All posts in “Entertainment”

Hackers just broke into HBO’s Twitter accounts amidst weeks of security breaches

Panel for HBO's 'The Deuce' TV show.
Panel for HBO’s ‘The Deuce’ TV show.

Image: Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

The HBO hackers strike again — this time taking control of the network’s official social media accounts.

According to tweets posted on HBO’s Twitter, a group identifying themselves as OurMine breached HBO’s main account, claiming to be “testing” the security and encouraging the network to reach out for an upgrade.

The tweets were deleted shortly after being posted, and there doesn’t seem to have been any severe damage to the company this time around.

According to The New York Times, Twitter accounts for some of the network’s most popular shows like Game of Thrones and Girls were also hacked

OurMine, the group responsible for the breach, is infamous for targeting social media, and has successfully hacked Twitter accounts of Netflix, the WWE, and Marvel, to name a few. 

However, this hack is just one of many security troubles HBO has had to face in recent history. Last month, hackers successfully breached HBO’s security to gather 1.5 terabytes of data. Also, the network has endured weeks of leaked television episodes, scripts, and other significant data — the latest including everything from West World Season 2 shooting schedules to 27 separate Game of Thrones Season 7 “shooting [diaries].”

Variety reported that an exec offered a “bounty payment” $250,000 to hackers last month, however the hackers demanded around $6.5 million in Bitcoin from the network.

To make matters worse, just earlier this week on Wednesday, HBO learned that Game of Thrones episode 6, which is due to air this Sunday, had leaked online, and this time that leak appears to be HBO’s own fault. (HBO Spain accidentally made the episode available to subscribers for an hour before it was removed.)

While HBO’s latest Twitter breach isn’t necessarily related to the massive data dumps that have been occurring, the timing certainly isn’t great.

Though no financial action appears to have been taken yet to prevent additional leaks, HBO should probably figure out how to get its sh*t together soon.

Mashable reached out to HBO for comment.

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Nintendo Switch dock lets you project ‘Zelda’ onto your wall

Here comes the first Nintendo Switch dock that doesn’t require a TV.

The Ojo, from Yesojo, is a specialized Switch dock with a built-in lens that lets you project your games onto any surface. It’s also fitted with a rechargeable battery, a welcome perk for Nintendo’s hybrid gaming machine.

The company’s website is currently experiences technical difficulties, but a Kotaku UK report delivers some of the key hardware specs: 4-hour battery life, maximum projection size of 120 inches, built-in speaker, and a separate HDMI input (for connecting other video-producing devices).

Kotaku also notes that this is a pre-manufacturing product for now; Yesojo will seek crowdfunding support for the dock later this year.

While the company’s website is sparse and (at present) only partially functional, it does have a very active social media presence. Multiple photos and videos from Yesojo’s Twitter feed show the in-development Ojo in action… and it looks super cool.

There’s no price, release timing, crowdfund timing, or anything like that. So don’t get too excited… yet. But it’s cool to see some creative third-party products like this start to surface for Switch.

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‘Dota 2’ pro destroyed by AI player from an Elon Musk start-up

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Elon Musk, noted artificial intelligence worrywart, backs the tech firm behind a robot brain that was smart enough to take down a Dota 2 pro this week.

The showdown took the form of an exhibition match staged on Friday at The International 2017, an annual esports tournament. OpenAI’s Dota 2 bot faced off in a series of 1v1 matches against Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, a member of the top-tier team Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) since 2015.

It wasn’t even close.

The AI raced its way to two dominant victories before the exhibition ended. It was supposed to be a best-of-five series, but Dendi didn’t wait that long to admit defeat.

“I’m giving up,” he said with a faint smile before the final moments of the second match had fully played out. “I don’t think I’m getting it back. It’s over.”

Dendi later admitted that while the AI competitor felt distinctly human in the way it played, “at the same time, it’s something else.” 

Chilling.

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It’s important to note that 1v1 matches operate a little differently than the team-based fights in which Dendi normally participates. Though there’s a flip-side to that: OpenAI’s bot picked up enough knowledge about Dota 2 to best the game’s built-in AI after one hour.

Its debut at The International 2017? That came after two weeks of non-stop training. Compare that to Dendi’s years of experience against a variety of players and skill levels in live competitions.

OpenAI robo-brain clearly came out of the exhibition looking like the stronger player, but the tech company isn’t quite finished. An accompanying video notes that the bot is still a work-in-progress. The goal is to eventually assemble a full team of AI bots for 5v5 matches and, further down the road, to mix AI players in with human players on a single team.

As you weigh all of this, remember again: Elon Musk, AI fearmonger extraordinaire, is an OpenAI founder. 

Teaching a robot brain to play battle-oriented strategy games… what could go wrong?

