apple)

Here's the situation: I have a Mac, I need a desktop mail client, and I want it to work as seamlessly as possible with Gmail.

Just a small slice of Gmail's Vim-inspired keyboard shortcuts.

Just a small slice of Gmail's Vim-inspired keyboard shortcuts. (credit: Kevin Purdy)

Gmail has been my primary personal email provider since 2003. I've also had more than a dozen Google Workspace accounts over the years. I understand the issues inherent in an advertising company managing my email and keeping me locked into its ecosystem. But I dig Gmail's Vim-inspired shortcuts, its powerful search capabilities, its advanced filtering, its storage—and, of course, its availability in nearly any browser.

But browsers are often where focus goes to flounder. I want to give email a defined space, a visual context as a place I go to communicate. And, incidentally, I want to avoid Gmail's annoying nudges to use Meet, Spaces, or whatever the messaging focus is this week. So let's see what kind of Mac desktop client works best for someone with Gmail on the brain.

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Bitcoin worse for the climate than beef, say economists

The Register - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 08:30
Researchers mince 'digital gold' claims with study showing cryptocurrency's impact

Far from being the "digital gold" some claim, Bitcoin's relative climate change impact is greater than the beef industry, and over seven times more than actual gold mining.…

Categories: Tech News

Mystery hackers are “hyperjacking” targets for insidious spying

ARS Technica - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 08:22
Mystery hackers are “hyperjacking” targets for insidious spying

Enlarge (credit: Marco Rosario Venturini Autieri/Getty Images)

For decades, virtualization software has offered a way to vastly multiply computers’ efficiency, hosting entire collections of computers as “virtual machines” on just one physical machine. And for almost as long, security researchers have warned about the potential dark side of that technology: theoretical “hyperjacking” and “Blue Pill” attacks, where hackers hijack virtualization to spy on and manipulate virtual machines, with potentially no way for a targeted computer to detect the intrusion. That insidious spying has finally jumped from research papers to reality with warnings that one mysterious team of hackers has carried out a spree of “hyperjacking” attacks in the wild.

Today, Google-owned security firm Mandiant and virtualization firm VMware jointly published warnings that a sophisticated hacker group has been installing backdoors in VMware’s virtualization software on multiple targets’ networks as part of an apparent espionage campaign. By planting their own code in victims’ so-called hypervisors—VMware software that runs on a physical computer to manage all the virtual machines it hosts—the hackers were able to invisibly watch and run commands on the computers those hypervisors oversee. And because the malicious code targets the hypervisor on the physical machine rather than the victim’s virtual machines, the hackers’ trick multiplies their access and evades nearly all traditional security measures designed to monitor those target machines for signs of foul play.

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In Unhinged Video, CEO Who Told Staff to Work Through Hurricane Also Scorned COVID Concerns

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 08:20

The same CEO in Florida who downplayed Hurricane Ian and told employees to bring their families and pets to the office so they could continue working through the hurricane also berated staffers after multiple employees allegedly called the police over the company’s COVID-19 protocols. 

Video from an April 1, 2020 virtual staff meeting obtained by VICE News shows that Joy Gendusa, the CEO of the Clearwater, Florida-based marketing company PostcardMania, was shockingly scornful of employees’ fears of the COVID-19. 

In the video, Gendusa unequivocally dismissed the pandemic, which has gone on to kill over a million Americans and counting, as overblown. 

Gendusa called the media “fearmongers” for its coverage of the virus, and “making people way more afraid than they need to be.” 

“What’s happening is the politicians, because this is an election year, are caving in one by one to the media, and making everybody feel like they’re going to die from this thing,” Gendusa added, raising her voice. “And it’s not fricking true. And it’s really fucked up that they’re scaring everyone.” 

For much of the meeting, however, she expressed fury at two anonymous employees who allegedly reported the company to the police for not following COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing requirements. 

“I think we have the greatest staff on Earth,” Gendusa told employees. “But you always have couple of rotten fucking apples.” 

“Let’s talk a little bit about karma,” Gendusa said. “We are people of goodwill, and I am keeping everybody here employed. If you don’t want to work here, go home… I am not forcing you to work.” 

Gendusa said that the “sheriff’s office” did visit the office and didn’t appear to be concerned about the work environment. A spokesperson for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office told VICE News that the sheriff’s office has not fielded any calls concerning PostcardMania since at least January 2020, and forwarded questions to the Clearwater Police Department, which has jurisdiction over the area. The Clearwater Police Department did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.  

But even though the police report didn’t appear to lead to anything, Gendusa appeared to not be satisfied. During the call, she pointed to her eyes and then the screen, before saying  “If you don’t like us, if you don’t like the way I run this company, get the fuck out.”

“I’m sorry, I’m just real. What can I tell you, that’s just how I feel about it,” added Gendusa.

Gendusa continued to reference the two employees whom she believed called the police throughout the video. 

“We have such an amazing staff, except for those two people [who called the police]. I hate you,” Gendusa said. “No, I don’t really hate anybody, you’re just really not part of this group…you don’t belong here amongst the rest of us so you could probably just quit your job … I mean, shit, you can get all kinds of government stuff for free, so why don’t you just do that.”

At the time of the staff meeting, even Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—who later became a crusader against any and all COVID mandates—had placed the state under an effective lockdown and restricted non-essential activities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 3,700 residents in Pinellas County, where PostcardMania’s headquarters is located, have died from COVID-19, according to CDC statistics.  


