Amazon Isn’t Coming to New York Anymore and Twitter Is on Fire

Jeff Bezons sitting on a stage.
New Yorkers are rejoicing! Our subway commutes will continue to be just slightly crowded, not nearly as jam packed as they would have been if Amazon had made the move to Long Island City, and our rent will remain only slightly outrageous! That’s right, Amazon pulled out of their planned move to Queens, which … honestly, relatable.

So, those of us who live in New York have been quick to make fun of Amazon’s failure. Don’t worry, though. There are some real takes out there when people who don’t live in the Big Apple are complaining about how now Queens residents lose out on those job opportunities, not knowing that it would still have been impossible to navigate that area of town if they actually lived here.

And, unsurprisingly, John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s Oh, Hello! got its moment in the sun.

But, primarily, many celebrated the fact that those who ‘rushed’ to buy apartments to raise the rent are now stuck with them.

We’ve had a lot of changes in recent history. The L train was shutting down and now isn’t; Amazon was coming and now isn’t. So what else isn’t going to be true?

At the end of the day, this is a good thing. Amazon may have brought jobs (we’ve heard how their employees are treated), but it would have raised rent, made transit impossible, and made living in New York City harder for those already living in Queens and the surrounding areas—all while enjoying tax breaks it doesn’t need. So joke’s on you, Jeff Bezos. We’re glad it isn’t happening.

(image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Scarlett Johansson Says It’s “Useless” Fighting Back Against Deepfake Porn Videos Using Her Face

Scarlett Johansson, garbage, casting, trans, transgender, responses, memes

The internet is a terrifying place. We are still slowly learning rules and decorum for the instant access and technology we have—some more slowly than others. With new technology, people now have the ability to create great content or really, really awful stuff. One such tech is the AI algorithm that scans a celebrity’s face and uploads it to existing video content, used to make videos called “Deepfakes.”

Some of these videos are memes, such as putting Nicholas Cage into any movie. Others are far nastier.

One such genre of videos is uploading celebrity faces onto porn films, including stars such as Scarlett Johansson. These videos can garner millions of views, but Johansson isn’t about to take to the courts to try to get them shut down. The actress talked to the Washington Post about her experiences, saying,

“Clearly this doesn’t affect me as much because people assume it’s not actually me in a porno, however demeaning it is. I think it’s a useless pursuit, legally, mostly because the internet is a vast wormhole of darkness that eats itself. There are far more disturbing things on the dark web than this, sadly. I think it’s up to an individual to fight for their own right to their image, claim damages, etc.

“Every country has their own legalese regarding the right to your own image, so while you may be able to take down sites in the U.S. that are using your face, the same rules might not apply in Germany. Even if you copyright pictures with your image that belong to you, the same copyright laws don’t apply overseas. I have sadly been down this road many, many times. The fact is that trying to protect yourself from the internet and its depravity is basically a lost cause, for the most part.”

Johansson became a symbol for the dangers of hacking when she, alongside many other celebrities, had their accounts hacked and their nude pictures leaked; the hacker was later sentenced to ten years in prison. She has been dealing with this for years now, and it must be incredibly painful to have her image twisted and used in this way after already dealing with such a vile breach of privacy.

It should go without saying to not digitally insert a woman’s face into a pornographic video without her consent, but here we are. The worst part is is that Johansson is right: There is no easy way to fight this legally. Johansson cannot get a cease and desist letter and have it honored, because she’s trapped in a legal limbo.

She concluded her comments by saying,

“The Internet is just another place where sex sells and vulnerable people are preyed upon. And any low level hacker can steal a password and steal and identity. It’s just a matter of time before any one person is targeted.

“…

“Obviously, if a person has more resources, they may employ various forces to build a bigger wall around their digital identity. But nothing can stop someone from cutting and pasting my image or anyone else’s onto a different body and making it look as eerily realistic as desired. There are basically no rules on the internet because it is an abyss that remains virtually lawless, withstanding US policies which, again, only apply here.”

