Facebook’s fight against fake news is actually working. Sort of.

Facebook’s promise to fight fake news is finally starting to work. Well, sort of. It depends on where you look. 

Almost two years after the company vowed to start taking its fake news problem seriously, some of those efforts are beginning to pay off, even if things aren’t moving nearly fast enough for some.

The social network has introduced a new series called “The Hunt for False News,” which includes specific examples of widely shared fake news on the platform. 

It’s partly a status update on the company’s efforts to fight misinformation and partly an effort at instilling a bit more media literacy in users (assuming they think to check Facebook’s official blog posts in the first place). The initial post provides three examples of fake news stories that have made the rounds on Facebook over the last several months:

  • A story titled “NASA will pay you $100,000 to stay in bed for 60 days!” (Spoiler: they won’t.) 

  • A video captioned “Man from Saudi spits in the face of the poor receptionist at a Hospital in London then attacks other staff.” (The video was old and originated in Kuwait.)

  • A photo that falsely identified a man as the attacker who stabbed a candidate in Brazil’s upcoming presidential election.

All of the stories were eventually debunked by Facebook’s third-party fact checkers and demoted in News Feed. But not before these items were shared. In the case of the fake story about NASA, the story still “racked up millions of views on Facebook,” before it was debunked.

“We’re getting better at detecting and enforcing against false news, even as perpetrators’ tactics continue to evolve. And while we caught and reduced the distribution of many pieces of misinformation on Facebook this summer, there are still some we miss,” writes Facebook product manager Antonia Woodford.

“We’re getting better at detecting and enforcing against false news, even as perpetrators’ tactics continue to evolve.”

On the whole, Woodford says that Facebook is getting better and better at stopping the spread of fake news. Elsewhere, academic studies have also suggested the company’s efforts have been paying off. A September study found that websites peddling fake news have seen significant drops in Facebook engagement since 2016 — results  Facebook has also touted as proof its fake news initiatives are working. 

But while progress may be being made, experts have pointed out that there are still serious issues with Facebook’s approach: There simply aren’t enough third-party fact checkers to keep up with the constant flood of misinformation, for one.

Consider this, from a story this week in The Wall Street Journal, which detailed the experiences of some of Facebook’s fact-check partners, including Factcheck.org (emphasis added):

Out of Factcheck’s full-time staff of eight people, two focus specifically on Facebook. On average, they debunk less than one Facebook post a day. Some of the other third-party groups reported similar volumes. None of the organizations said they had received special instructions from Facebook ahead of the midterms, or perceived a sense of heightened urgency.

Reading this, it’s not difficult to understand why it’s so hard for fact checkers to address false information before it’s widely distributed in Facebook’s News Feed. It’s always going to be faster to share something that’s inflammatory and wrong than it is to professionally debunk it. Which brings up another issue: How many people who see or share a fake news story also see its debunking, which can come days or even weeks later? 

Facebook has said that it notifies users and page administrators when a story they had previously shared is debunked by a fact checker, but that hardly guarantees they’ll actually see the message (particularly in an era when there’s an overwhelming amount of spammy Facebook notifications to begin with). It also does nothing to address those who may have seen the original post somewhere on Facebook but didn’t turn around and share it themselves. 

These issues are even more amplified in countries where false information is especially prevalent and Facebook is particularly influential. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported on the impossible task facing Facebook’s fact checkers in the Philippines.

There, fact checkers not only can’t keep up with the pace of false information, but also, they regularly deal with death threats and other harassment, according to the report. 

The same is true in Brazil, where fact checkers are using WhatsApp to try to counter rampant fake news ahead of the country’s elections. (These efforts aren’t going nearly far enough, according to many experts.)

Facebook, for its part, is aware that it has to keep doing more, even if it can’t wipe fake news out entirely. 