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9GAG CEO Ray Chan: ‘Building a healthy community is a never-ending battle’


If you enjoy getting lost in memes and social media, you’ve undoubtedly stumbled across 9GAG at some point. 9GAG is a Hong Kong-based site that hosts and distributes funny pictures, videos and memes. In terms of audience, it’s up there with content hosting and distribution sites like UNILAD and LADBible. With 41.1 million Instagram followers, 9GAG is one of the largest media entertainment brands on Instagram globally.

So what exactly goes into the operations behind a company whose sole mission is to make internet fun more accessible?

Here’s what Ray Chan, CEO and co-founder of 9GAG, and COO Lillian Leong, had to say about audience development, global humor and what it’s like to run a media startup from Hong Kong. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

TC: 9GAG is one of the most-followed, most-engaged-with sites and social accounts across Facebook and Instagram. How did it get started?

RC: We started the website in 2008. The original thought we had was, “Could we just release funny content to look at?” At that time, Facebook was not that popular. We just made our own website with funny pictures and funny videos on it. We thought about it as a side project for a few years, never as a business. It was more like a hobby at the beginning. But then we joined 500 Startups in 2011, and then raised funding. After that, we joined Y Combinator in 2012.

TC: You have 41.1 million followers on Instagram and 36.5 million page “likes” on Facebook. Which social platforms are the most interesting to you right now?

RC:  When you look at social media, it always has ups and downs. I think Instagram is definitely still very interesting. Stories and live videos are something our team keeps an eye on. If you talk about all the accounts, we are in the top 30 most-followed. If you take away celebrities, then we are number six.

TC: 9GAG is popular on American social networks, but many of these networks are restricted in China. Do you try to target Chinese users, despite that your main audience exists elsewhere?

RC: Since we are based in Hong Kong, we are able to see what’s popular in China. But Hong Kong is different from other parts of China. It’s very easy for us to understand the U.S. culture. But the big players in the Southeast Asian markets are Line and Kakao in South Korea. Most of them are backed by Chinese internet companies, and somehow we also see a trend in that a lot of U.S. apps are inspired by them. The Chinese apps like WeChat can do a lot more.

But we haven’t actively targeted the Chinese market. We have 150 million monthly active users, but a lot of these users are not in China. Most of our users are from the U.S. and Germany. Our site has not yet launched in China. But it looks like the second biggest video adoption market is China. YouTube is blocked, so we are all desperately seeking video content.

TC: Do humans or algorithms determine what’s trending on 9GAG.com? How do you choose what to further distribute on your social channels?

RC: All of our content is submitted by users. Sometimes they create their own content, which we encourage. Sometimes they find content from other websites. But we always give credit back to the original creator.

We rely heavily on our community to up-vote and down-vote the content, and we also look at the engagement of the post. For example, if you get a lot of comments and a lot of shares, and then we pick it, it will rise to a more popular page, which we call trending. We have a small team of eight humans who pick what to share with everyone on social media platforms.

TC: What metrics do you use to define success?

RC: We look at Facebook Insights and Instagram metrics. We also measure video views. But what’s more interesting is that we have kind of this secret mission of introducing content from one part of the world to another part of the world.

The mainstream entertainment is always from Hollywood, but there’s some interesting content and good creators from Japan, from Thailand, from the Philippines. We want to help them, too, because we feel like they are under-resourced. That’s where we, as a platform, want to do more.

TC: How would you describe the similarities in your audience’s sense of humor across different regions of the world? 

RC: For our website, the top countries are the U.S., Germany, and number three is the Netherlands. Then France. So it’s pretty international. One thing we discovered is that across different countries, people and cultures, users still understand each other’s humor. The jokes shared by one person in one country are still funny to someone in a different country based not on their location but on their life experiences.

One example is that when students are graduating from college, they are focused on the same things no matter what country they are from. They care about getting a job, family problems, and romantic relationships, too. College students relate to each other about exams and homework. They face similar challenges in their life, right? That’s why they can resonate with people in other countries, and they find it amazing that, “Hey, how come you’re from Brazil but understand my pain?” I think this humor helps us have an international community. Experiences like these change your life, your view, and your sense of humor.

TC: Humor is great escapism, but the internet is a resource for millennials to learn about politics, technology and current events, too. Do you think that humor is more engaging than tragedy?

LL: Both humor and tragedy are popular genres in entertainment. Comparatively, it’s easier and quicker for humor to thrive in the internet space, particularly in social/viral videos. Humor needs a twist to build up the joke. Tragedy needs a context and plot, which requires a longer time to build up storytelling. We see humor as a lifestyle, embraced by our global audience. Fun isn’t necessarily in conflict with politics, technology and timely events.

TC: Humor is subjective, especially across a global audience like yours. Jokes can easily verge into racist and sexist territory. How do you determine when content is inappropriate or falls under the category of hate speech? 

