Death Stranding’s gruesome new trailer has babies, toenails, actual gameplay

Hideo Kojima and Norman Reedus are back to break our brains with an outlandish new trailer for Death Stranding. It’s still hard to make sense of what Death Stranding actually is, but the imagery sure is evocative. You’ve got babies, terrifying invisible monsters, and maybe something about environmental collapse?

Oh, and there is a new face here, too: Léa Seydoux, of Blue is the Warmest Color fame. Better yet, this E3 trailer showed what appeared to be in-game walking, which feels huge for a game that has largely shown us cinematic trailers. We also get a slightly better sense of what Death Stranding is about: apparently Sam, the character played by Norman Reedus, has to make a delivery. Presumably, the package is the baby.

We don’t know when Death Stranding will actually come out — likely, this one is going to be cooking for a while. Honestly, though, for many people the Death Stranding game has already begun: every new trailer is another opportunity to figure out what Kojima is teasing. It’s like an ARG or something. By tomorrow, Kojima fans will have dissected this trailer and found a ton of tiny details that tease something grandiose. Let’s hope the final product can match all the hype. For now, enjoy another wild trailer.

Ted Cruz sent Facebook 209 questions, including this bizarre one about Taylor Swift

Ted Cruz has some questions for Facebook: 209 of them to be precise.

That’s how many written questions the Texas senator submitted to the company following CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s hours of Congressional testimony, and good lord were some of them were mind-numbingly stupid — including one abut a Taylor Swift song.

Some quick background: Following Zuckerberg’s marathon Congressional hearings in April, senators also submitted thousands of followup questions to the company. Facebook finally got around to submitting all those answers last week, and the Senate published the questions and answers in full Monday. 

And while Facebook’s carefully worded answers provide some interesting insight into how the company thinks about privacy, data collection, and whether or not it’s a monopoly (spoiler: it disagrees with the sentiment), the most amazing thing about the documents might be the hundreds of pages of questions submitted by Cruz. 

But none were more WTF than Cruz’s question on Facebook’s opinion of a Taylor Swift song. Specifically, Cruz was apparently interested in whether or not Facebook agreed with a GQ writer’s assessment that an Swift’s cover of an Earth, Wind, and Fire song qualified as hate speech. 

Facebook didn’t answer the question directly and instead offered a brief overview of its hate speech policy. “We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics—race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disability or disease,” the company wrote.

Cruz’s bizarre line of questioning didn’t stop there, though. He also asked a truly asinine question for Facebook’s opinion on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s political opinions (seriously, you can’t make this shit up).

While we already knew Cruz was particularly preoccupied with Facebook’s alleged bias against conservatives, the senator used his written questions to ramble on about a number of other topics too. 

To be clear, Cruz was far from the only senator to submit lengthy questions to Facebook, but his appeared to be less informed by Zuckerberg’s testimony as his desire to bait the company into providing answers that could fire up his conservative base.

He asked multiple question about Chick-fil-A and why specific conservative figures had posts referencing the fast food chain removed, as well as many questions about the political leanings of Facebook’s employees and whether or not said Facebook employees had accessed data on senators ahead of Zuckerberg’s testimony.  

At one point, the senator asked the company to asses 28 different statements, such as “black lives matter,” “the abortion of an unborn child is murder,” and “gender is a social construct,” and whether or not they’d be considered hate speech under company policies. (Facebook declined and instead again referred back to its earlier statement defining its hate speech policy.)

Did we mention both sets of questions — he submitted two sets as he serves on both the Judiciary and Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committees — were each preceded by a full page of instructions on how to answer? Yeah.

Naturally, Facebook ignored many of his instructions.

You can read the full 459 pages of Q&A — including all 209 of Senator Cruz’s questions in their glorious detail — over on the Senate Committee for Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s website

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Watch the first gameplay trailer for PS4 exclusive Ghost of Tsushima

Ghost of Tsushima is an upcoming title set in feudal Japan from the makers of the Infamous series of superhero games, and they just showed off the first gameplay trailer for the PlayStation 4 exclusive.

In the trailer, which is set during a Mongol invasion, your character mounts his horse and charges down a beautifully animated hillside into a forest. Once there, he encounters a variety of sword-wielding enemies. The gameplay appears to focus on well-timed counters and vicious sword attacks — the trailer was among the most gory of E3 so far.