“Because it’s evolving, we’ll never be able to catch every instance of false news — though we can learn from the things we do miss. As a company, one of our biggest priorities is understanding the total volume of misinformation on Facebook and seeing that number trend downward,” product manager Tessa Lyons writes.

So while there is reason to be optimistic about Facebook’s efforts to get ahead of fake news, the problem is still far from solved.

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It’s about time! A USB-C magnetic charger for the Apple Watch has finally arrived

Apple Watch Series 4 Review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

While most of the recent buzz surrounding Apple has been about the iPhone XR, the company has also introduced a new accessory to its lineup for the Apple Watch. First spotted by 9to5 Mac, a USB-C charger for the smartwatch is currently listed on Apple’s site and will be available starting October 24.

Featuring a 0.3-meter cable and coming in at $29, the new Apple Watch charger doesn’t look any different than its predecessors, you’ll now be able to purchase an Apple Watch charger that’s compatible with current MacBook models — aside from the MacBook Air.

apple watch usb c charger

The news comes only a day after Apple sent out invites to its hardware event on October 30, where the company is expected to debut its new iPad Pro, as well as new Mac models. While any rumors have yet to be confirmed, it’s been reported that the iPad Pro will ditch the Lightning port for USB-C as well — but we’ll have to wait until the end of the month for any concrete information.

The new charger also arrives just in time for those who purchased an Apple Watch following the release of the Apple Watch Series 4, which boasts a few new features. Since there’s a 30-percent larger display and a redesigned modular watch face, users can see more detailed information like stocks, heart rate, track scores, and more. The smartwatch also has the ability to screen your heart rhythm in the background and send you a notification if it detects irregular rhythm — which could point to atrial fibrillation.

Battery life on the Series 4 remains the same, with 18-hour all-day battery life. Apple increased outdoor workout time to 6 hours, with full GPS tracking for long bike rides. In our review of the smartwatch, we found that with only notifications turned on and shutting it off overnight, it was able to last close to 24 hours — but that’s without GPS, fitness tracking, or cellular.

As for the new USB-C charger, 9to5Mac notes that it won’t charge your Apple Watch quicker than the Type-A since the induction charger on the back of the Apple Watch remains the same. But it will be far more convenient for those who use their MacBooks as a power source.

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Super Deluxe gets shut down by Turner, again

Super Deluxe, Turner Broadcasting’s home for wonderfully weird and wacky comedy, is shutting down. Deadline reports that Turner Media decided to axe the internet-turned-TV comedy hub 12 years after the company was first acquired. Super Deluxe helped start the careers of some of today’s best comedians, including Maria Bamford and Tim Heidecker.

This isn’t the first time Turner has shut down Super Deluxe. After launching in 2006, Super Deluxe was rolled into Adult Swim in 2008. Turner decided to bring it back as a standalone network about three years ago, with a focus on creating longer-form TV series.

Super Deluxe co-founder Shahruz Shaukat confirmed the news on Twitter earlier today, adding in a follow-up tweet that the team had known “since the beginning of the year basically.”

Turner’s statement to Deadline about the decision to shut down Super Deluxe said there had been issues regarding “duplication with other business units in our new WarnerMedia portfolio.”

“Super Deluxe found inspiring ways of connecting with a new generation and many of their best practices will be adopted by other Turner properties as we redirect this investment back into our portfolio,” the statement reads.

AT&T, which merged with Time Warner earlier this year, is gearing up to launch a streaming service with multiple WarnerMedia networks.

Google is using software to make the Pixel 3’s screen corners even rounder

Google is extending its design atheistic that favors subtle, rounded corners even further by manually adjusting the Pixel 3’s screen corners during start up, as first spotted by an eagle-eyed Reddit user earlier today. Material Theme, an updated version of the company’s software design philosophy, is the driving force behind the Gmail and Chrome redesigns of late, and you’ll notice it most prevalently in the new Chrome tab design that eschews rough and pronounced corners for software, rounded ones.