There is no easy answer to this problem. Johansson puts it best when she says that the internet is an abyss and virtually lawless, because that is most definitely the truth. There are no real rules and protections, and though there are some cases that have been successfully won against hackers, there is no way to really legislate deepfake videos. Things might get better eventually, but for now, things are just going to stay being pretty terrible.

(via The Washington Post, image: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

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Facebook Gives Netflix and Spotify Access to Private Messages in Latest Privacy Breach

Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the second day of testimony before Congress by Zuckerberg, 33, after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign.

In March, Facebook took out full page apology ads in several prominent newspapers. The ad was in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where nearly 100 million users had their data mined by the political consulting firm for use in the 2016 presidential election. The header of the ad read, “We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it.”

Now, a new exposé from the New York Times reveals the the social network has been not only sharing user data, but has allowed more than 150 tech companies unprecedented access to user’s private messages and content. Facebook allowed Netflix, Spotify and the Royal Bank of Canada to read, write and delete users’ private messages, as well as allowing Microsoft, Sony and Amazon access to the email addresses of users and their friends.

These partnerships often focus on company integrations, where Facebook and another tech company collaborate to create new apps, products or capabilities. For example, Spotify was given access to the messaging app so they could integrate a feature where users can send spotify songs and playlists via messager.

The investigation shows a troubling pattern of Facebook allowing the tech companies they’ve partnered with to sidestep privacy rules in the name of profit. This violates a 2011 consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that blocks Facebook from sharing user data without permission. Facebook released a statement saying, “None of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people’s permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC.”

Using loopholes within privacy agreements, Facebook has extended their own privacy rules to these tech companies, classifying them as partners of Facebook and granting them access to the data. For their part, companies like Netflix, Apple and Spotify claim that they were ignorant to the full scale of their access and unaware of the breach in privacy.

While Facebook continues to profit off of data mining, the government seems wholly unprepared to tackle the complex issue. This was painfully obvious when Google chief executive Sundar Pichai appeared before the House Judiciary Committee just last week. The committee was made up of older reps who lacked the most basic understanding of technology, including Rep. Steve King (R-IA) who questioned Pichai about his granddaughter’s iPhone, only to be told by the CEO that Google doesn’t make the product.

Members of the Senate have called on congress to pass the data privacy bill, a piece of bi-partisan legislation from U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA).

2019 brings a newer, younger and more tech-savvy class of congresspeople into the government. Hopefully they will be able to steer policy towards providing concrete data protection and more transparency from Facebook and other tech companies. In the meantime, brace yourselves for more full page apologies. And maybe delete your Facebook account.

(via New York Times, image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Three Women Have Now Accused Neil deGrasse Tyson of Sexual Misconduct

neil degrasse tyson

Yesterday, allegations of sexual misconduct against scientist and celebrity Neil deGrasse Tyson came to light. Two women have accused him of inappropriate behavior towards them, including touching them without their consent and trying to seduce them. This comes on the heels of an accusation that Tyson raped a woman while they were both grad students, which had widely flown under the radar.

One of the accusers details how Tyson grabbed her arm to study her body-wide tattoo of the solar system, and then tried to “find Pluto” by following the tattoo into her dress. The other speaks about how, when she was working for Tyson, he invited her to his apartment and allegedly made advances on her. When she confronted him about it the following day, she says that he told her she would never advance through the ranks because she was too “distracting.” The second accuser did report the event to a sexual harassment hotline.

His first accuser, a woman named Tchiya Amet, says that he drugged and raped her while they were both studying astronomy at the University of Texas in Austin. She publicly accused him during a speaking event in 2010, and was met with dismissal from his fans and supporters, which is detailed in an interview with her that you can read here.

Despite speaking out on this on multiple occasions and even filing a police report, Amet’s story has gone mostly unknown. One of the articles on her, cited in the linked interview piece above, uses her spirituality to dismiss her claims.