The trailer also shows your fighter and a companion sneaking into a temple, using stealth to get the drop on his enemies. In one memorable moment, he stabs through a screen to kill one enemy as he attempts to call for reinforcements.

Announced last October, Ghost of Tsushima is a new open-world game from Sucker Punch that combines action and stealth inside a beautifully atmospheric version of Japan.

Watch the very first gameplay trailer for The Last of Us Part II

Sony showed a new trailer for The Last of Us II that features Ellie as a playable character in our first ever glimpse of gameplay for the title. The trailer begins with a cinematic featuring a younger, more innocent Ellie at a dance with her friends and a female romantic interest, presumably during a more peaceful time, but with unclear placement in the timeline of events beginning with the outbreak to the ending of the first game. Jumping years later, Ellie is shown to be a highly capable and deadly fighter. The trailer features the stealth elements that were a cornerstone of the first game, as well as a refined form of the brutal melee combat from the original.

The Last of Us Part II is one of the next big-budget, single-player-focused narrative games on the schedule for the PlayStation 4. Sony’s platform has had an absolutely stellar year of exclusives, specifically in that genre, including Horizon Zero Dawn and the new God of War. Sony-owned studio Naughty Dog is now tasked with delivering on immense expectations carried over from the original The Last of Us while pushing forward both the technical and narrative elements of the genre, just as the original did in the final years of the PlayStation 3.

We got the first trailer and the initial announcement for the game back at E3 in 2016. Last year during Paris Games Week, Naughty Dog made waves with an ultra-violent trailer that, despite some well-deserved backlash, did introduce a number of interesting new characters into The Last of Us universe. We know the game centers on Ellie who, now grown up and seemingly still immune to the Cordyceps brain infection, appears to be a much more hardened, almost nihilistic survivor. Joel, who made a controversial decision at the end of the first game that determined Ellie’s fate, is still in the picture, but to what extent we still don’t know.

Facebook says it gave ‘identical support’ to Trump and Clinton campaigns

Facebook’s hundreds of pages of follow-ups to Senators make for decidedly uninteresting reading. Give lawyers a couple months and they will always find a way to respond non-substantively to the most penetrating questions. One section may at least help put a few rumors to rest about Facebook’s role in the 2016 Presidential campaigns, though of course much is still left to the imagination.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), whose dogged questioning managed to put Mark Zuckerberg on his back foot during the questioning, had several pages of questions sent over afterwards. Among the many topics was that of the 2016 campaign and reports that Facebook employees were “embedded” in the Trump campaign specifically, as claimed by the person who ran the digital side of that campaign.

This has raised questions as to whether Facebook was offering some kind of premium service to one candidate or another, or whether one candidate got tips on how to juice the algorithm, how to target better, and so on.

Here are the takeaways from the answers, which you can find in full on page 167 of the document at the bottom of this post.

  • The advice to the campaigns is described as similar to that given to “other, non-political” accounts.
  • No one was “assigned full-time” on either the Trump or Clinton campaign.
  • Campaigns did not get to hand pick who from Facebook came to advise them.
  • Facebook provided “identical support” and tools to both campaigns.
  • Sales reps are trained to comply with federal election law, and to report “improper activity.”
  • No such “improper activity” was reported by Facebook employees on either campaign.
  • Facebook employees did work directly with Cambridge Analytica employees.
  • No one identified any issues with Cambridge Analytica, its data, or its intended use of that data.
  • Facebook did not work with Cambridge Analytica or related companies on other campaigns (e.g. Brexit).

It’s not exactly fire, but we don’t really need more fire these days. This at least is on the record and relatively straightforward; whatever Facebook’s sins during the election cycle may have been, it does not appear that preferential treatment of the two major campaigns was among them.

Incidentally, if you’re curious whether Facebook finally answered Sen. Harris’s questions about who made the decision not to inform users of the Cambridge Analytica issue back in 2015, or how that decision was made — no, it didn’t. In fact the silence here is so deafening it almost certainly indicates a direct hit.