Google isn’t going so far as to turn the edges of the Pixel 3 display into Chrome tabs, but it is using a subtle software trick to “shrink” the radius of each corner of the display to produce more rounded corners. The radii change means that the Pixel 3 screen isn’t using the available screen real estate at its absolute maximum, though it’s a pretty much an imperceptible cutoff unless you closely observe the change during the phone’s start up phase.

In the GIF below, you can see the corner soften a few moments after the device is initially turned on:

Notably, Google isn’t doing this on the Pixel 3 XL, as best as we can tell from rebooting The Verge’s review model numerous times. That’s interesting mostly because some people have commented on the lack of consistency between the top and bottom display curve on the larger version. Theoretically, it sounds like Google could do something on the software side to make the corners match, but it doesn’t look like that will happen unless a ton of users really complain about it. Still, some people have noticed:

Some users in the Reddit thread mentioned above note that the same screen corner alteration occurs on the Pixel 2 XL, but that would make sense considering both the Pixel 2 XL and standard Pixel 3 have similar-shaped displays and lack the edge-to-edge look of the Pixel 3 XL.

Either way, this isn’t something that will affect anyone’s ability to use the standard Pixel 3 or any visual experience on the device. It’s mostly just a small little quirk that shows Google’s aesthetic tastes when it comes to corner design.

How to view your notification history on Android

If you’ve used Android for quite some time, it’s likely you’ve mistakenly swiped away a notification or two for one reason or another. Maybe you’re swiping in a hurry like my colleague Dieter Bohn, or you accidentally cleared everything in the notification drawer without meaning to, or maybe you just wonder where all your notifications go, and if there’s a historical list of them, after you’ve dismissed them.

But don’t worry, as you can find everything from missed messages, emails, app updates, and even system messages in the stock Notification Log option. You can also use Unnotification on any Android 8.0+ phone to bring back your last dismissed notification. Both methods are lifesavers if you’ve missed an urgent message from work or your family and don’t know which app you need to open first to find the missed alert.

Just remember that every Android phone may not have the stock Notification Log. I’ve tested this shortcut on the Google Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, and Razer Phone 2 — all phones with stock or near-stock versions of Android. The Samsung Galaxy S9 and LG G7 didn’t have the log listed anywhere within Android’s system settings. But there is a workaround for this, as pointed out on Twitter by Artem Russakovskii from Android Police.

For phones that don’t have the default log (or if you want a more user-friendly experience), you can also download Unnotification. The app brings back your last dismissed notification, as well as your notification history. You can find the app on the Play Store.

How to look at your notification history on stock Android

  1. Long press anywhere on your home screen
  2. Select widgets at the bottom of the screen
  3. Scroll down and tap the “Settings shortcut” widget
  4. Tap “Notification Log”
  5. Place the widget on your home screen
  6. Tap the widget and scroll through your past notifications

Apple CEO demands Bloomberg retract its Chinese surveillance story

Apple had long denied that it had purchased compromised servers manufactured in China that would have made it a victim to government surveillance after Bloomberg Businessweek broke the story, and now CEO Tim Cook is demanding the publication to retract its report. The publication alleged that the compromised servers, discovered as early as 2015, would have given China a backdoor into the private networks of U.S. corporations and government agencies and that Apple had severed its relationship with San Jose, California-based Super Micro as a result of this breach of trust.

“I feel they should retract their story,” Cook told Buzzfeed about the Bloomberg story. “There is no truth in their story about Apple. They need to do that right thing.” Cook also took issue at lack of evidence in Bloomberg’s report. Cook said that Bloomberg reporters did not provide his company with specific details about the chips that were alleged to have been discovered and removed.

Following Bloomberg’s report, Apple conducted a thorough internal investigation, with Cook claiming that Apple “turned the company upside down.” Ultimately, Apple was unable to find any evidence after “email searches, data center records, financial records, shipment records.”