The founder of the People of Reason and Progress, David McAfee, published both a story on Amet and the story detailing two other accusations of misconduct. In an article released on their blog, PORP states that

“Robust data clearly show that more often than not, accusers who come forward are telling the truth. As such, we believe that the allegations submitted by both women should be seriously and thoroughly investigated. We also believe that Dr. Tyson should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. We at PORP also pledge to keep our followers and the public well-informed on this matter as more information comes to light.

“The hyper-endemic incidence of sexual assault and misconduct in American society must be addressed with data and evidence, and those who have committed such acts must be held accountable. We believe that survivors will not receive the justice they deserve as long as we choose to turn a blind eye to accusations against those whom we support.”

We’ll continue to follow this story as more information is released.

(via Patheos, image: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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5 Tips on Surviving Our Impending Killer Alien Attack, From The Thing

NASA rectangular iceberg

It’s nearly impossible to keep up with 2018’s terrible news cycle. Transgender Americans’ human rights are at risk (still), a domestic terrorist sent bombs to numerous people, another anti-Semitic terrorist murdered 11 Jewish people, an authoritarian homophobe won Brazil’s presidential election, the Earth is dying, and that doesn’t even begin to summarize the chaotic news in the last month.

Even if we narrow down our news sleuthing to scientific discoveries, things have been eventful, to say the least. While we might have been momentarily distracted by a new Marvel-inspired constellation—and the fact that longtime space stan Chris Evans might be moonlighting as a constellation name-generating intern at NASA—we’re more interested (and a little worried) about some John Carpenter-related science news in Antarctica. That’s right: A strange iceberg was found at the Antarctic peninsula.

According to NPR, NASA’s IceBridge research aircraft captured an image of a rectangular iceberg the had calved from the Antarctic ice sheet. Amid its regular survey route to collect information on how the poles impact climate change, the aircraft snapped the perfectly sculpted iceberg.

The glorified ice cube isn’t alone. NASA notes that IceBridge also took some photos of another conspicuously-shaped iceberg. Granted, that triangular iceberg has a bit of a misshapen hypotenuse, but some water erosion could have contributed to its slight curve. Still, it appears this iceberg isn’t the only strange one on the fringes of the ice shelf.

Beyond the hundreds of tabular icebergs that Ted Scambos, senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Date Center, tells Mashable are lurking in the ice shelf, some other familiar news has surfaced in Antarctica. Shortly after IceBridge snapped these peculiar icebergs, news broke that a Russian engineer, Sergei Savitsky, stabbed his college at a Bellingshausen station in the Antarctic, the Telegraph reports. Thankfully, the victim was promptly transported to a hospital in Chile, and Savitsky turned himself in to police.

But, we couldn’t help but notice the real-life parallels between the news headlines in Antarctica and The Thing, and we aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed the connection.

Cue The Thing theme song by Ennio Morricone, and prepare the blood cultures, because this sounds like the pre-prequel to the zoonotic intergalactic parasite. Okay, so a rectangular iceberg doesn’t really follow the quintessential introduction of the thing exactly. According to the fictional Who Goes There universe, the epidemic origin was at a Norwegian research station, and not a Russian station.

Regardless, we can’t help but recognize that we can learn a few lessons from The Thing if we’re ever faced with a shape-shifting alien. These lessons might be rooted in the fictional Antarctic researchers’ missteps, but they’re valuable lessons all the same:

the thing john carpenter art

(image: Universal Pictures)

1. Don’t split up

Standard horror movie advice, really. Whether you think you may have encountered a Xenomorph, Deacon, Yautja, Altrusian, or the real thing, don’t ditch your group. Trust us, we get it. Sometimes stuff happens in any extraterrestrial encounter. In fact, it’d be weird if stuff didn’t happen. Even if you spot that rogue thing disguised as a husky that you’ve been tracking down, don’t run off from your party of alien bait.