Harris asked how and when it came to the decision not to inform users that their data had been misappropriated, who made that decision and why, and lastly when Zuckerberg entered the loop. Facebook’s response does not even come close to answering any of these questions:

When Facebook learned about Kogan’s breach of Facebook’s data use policies in December 2015, it took immediate action. The company retained an outside firm to assist in investigating Kogan’s actions, to demand that Kogan and each party he had shared data with delete the data and any derivatives of the data, and to obtain certifications that they had done so. Because Kogan’s app could no longer collect most categories of data due to changes in Facebook’s platform, the company’s highest priority at that time was ensuring deletion of the data that Kogan may have accessed before these changes took place. With the benefit of hindsight, we wish we had notified people whose information may have been impacted. Facebook has since notified all people potentially impacted with a detailed notice at the top of their newsfeed.

This answer has literally nothing to do with the questions.

It seems likely from the company’s careful and repeated refusal to answer this question that the story is an ugly one — top executives making a decision to keep users in the dark for as long as possible, if I had to guess.

At least with the campaign issues Facebook was more forthcoming, and as a result will put down several lines of speculation. Not so with this evasive maneuver.

Embedded below are Facebook’s answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the other set is here:

Ooblets is still the cutest game at E3

E3 can sometimes be a draining conference. After all, it is a show primarily about video games, and video games, even in 2018, have the unfortunate tendency to focus on guns and blood and gore and murder and explosions and stabbings and guns.

But then there are games like Ooblets, the incredibly charming Pokémon / Harvest Moon / Animal Crossing-inspired game from Rebecca Cordingley and Ben Wasser, which just got a new trailer at the PC Gaming Show highlighting how combat between the adorable ooblet creatures will work. (Spoiler: it’s a dance battle!)

The new trailer also shows more of the land (called Oob, naturally) that you’ll be able to help build and explore with your ooblet friends, a brief look at the gardening mechanics for growing more ooblets to be your friends, and a quick glance at the customization options for your house to live with your ooblet friends.

What I’m trying to get at here is that the ooblets are adorable and you can be friends with them in this game.

Ooblets will be out sometime in 2018 (according to the Steam page) on Windows 10 and the Xbox One.

NFC tech in official World Cup match ball draws fans even more into the games

Every four years, the FIFA World Cup brings millions of people together to bond over a shared interest in soccer and a fierce devotion to their country. But how do you drum up even more interest in one of the most popular sports on the planet? To Adidas and the software company BlueBite, the solution comes down to innovating the fan experience. Specifically, the duo injected the official World Cup match ball with a bit of cutting-edge (see: NFC) technology capable of allowing fans to unlock exclusive, tournament-themed content.

While Adidas supplied the balls, BlueBite created the software built into the NFC chip. By activating a special identifier via a smartphone, fans can unlock exclusive information about the World Cup and even the ball itself. Don’t think of it as just a one-and-done experience, either. BlueBite designed the software to allow fans the opportunity to revisit and unlock new content daily.

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“The entire idea behind the ball is to get fans engaged and excited about the World Cup before it starts,” said Rachel Furst, BlueBite’s director of product Marketing, to Digital Trends. “So, leading up to the tournament, fans will have access to a variety of different challenges — challenges designed to bring them back every day. Some unlock exclusive videos of World Cup players using the ball or showing off their own unique goal celebration while others have users post specific photos with the ball itself.”

Similar in function to how Nike leveraged NFC technology in its line of NikeConnect jerseys, the Adidas World Cup ball is purely for consumer use — i.e., it won’t have any impact on the matches themselves. Despite this, the integration of the chip is so subtle that anyone kicking it around (or using it in a match) won’t notice the difference. The shape hasn’t been altered, its physics remain the same, and it’s no heavier — even if you know where to look for the chip, you won’t see it.

“The chip is extremely light and won’t affect the weight or performance of the ball,” Furst added. “Additionally, we had to make sure that all parts would be functional in case the ball gets wet and also took into account fluctuations in temperature or movement, to ensure the internal components wouldn’t become damaged.”

Fans of the World Cup don’t have to be in Russia to have access to Adidas’ NFC-enabled ball either, as it’s currently available via the Adidas website for $124. Host country Russia kicks off the global tournament on June 14 as it takes on Saudi Arabia.

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Here are 454 pages of Facebook’s written follow-up answers to Congress

Facebook finished its homework. In a pair of newly uploaded letters, the two Senate committees that grilled Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in April have published the social media giant’s written answers to their considerable body of questions.