“I was involved in our response to this story from the beginning,” Cook told Buzzfeed. “I personally talked to the Bloomberg reporters along with Bruce Sewell, who was then our general counsel. We were very clear with them that this did not happen, and answered all their questions. Each time they brought this up to us, the story changed, and each time we investigated we found nothing.”

Bloomberg claimed that Apple, Amazon, and as many as 30 U.S. businesses and government agencies, had purchased compromised servers from Super Micro that contained an embedded chip allowing Chinese surveillance. Apple, Amazon, and Super Micro also refuted Bloomberg’s story following their own internal investigations.

Cook’s denial mirrors earlier statements released by Apple Vice President of Information Security George Stathakopoulos in a prior letter sent to U.S. lawmakers addressing the issue.

“Apple’s proprietary security tools are continuously scanning for precisely this kind of outbound traffic, as it indicates the existence of malware or other malicious activity. Nothing was ever found,” he wrote in the letter to both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, quoted by Reuters. Apple’s assertions were previously supported by Britain’s Cyber Security Center and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Bloomberg defended its story, noting that its report was a result of more than a year of investigation and conducting more than 100 interviews. “Seventeen individual sources, including government officials and insiders at the companies, confirmed the manipulation of hardware and other elements of the attacks,” Bloomberg Businessweek told Buzzfeed. “We also published three companies’ full statements, as well as a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We stand by our story and are confident in our reporting and sources.”

Updated on October 19, 2018: Apple CEO Tim Cook refutes the Bloomberg story, demands a retraction. 

Lime’s new e-scooter will tell you where you can’t park

Lime has some new wheels.

The company’s Generation 3 e-scooter is more tech-savvy and sturdy than the last model. It’s coming out in some cities next month and will roll out to every city Lime operates in (currently more than 100) in early 2019. 

The new scooter has bigger wheels, a wider body, and a better suspension system and braking. But it’s the 2.8-inch color screen that will hopefully help cities with its scooter problems, like blocked walkways and cluttered entryways to businesses.

The display shows your speed and battery capacity, but it can also share riding safety tips, like wear a helmet or only one person per scooter. (If only it could tell you not to hack your scooter to look like this or this.) 

But here’s what annoyed residents and businesses will really be happy about: the screen will use the scooter’s GPS to tell riders where they can’t park. Some cities have marked geo-fenced areas as no-parking zones. The new screens will make it clearer to riders when they’re setting scooters down where they’re not wanted. 

No parking!

No parking!

Image: LIME

Also, through sensors and GPS, Lime is working on using the screen to tell you it knows you’re riding on the sidewalk instead of the street. It seems unlikely that’ll do anything to detract from illegal sidewalk-riding, but it’s worth a shot.

The screen could also one day be a navigation tool and customizable with your ride history and other info displayed.

The scooters also have a glowing LED neon light that shows battery level from afar: green for full, yellow if partially charged, and red for discharged. This is supposed to help Lime’s independent contractors who charge the scooters (known as Juicers) to easily identify scooters that need some juice. And as a rider it’ll let you know if you can get far on that motorized scooter or if it’ll die on your way to the grocery store. Its bigger battery is supposed to have a 30-mile range. So get scooting.

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Angee’s security service switches from sales to subscriptions

We’ve written about Angee before — it’s a smart home security device-slash-service that raised more than half a million dollars in its crowdfunding campaign. Now it appears that the multinational startup is pivoting to a subscription model instead of simply selling its security hardware to smart home users.

Billing its new offering as a “cloud subscription service,” Angee has shifted from selling its $300-ish home security hub to offering it with no upfront hardware or installation costs for subscriptions that start at $17 per month.

“We are very excited about the launch of our subscription service as we believe it is addressing the needs of millions of U.S. households looking for smart, plug & play security,” Angee CEO Tomas Turek said in a release.