Essentially, having the trio of researchers visit the dig site while everyone else stayed at the research facility was one of their first mistakes. Though the “let’s split up” trope is cliché, we love it for its reliability. However, most of us like to avoid becoming semi-absorbed alien matter, so stick together so you can keep your eyes on everyone. (It might make bathroom breaks a bit awkward, but we’re talking about hypothetical survival here.)

2. Listen to women

Although women, especially women of color, are still desperately underrepresented in the sci-fi genre, the few extraterrestrial movies that showcase leading women characters often subject them to sexism from their fellow characters, who flippantly ignore them in spite of the fact that women protagonists in the genre are typically depicted as scholars.

In the prequel, The Thing (2011), half of the lethal mistakes the Norwegian crew makes can be linked back to dismissing Kate Lloyd’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) advice. Adam Finch (Eric Christian Olsen) and Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) recruited Kate Lloyd to examine the specimen the crew found because of her expertise in vertebrate paleontology and cold weather excavations, yet Dr. Halvorson started ignoring consultations as soon as she landed in Antarctica.

In fact, Lloyd initially warned against taking a tissue sample of the thing, but Dr. Halvorson apparently didn’t like his ego being questioned, because he went along with the sampling. Seeing as the thing can voluntarily put itself into a cryogenic slumber—which it presumably did before these researchers found it in the glacier—until it can sense a viable host, it might not have burst out of the ice so quickly. After all, the perforation in the ice and the creature likely allowed the thing’s somewhat ambiguous physiology to sense the potential hosts when Jameson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) went to check on it, thus waking it from its stasis.

Later in the prequel, Dr. Halvorson’s decisions are obviously compromised by his parasitic counterpart, so we can’t blame him for his misogyny in the latter half. The conflict between Dr. Halvorson, his colleagues, and Lloyd mirrors the actual adversity that many women in STEM field face. However, listening to women in STEM could at least delay alien invasions.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate Lloyd in The Thing (2011)

(image: Universal Pictures)

3. Don’t trust anyone

This might seemingly contradict the whole “stick together” plan, but maintaining a single group doesn’t necessarily mean you have to trust every person all the time. A healthy amount of skepticism can keep your survival alliance from transmuting into an alien species.

Don’t even trust a corpse, because the thing uses the host’s body to imitate life on a foreign planet. It just plays dead until it can invade a new host’s cells.

4. Ask questions first and shoot later

Even if you have to wade through blood tests and subsequently segmented aliens trying to attack and infect you, you might still want to hold off on killing everyone, especially if you see a researcher from another station in a remote area shooting at a husky. We don’t blame Garry (Donald Moffat) for shooting one of the two survivors of the Norwegian station, particularly since one was an accident, and Garry didn’t know if the Norwegian researcher was a threat or not.

However, we all know it would’ve been advantageous to all the researchers and the huskies—minus the imitation husky—to wait to shoot. Or, at least to develop a non-lethal shot.

5. If you do fall prey to an alien, just roll with it

Sure, it might not be a mutually beneficial relationship like Venom and Eddie, but there’s no need to be selfish. The ever-changing creature from another world is just trying to survive, like everyone else. So, if you do become an assimilated host for the thing, just accept it. There might be a lot of downsides to being co-opted by the thing—like having your very DNA swapped out with the creature’s—but you do get the perks of becoming an alien version of a Swiss army knife.

Naturally, the thing isn’t the common zombie of alien species, so it can be hard to anticipate whether you check for fillings and piercings on your friends and coworkers or if you just need to run like any other alien movie. We aren’t suggesting you keep some spare Petri dishes and matches in your pocket, even if a conspicuous iceberg is looming in the fictional landing site of the thing. After all, these suspiciously geometric icebergs obviously don’t house any dormant interstellar life. Probably.