Zuckerberg faced criticism for not answering many of the more intricate or controversial questions from members of Congress in the moment, but by playing it safe the company bought two months’ worth of time to craft its answers in perfect legalese. If you’re interested in combing through the 454 pages worth of explanations on everything from accusations of conservative censorship to Cambridge Analytica, you can dig into the documents, embedded below.

Facebook’s answers to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee:

Facebook’s answers to questions from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation:

Facebook finally got around to answering all those senators’ questions

Looks like his team finally got back to them. 

Almost two full months after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dodged senators’ questions about the Cambridge Analytica and user privacy scandals with the vague promise that someone would be in touch, the advertising giant made good on his pledge and provided a host of answers on topics ranging from Russian trolls to whether or not Facebook is a media company. 

The 225-page PDF and separate 229-page PDF, comprising responses to both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, are a lot to wade through and will surely provide fodder for both Facebook’s boosters and critics over the coming weeks and months. However, a few of the company’s responses are immediately worth further examination — namely, that of the data Facebook collects on non-users and its possible monopoly status.  

When it comes to the first point, Facebook’s response was mostly direct. Sen. Mazie Hirono, a democrat from Hawaii, asked about so-called shadow profiles, and whether or not the company creates them. 

“We do not create profiles for non-Facebook users,” responded the company, “nor do we use browser and app logs for non-Facebook users to show targeted ads from our advertisers to them or otherwise seek to personalize the content they see.”

But, of course, the company does collect data on non-Facebook users — as even it admits in a rather long answer that seemingly wants to bore the reader into ignoring it. 

When people visit apps or websites that feature our technologies—like the Facebook Like or Comment button—our servers automatically log (i) standard browser or app records of the fact that a particular device or user visited the website or app (this connection to Facebook’s servers occurs automatically when a person visits a website or app that contains our technologies, such as a Like button, and is an inherent function of Internet design); and (ii) any additional information the publisher of the app or website chooses to share with Facebook about the person’s activities on that site (such as the fact that a purchase was made on the site).

Facebook also wrote that a non-user can request a copy of whatever data Facebook has on them by filling out a request form

Regarding Facebook’s status as a monopoly, Sen. Amy Klobuchar rightly suggests that Facebook is in a class of its own. 

“With more than two billion monthly active users, Facebook is by far the largest social networking platform on the internet,” writes the Minnesota Democrat. “Some have called Facebook a monopoly and claimed that Facebook has no true competition. If a Facebook user living in the United States wanted to switch to a different online social networking platform, what are the top ten alternative social networking platforms available?”

In response, Facebook’s team of lawyers — who we assume wrote all of this — muster a patently half-assed response: “In Silicon Valley and around the world, new social apps are emerging all the time.”

The company then goes on to insist that it has plenty of competition, like Snapchat, DailyMotion, and Pinterest. 

The fact that this is less than compelling is perhaps because, well, Facebook probably is a monopoly. 

Clearly, with new scandals dropping almost daily, these combined 454 pages of questions and answers aren’t the final word on Facebook. Thankfully for Mark Zuckerberg, his team of lawyers is waiting at the ready. 

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Papua New Guinea’s proposed Facebook ban is more about control

Last week, Papua New Guinea made international headlines when its government said it would consider banning Facebook for a month.

Announced by the country’s communications minister Sam Basil on Jun. 29, the department and its National Research Institute would be tasked to understand how Papua New Guineans were using Facebook — but not everyone’s convinced it’s this straightforward.

“The time will allow information to be collected to identify users that hide behind fake accounts, users that upload pornographic images, users that post false and misleading information on Facebook to be filtered and removed,” Basil said, according to the Post Courier.

“This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly.”

Basil ambitiously added he would look into the “possibility of creating a new social network site for PNG citizens to use with genuine profiles as well,” enlisting the help of local developers to create it.

But the timing and the sudden decision to do so has raised eyebrows, and not all are convinced by the PNG government’s reasoning for the block.

‘This is kinda out of nowhere’

One of these skeptics is Papua New Guinean writer and blogger Martyn Namorong, who believes the ban proposal is merely a distraction.

Namorong pointed to the policy-focused National Research Institute (NRI), who he doesn’t believe has the capability to analyse the social network. 

“They don’t employ computer geeks and all that stuff,” he said. “They could hire someone if they have the budget, but at the moment they do not have the technical capacity, and we’re not even sure it’s even within their mandate.”