In a smart home market dominated by a wave of new security devices, smart cameras, and even body heat sensors, Angee is making a bold move by selling smart home security as a service, rather than as a product. There are definitely some advantages to Angee’s approach: No complex installations, long-term contracts or dependencies on installation labor.

Angee has already started fulfilling its Kickstarter and Indiegogo-based pre-orders, so no word on how that will affect those customers.

The Angee home security system uses a proprietary 360-degree camera and motion-detection tags to monitor any home, in concert with an app that logs activity in the home for the user to monitor. Currently, the two subscription plans are “Basic,” at $17 per month, and “Extended,” which adds an additional two motion-detection tags for $20 per month. Both plans offer unlimited cloud storage, the hardware unit that includes the camera, access to real-time alerts, and more. Users can cancel their plan at any time.

The company initially planned to launch Angee as a hardware device that would retail at more than $400, so the decision to pivot to a subscription model is definitely a strategic one. The company still faces significant competition from Nest, Canary, and similar startup projects aimed at the smart home security market.

Other notable features of the hardware include a built-in battery that enables the system to operate during power outages, voice control, day-and-night modes that can tell the difference between a midnight snack and a break-in, and the ability to differentiate between humans and pets.

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Facebook introduces ‘Hunt for False News’ series in attempt to be transparent about misinformation

Misinformation masquerading as news that spreads via Facebook isn’t a recently developed problem for the company, but a new series is trying to open up about what the team at Facebook is doing.

Antonia Woodford, product manager at Facebook, published the first “Hunt for False News” blog post today, examining three false stories that circulated on the site before they were debunked. Two of the stories were caught by Facebook and third-party fact-checkers, but the last story was completely missed. The point of the series is to be more transparent with users about how stories circulate on Facebook, especially in the wake of fake news around election periods being a continuous talking point.

Each story Woodford addresses in the blog post is slightly different, and she acknowledges why bad actors would use certain methods of sharing posts to spread misinformation. The first story, for example, was a video of a man wearing a headscarf who appeared to spit on a woman. Although the video was real, an AFP report confirmed it didn’t match the misleading attached caption — “Man from Saudi spits in the face of the poor receptionist at a Hospital in London then attacks other staff.” This didn’t happen. These types of false captions are also used to spread hateful messages, according to Woodford.

“These posts are often used to fuel xenophobic sentiments and are often targeted at migrants and refugees, as the International Fact-Checking Network — the association that certifies the third-party fact-checkers we partner with — has explained,” Woodford’s post reads.

Just because a story is proved to be false doesn’t mean Facebook’s team stops it from being shared completely, though. Woodford wrote that after the AFP report proved the circulating video was real, but the caption was intentionally misleading and false, it led Facebook’s team to “reduce its distribution in News Feed.”

The second story focused on a similar form of misinformation. A photo was spread of a man alleged by the poster to be the main suspect in an attack on Brazilian politician Jair Bolsonaro. The story surrounding the photo turned out to be false thanks to fact-checker Aos Fatos, and Facebook took action to demote the image in News Feed.

In neither circumstance did Woodford address whether Facebook removed the entire post.

The last story is far less harmful, but still demonstrates how misinformation can spread on Facebook. A viral story about NASA paying people $100,000 to spend six days in bed quickly circulated in 2017. Facebook didn’t catch it. It wasn’t until July 2018 that Politifact investigated the story and discovered the main claim was false. Woodford addressed that Facebook is still learning how to combat fake news, combining third-party fact-checkers and machine learning algorithms to spot stories before they go viral or can inflict major harm.

“In this particular case, we were able to identify this older article that had been circulating on Facebook for months, using an improved similarity detection process we’ve implemented,” Woodford wrote. “It took us too long to enforce against this piece, and we continue to develop new technology to catch these kinds of stories in the future, before they go viral.”

The 2018 midterms are just around the corner, and Facebook’s ability to stop fake news and misinformation from spreading will become more crucial than ever.