The National Geographic notes that the newly spotted iceberg appears to have perfectly flat planes and 90 degree edges. Although this might seem like they were intentionally crafted this way, oddly perfect shapes appear in natural deposits all the time. From pyrite to galena to calcite, minerals and gemstones commonly form near-perfect angles and definitive geometric shapes on their own, so it isn’t uncommon for an iceberg to form similarly.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to prepare for an alien invasion as an excuse to rewatch The Thing. Whether it’s an update on the icebergs or the ice shelf itself, hopefully one of these should-be-canon Antarctic-related headlines will fill us in on what the heck happened to Kate Lloyd at the end of the prequel, because we need closure.

(featured image: NASA ICE)

Chelsea Jackson is a freelance writer and illustrator who spends her time rewatching Star Trek and impatiently awaiting the Young Avengers’ debut in the MCU. Follow her @nuancednerd.

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Chinese Official Expertly Trolls Donald Trump Over iPhone Spying Story

trump sexism reporters

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article asserting that Donald Trump has a habit of making calls on unsecured cell phones, allowing Russian and Chinese spies to listen in—and they do. Trump has, of course, insisted that the story is false, as have Chinese officials, although they managed to do it with a more insulting tone that would make International-Level Troll Vladimir Putin proud.

Gizmodo reports that, according to a Washington Post researcher, China spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, “If they are very worried about iPhones being tapped, they can use Huawei.” What he’s taking a dig at there is a ban on U.S. government use of Huawei phones that Trump himself signed, amid national security concerns over potential spying through hardware produced by the smartphone maker that U.S. politicians have called “essentially an arm of the Chinese government.”

Knowing Trump’s fragile ego, we’re probably actually lucky that Trump himself will probably never hear of that obvious taunt, nor understand what it’s getting at if he did.

Trump’s own denial, on the other hand, is still kind of funny, if for entirely unintentional reasons—well, if you can call it “Trump’s denial” when it was obviously written either by one of his aides or by committee, which you can always kind of tell when they poorly replicate his capitalize-random-words style and the wording seems a little too thoughtful to have come from Trump himself:

He can feel free to rebut the idea that anyone else is writing his tweets for him, but then he’d have to admit that he sent this tweet personally from an iPhone, fairly well in line with the Times reporting he claims is so fake, so … I’m good either way.

trump tweet twitter for iphone tag

Trump tweet with “Twitter for iPhone” tag. (image: screengrab)

That aside, reports have been circulating, since Trump got into office, that he’s reluctant to give up his own phone, with Twitter platform tags like this to back it all up, not to mention that if The New York Times’ story even were false, it would be because members of Trump’s own administration lied about it, not because the Times is lying. If their sources inside the administration are feeding them false information, it’s not the journalists who are the ones doing something wrong.

That hasn’t stopped Trump from blaming the media for sowing anger and division, amid ongoing reports of bombs being sent to prominent Trump critics and those he’s actively stoked hate for.

(via Gizmodo, image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Meet Atlas, the Parkour Robot Who Will Enslave Us All

Bad news, fellow meat bags. The robot apocalypse draws ever closer, as Boston Dynamics (the Delos of our time) has now trained their robot Atlas to do parkour. In the video above, you can see that Atlas has progressed from jogging/tripping face first over a box to scaling a bunch of crates like he’s a contestant on Nickelodeon’s GUTS.

I, for one, am bitter. If humanity is going to die at the hands of these robots, can’t they at least have the decency to look like Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, or Thandie Newton? Is it too much to ask that we get some eye candy from our soon to be apocalyptic overlords?

maeve

In the video description, Boston Dynamics describes the software that is turning Atlas the Robot into an American Ninja Warrior. “The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace. (Step height 40 cm.) Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately.”

But what function will Atlas actually serve, other than replacing Matt Damon in future Jason Bourne movies? According to the Boston Dynamics website, “Atlas is the latest in a line of advanced humanoid robots we are developing. Atlas’ control system coordinates motions of the arms, torso and legs to achieve whole-body mobile manipulation, greatly expanding its reach and workspace. Atlas’ ability to balance while performing tasks allows it to work in a large volume while occupying only a small footprint.”

BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN THOUGH? There’s a lack of clarity in what Atlas will actually do for humanity: will he rescue people in situations too dangerous for humans? Will he be part of the larger movement to replace human workers with automatons? Or is he just here to get us to shut up about that four-legged robot that tripped over some banana peels. Well, in that case, I say NICE TRY Atlas, because I will never stop posting this video:

Until someone can explain to me what the function of this parkour robot is, I have no choice but to assume that it’s training to kill us all and wipe out humanity. Prove me wrong, Boston Dynamics, the ball is in your court!

(via Nerdist, image: screengrab)

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Why Is It So Hard for So Many Men to Believe This Former Victoria’s Secret Model Is Also a Professional Coder?

Lyndsey Scott, model, coder, programmer, misogyny, stem

Lyndsey Scott is an actress and a former Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein model, as well as a successful programmer. Over the weekend, the Instagram account Coding Engineer gave Scott a shoutout with the caption “Coding is for anyone!” The point was to highlight how there is still a false idea of what a coder looks like, and that image doesn’t usually include women–and definitely not glamorous or feminine women with interests in fields like fashion. The pervasiveness of these stereotypes and the damage they can cause to women or others that don’t fit the expected STEM mold was immediately apparent in the comments of the post itself.

Many of the first comments to show up were misogynistic trolls making jokes about how she must only know how to program “Hello World,” a famously simple, ultra-beginner program. By now, the comments have been flooded with supportive and grateful messages, but it’s a reminder that misogyny in STEM is still very much a rampant, destructive force.

In that tweet from Scott, you can see her comment on the Instagram post, which, in addition to listing her accomplishments (which go far beyond Hello World, obviously), muses, “Looking at these comments I wonder why 41% of women in technical careers drop out because of a hostile work environment.”

The message in those original comments is that no matter how talented a woman is, how accomplished, many men will approach her with the assumption that she is neither. Even when proof is provided and accomplishments are listed, many will assume she’s exaggerating in some way. Men, in general, are not approached with this assumption.

Women who work in STEM and know the industry’s toxicity firsthand have been responding to Scott’s tweet.

The burden of ending misogyny in STEM shouldn’t be on women, it should be on the men undermining, patronizing, and harassing their colleagues or potential colleagues. But social media does allow women to create visibility that may be lacking in their individual offices or labs. When so many women join their voices together it’s hard to deny that coding is for anyone, and presuming otherwise only makes a person look like a sexist ass.

(H/T Pajiba, image: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images, Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for TheirWorld)

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I Really Wish Apple Hadn’t Blocked Its Pride Watch Face in Russia

apple pride watch face

For all of my interest in most of Apple’s product lines, even though I’m far from using the latest and greatest of their tech myself, I haven’t been very interested in the Apple Watch. However, I’ll admit that I do enjoy watching them eagerly give dramatic reveals to new watch faces, even if only because their own excitement seems so endearingly outsized next to what those watch faces actually are—but recent news about their Pride watch face caught my eye for a much more disappointing reason.

The faces generally amount to the same thing as changing your phone background while simultaneously moving some widgets around—even including one that does use your own photos. One of those cosmetic adjustments, fittingly making its debut back in June for Pride month, is the Pride watch face. As you can see in the image above, it includes the rainbow colored imagery you’d expect, and when you touch it or move the watch, those bands of color move in reaction.

Neat, right? And, ultimately, just a fun little way to show your own pride and/or support for the LGBTQIA+ community—that is, unless you’re in Russia, where the rainbow-themed watch face is nowhere to be found.