RC: That’s a tough challenge. Humor is very personal. Some people have a very bad sense of humor. It also depends on their culture. If you are from Germany, you may be more sensitive to Nazi jokes than a person from China is. Sensitive topics come up, but what we see is that our users completely understand that. They are pretty open, they don’t have a very strong sense of discrimination. They are really supportive and open towards other cultures. If you take away the content, they’re smart people and learn from a healthy community.

TC: What would you do if someone created a meme making a joke about terrorism and it got a bunch of up-votes on 9GAG? 

RC: First of all, these are user created. So you will have content like hate speech and discriminatory posts slip through the system. Some of this content is stolen from other sites. But our active community reports that content. In our system, our attendants look at it and they determine, “Hey, this is something offensive.” Then we just remove it. It’s kind of like a rule for society. You can’t limit content, but you can respond very quickly to take it down before it hurts people. Building a healthy community is a never-ending battle.

TC: What’s it like being a startup based in Hong Kong? How would you describe the accessibility of venture capital and tech talent?

RC: Challenging. But if it’s easy, it’s not fun. If you want capital and talent hard enough, you can still get it in Hong Kong. But you may have to work harder than the people in Silicon Valley. I see it as a fun challenge. In Hong Kong the running cost of a company is generally lower. If you’re building hardware it will be easier for you to go back to China to get prototypes. In San Francisco there’s tons of talent and easy access to capital, but the cost is very high. I don’t think any city or any country is a perfect place to build a startup.

I feel like in Hong Kong, people are generally very entrepreneurial. Hong Kong is a very small city but it’s a global city, a top finance city in the world. So the living standard is very high. I think it proves that people in Hong Kong are very good at problem solving. But we do have teammates from other parts of the world, but we are intentionally small. Nowadays, you don’t necessarily need a big team to build a big impact.

It’s two sides of the same coin though, challenge and opportunity. When startups succeed, it helps students know that after graduation, they don’t have to work for the government or work in a bank. There are other interesting opportunities for them in a different industry.

TC: What’s next for 9GAG?

RC: In terms of features, we’re incorporating video uploads and views, where previously we were focused on pictures and GIFs. We are interested in using tagging features. We also want to build a larger network of creators. But the goal is to expose people to different types of fun. Right now, not everybody knows 9GAG. We want to make it so that when millennials think about fun on the internet, they think about 9GAG instantly.

Facebook acquires Source3 to get content creators paid


Facebook is on the cusp of a big push to lure independent content creators to share their art through the News Feed. But it needs to prove it can help creators monetize their content without allowing piracy to run rampant. That’s why it’s acquired content rights management startup Source3, including its team and technology.

The startup explains that “At Source3, we set out to recognize, organize and analyze branded intellectual property in user-generated content, and we are proud to have identified products across a variety of areas including sports, music, entertainment and fashion.” Its technology allowed it to recognize brand IP in user-created content and commerce marketplaces, allowing brands to measure their presence or take action against infringers of their copyrights and trademarks.

Now Facebook spokesperson Vanessa Chan tells TechCrunch, “We’re excited to work with the Source3 team and learn from the expertise they’ve built in intellectual property, trademarks and copyright.” Source3 announced the deal on its site, which was spotted by Recode. The company wrote, “we’ve decided to continue our journey with Facebook,” and its team will work at Facebook’s NYC office.

Source3 had raised more than $4 million, mostly from a seed round in 2015 led by Contour Venture Partners. Co-founders Patrick F. SullivanBenjamin Cockerham and Scott Sellwood previously sold their music rights management platform RightsFlow to Google. Source3 was founded in New York in 2014 originally as a 3D printing rights management company. But after 3D printing plateaued in the consumer market, it appears to have widened its scope to digital entertainment.

The team and technology could augment Facebook’s Rights Manager software, which works like YouTube’s Content ID to allow creators to fingerprint their videos, and then either block unauthorized uploads of them to Facebook or collect the revenue share from these unofficial copies. Source3 could potentially help brands and creators identify unapproved appearances of their content or IP through Rights Manager.

Last month at VidCon, Facebook announced it’s building a special standalone app just for creators to share content with their fans. While Facebook already has the biggest audience, with 2 billion monthly users, it must prove that it can pay creators enough to make investing in their presence on the social network worth the effort.

One opportunity to do that would be using Source3’s technology to recognize brands worn or used by these web celebrities, and connect them to those brands or similar ones to strike sponsored content or product placement deals. Facebook could take a cut of these deals, allowing it to monetize creators’ content without jamming in more interruptive ads.

With Vine’s demise, Snapchat’s slow growth and YouTube’s kerfuffle with advertisers amidst the PewDiePie scandal, Facebook and Instagram are well-positioned to become central hubs for content creators trying to reach fans. The question is whether Facebook, built for friends’ photos and news links, can adapt to the unique needs of tomorrow’s mobile mini-movie stars.