PostcardMania did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News about the video. But in a blog post published on the PostcardMania website earlier this month, Gendusa credited her handling of the pandemic early on with the company’s growth. 

“Don’t get me wrong, March 2020 was a scary time. A number of small businesses were forced to close, and uncertainty gripped the nation,” Gendusa wrote. “But for me, I was 100% certain about two things: 1. We weren’t going to lay anyone off. 2. We weren’t going to cut back on our marketing.”

In the days since PostcardMania came under fire for insisting that the company would operate through Hurricane Ian as normal to meet end of quarter goals, Gendusa has apologized for her communications to employees while maintaining that the company’s preparation for the hurricane prioritized company safety. 

In a video statement published Thursday, Gendusa reiterated her apology to employees for her handling of the communications. But she also said that the “media frenzy” around coverage of PostcardMania’s communications to employees prior to Hurricane Ian,  and the subsequent damage control it required, distracted the company from focusing on hurricane prep. 

“I was trying to calm people down and I didn’t, and because of that, a whole bunch of undue distress ensued, a media frenzy that we then had to make a priority to handle instead of everything else we were trying to do for the storm and our employees,” Gendusa said. 

The eye of Hurricane Ian ultimately diverted away from the Clearwater area after earlier projections that it could be the strongest hurricane to hit the Tampa Bay area in more than a century

In the video published Thursday, Gendusa also insisted that she wasn’t asking employees to work through the hurricane, saying: “I would never do that.” But a transcript obtained by VICE News from the staff meeting Monday shows that Gendusa told employees that while employee safety is “of utmost importance, I honestly want to continue to deliver and I want to have a good end of quarter, and when it turns into nothing I don't want it to be like 'Great, we all stopped producing because of the media.’”

Gendusa also said the company is forming a “task force” to help with Hurricane Ian relief. "There are always lessons to be learned, and I wish the world was a more forgiving place. We all wish that," Gendusa said in the Thursday video. 

“We have an open door policy at PostcardMania,” she added. “I really wish the person who was offended could have gone to their manager or come to me directly, and we could have avoided all of this.”

Categories: Tech News

Can You Sue Nicki Minaj Stans For Harassment?

Motherboard (Vice) - Fri, 09/30/2022 - 08:18

Nicki Minaj's Barbz have quite the reputation online: They are not a stan group you want to cross, as YouTuber Kimberly Nicole Foster discovered firsthand recently. “Nicki is so clearly a horrible person,” Foster tweeted earlier this month. “Negativity sticks to her like glue. Idk if we've seen this before.” The tweet exploded with over 20,000 likes and 2,000 retweets. In the days that followed, Foster said she received an overwhelming number of threats from Minaj’s fans—so bad that the 33-year-old plans to file a lawsuit for online harassment against some of her detractors. “The messages became more threatening and dark, and then it started to be, ‘We’re gonna find you. I’m gonna kidnap you, I hope you get raped,’” Foster told The Daily Beast.

But can you actually sue anonymous fan pages for harassing you online? There are two main categories of harassment, legally speaking. Criminal harassment is when someone threatens someone else with a crime (rape, murder, etc.), and in those cases, it’s up to police departments and the state to press charges—or not. To that end, Foster said that she turned over screenshots to police and even reported the threats to the FBI—and because stalking is a federal crime that has evolved because of the internet, credible online threats can be punishable by jail for up to five years.

And then there’s civil harassment, where a victim can sue for damages when the harassment is discriminatory—such as if someone repeatedly threatened Foster because she was Black, or a woman. “First, we have to discuss whether online harassment is even actionable,” said Daniel Powell, a managing attorney at Minc Law, a firm that specializes in online harassment and defamation. According to Powell, if an attack is neither criminal nor discriminatory, that speech is ultimately protected by the First Amendment—including the identity of who said it.

“Whenever you unmask someone who is using a pseudonym online, you are intruding upon their anonymity of speech.” —Daniel Powell

Just last month, a court ruling in a copyright case on Twitter upheld the right to be anonymous online. “Whenever you unmask someone who is using a pseudonym online, you are intruding upon their anonymity of speech,” Powell said, referencing the First Amendment. Though Foster told The Daily Beast she plans to gather phone numbers, profile names, and IP addresses as evidence, sites like Twitter won’t release an account’s IP address without a subpoena. To get that subpoena—which she’d need to unmask the Barbz in question in order to sue them—Foster would have to make a specific accusation of discrimination. That’s not necessarily what Foster is alleging, though.

I asked Powell whether Foster might have more luck showing a pattern of online harassment. In 2018, Wanna Thompson was met with similar wrath after tweeting critically about Nicki Minaj—if the same stans attacked both Thompson and Foster, might it help Foster’s case? Powell said that’s a matter of character versus habit: “You can’t say someone is guilty of speeding now because they were caught speeding two years ago. But habitual behavior would be admissible.”

Where does Minaj fit into all of this? Foster said she wasn’t planning on suing the rapper, and it doesn’t sound like she’d have much of a case if she tried. Back in 2018, Minaj did send Thompson a disparaging DM, and her account liked tweets that attacked Foster. As to whether this might be seen as a further sort of provocation, Powell said, “Nicki Minaj could easily argue that a like constitutes nothing other than her opinion, which is protected.” So: Most likely not.

For Foster, the odds of winning a harassment suit against the Barbz aren’t clear. But even if she simply manages to file a suit, it might set a moral standard that not every person is willing to take harassment lying down.

**Kristin Corry is a senior staff writer at VICE. **

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