According to The Verge, users on support forums and reddit began noticing the absence of the Pride face in Russia, which is apparently deliberately coded not to appear if the watch owner’s paired iPhone if its region is set to Russia:

This is likely due to the homophobia that’s codified in law in the country. In 2013, Russia added a new law commonly known as the “gay propaganda law,” which relies on some of the same homophobic ideas you’ve heard here at home: that anything outside of strict heteronormativity is an affront to “traditional family values,” and children are to be protected from it so that they don’t get the wrong idea.

Of course, the idea that children need to be protected from seeing two (or more!) people in love with each other, regardless of their sexuality, is ridiculous, but what’s even worse here is that Apple doesn’t seem to have even stood up for itself—or the LGTBQIA+ community, for that matter. The Verge also points out that Google openly trolled the Russian government with its homepage during the Olympic Games in Russia, and I wish Apple had at least tried something similarly bold here.

The watch face can hardly even be called propaganda anyway. It’s literally just movable, rainbow-colored lines across the screen. It’s just called “Pride.” Sure, Russia likely could have legally compelled them to make the watch face unavailable anyway, but at least there would have been a very visible public conversation about it.

There may very well still be one, the way this story is going around today, but unless there was behind-the-scenes legal pressure we don’t yet know about (Apple has yet to comment), Apple preemptively gave up any ground on being on the right side of it.

(via The Verge, image: Apple)

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FCC’s “Cyber Attack” Excuse Turns Out to Be About as Real as It Sounds

Dade yells "Hack the Planet" in Hackers

No one has ever, ever believed an “I was hacked” excuse for things going wrong on the internet without direct confirmation that it was actually true. In terms of believability, it comes in just barely ahead of “the Ambien made me racist.” The FCC’s claim that a cyber attack was responsible for bringing down the agency’s public comment system, while they were taking comments on their wildly unpopular plan to roll back net neutrality rules in May 2018, ranked just behind that, if only because it wouldn’t have been a “hack” … if it had actually happened at all.

Pretty much this entire time, no one has really believed them, because everything about that situation is embarrassing. If anything, we all just kind of assumed that the FCC’s comment system went down due to the sheer volume of people attempting to express their thoughts on the agency’s net neutrality plans—and if we know anything about internet commenters, it’s that they don’t really flood anywhere in massive numbers just to say, “This is good, and I like it, and you’re all swell people who deserve respect, or at least basic human decency. Have a lovely day.”

The FCC, on the other hand, seemed intent on convincing everyone that this was not the case, making it look like an attempt to save face, rather than own up to their plan’s intense negative reception and their system’s inability to handle a spike in traffic. In the time since, the agency has been stonewalling anyone who tried to obtain information about exactly what data they had on this imaginary cyber attack (including denying Freedom of Information Act requests because they had no documentation), as well as lying to Congress about it.

This continued up until yesterday, when FCC chair and net neutrality opponent Ajit Pai tried to get out ahead of the Inspector General’s official report on the incident, which debunks the cyber attack claims, with a strong “the buck stops elsewhere” attitude. Pai placed blame at the feet of former FCC chief information officer David Bray, who … honestly seems to be at fault here, based on the evidence in the now-released report, but Pai was sure to get extra petty and point out that Bray was hired by the “was hired by the prior Administration.” It’s also puzzling why the agency allowed the patently false story to circulate right up until a report was about to call them out.

It’s also weird that Bray was able to spread such a story story this time around, when he’d apparently tried to do so, unsuccessfully, the last time a segment on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight took down the FCC’s net neutrality comments, in 2014. (That’s right, the official government report on the matter attributes the 2017 outage to John Oliver’s minions, so if you’re a LWT viewer, expect a fairly smug shoutout on the show this week.) As Bray tells it, that’s because both of these hacks totally happened, but Obama administration FCC chair Tom Wheeler covered up the first one!

So … it’s the Obama administration’s fault that the FCC lied about a cyber attack for over a year, when that same lie, about a nearly identical incident, was halted in its tracks during … the Obama administration. Bonus points for finally landing on an excuse that comes off even more disingenuous than “I was hacked,” I guess.

(image: MGM)

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