A spokesperson for the NRI told ABC News it received no request from the government, nor was it working on a Facebook-related project.

Aim Sinpeng, an expert in digital media and political participation in Southeast Asia from the University of Sydney, said she doesn’t buy the reason for banning it.

“This is kinda out of nowhere, and the timeframe is strange,” she explained. 

“One month, not longer or less, and the reasoning doesn’t seem to make sense because you can do all those things by analysing information without having to shut it down. So the bigger question is, what are they actually doing with Facebook?” 

Also questioning the block is Kasek Galgal, a researcher and academic at the University of Papua New Guinea.

“I’m not sure how much they’re going to achieve what’s been described.”

“I’m not sure how much they’re going to achieve what’s been described, given the expertise and resources they’ll be able to commit to it,” he said. “From what I can gain from the general public and on PNG groups on Facebook is that there may be other motives at hand.”

One of these motives would possibly be to prevent government criticism during the APEC summit, which takes place in November.

It’s a move that government has been “strongly advised to reconsider” by the director of PNG’s Institute of National Affairs, Paul Barker, according to the Post-Courier.

Again, there are other alternatives to shutting Facebook down. The PNG government could request Facebook to hand over personal data, and the company can choose to cooperate or not, Sinpeng said. 

In its transparency report, Facebook said it received zero requests for information from PNG in the second-half of 2017. 

Mashable asked Facebook if it had received any warning of PNG’s intention to block the website, which it didn’t address. A Facebook spokesperson said it had “reached out to the Papua New Guinea government to understand their concerns.”

How Papua New Guineans use Facebook

As in many other countries, Facebook has become a way for people to discuss and consume news, especially as press freedom in the country is being increasingly challenged.

“One thing that the public has been critical of is of local, mainstream media and their reporting of issues relating to the government, and many here have sought other avenues for which they can discuss and provide discourse on the government,” Galgal said.

There’s also the matter of media distribution. Newspaper distribution is mainly concentrated in the country’s urban centres, or in other areas it’s dependent on flights, and whether there is a newsagent. 

Radio access is determined by electricity availability, and if you’re able to get a signal. But mobile penetration has been on the up in the past few years.

As of 2016, 12 percent of the Papua New Guinean population had access to the internet, a sharp rise from 2011, when it was 2 percent of the country. 

“People seem to have found innovative ways to charge their phone. That’s why Facebook is a very powerful platform for delivering news and commentary,” Namorong said.

In the Pacific and South-East Asia, the number of people on Facebook is close to the total number of people online. For many people in these regions, their first exposure to cyberspace is via Facebook.

Sinpeng said there is also an increasing trend towards purported “anti-fake news” measures, but in Asia, the onus is on the user, rather than the platform they use.

“A lot of these governments are trying to find a way to rein in what’s happening online.”

In Malaysia, an anti-fake news bill passed in April, and has already convicted one person who went to jail for a month after he criticised police on YouTube for responding too slowly to a shooting. 

The Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore considered similar bills, while India dropped its plans following concerns over free speech.

“A lot of these governments are trying to find a way to rein in what’s happening online,” Sinpeng said. She added these kinds of legislation are written in a vague manner so they aren’t specific to a platform.

“But on the other hand that gives a lot of power for governments to interpret it how they want to,” she explained.

PNG’s Cybercrime Act

In 2016, the country’s Cybercrime Act was passed into law, making offences like hacking, data interference and other improper uses of technology illegal.

These are in line with cybercrime laws in other jurisdictions, but the act also covers content offences like harassment and defamation, with concerns these could be used to quash dissent.

“They’ve created a set of legal hoops surrounding harassment, defamation of character, which already have laws that cover it,” Galgal said.

“It’s only over the past couple of years since they’ve passed the bill that they’ve been able to hold people against it, especially when it comes to their comments on social media.”

On Monday, Basil threatened a rival politician, Bryan Kramer, with arrest and a charge for harassment under the Act. 

The incident follows Kramer’s Facebook post last week, which questions the decision to ban the platform, asking “did the dumb just get dumber?” and is superimposed over an image of Basil. It’s this kind of criticism that has got the attention, and perhaps under the skin of local politicians.

“The irony for people like Sam, being in the government and being the minister of communications, his main platform for reaching political audiences is Facebook,” Namorong explained.

“He does understand the situation, and he does understand the value of Facebook.”

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