Man sued for using bogus YouTube takedowns to get address for swatting

Found on Ars Technica on Saturday, 24 August 2019
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Brady allegedly made fraudulent takedown notices against YouTube videos from at least three well-known Minecraft streamers.

A few days after filing a counter-notice, the targeted YouTuber "announced via Twitter that he had been the victim of a swatting scheme."

YouTube's accusations against Brady appear to be in a totally different category: straight-up fraud. That could allow YouTube to score a quick victory and thereby strike some fear into the hearts of others thinking about abusing YouTube's takedown system.

Sounds like Brady isn't the brightest lamp out there.

Amazon Has Ceded Control of Its Site

Found on Slashdot on Friday, 23 August 2019
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Amazon has increasingly evolved like a flea market. It exercises limited oversight over items listed by millions of third-party sellers, many of them anonymous, many in China, some offering scant information.

The Journal commissioned tests of 10 children's products it bought on Amazon, many promoted as "Amazon's Choice." Four failed tests based on federal safety standards, according to the testing company, including one with lead levels that exceeded federal limits. Of the 4,152 products the Journal identified, 46% were listed as shipping from Amazon warehouses.

Amazon had lost it long ago. The shop has turned into a useless mess and with a lack of consistent and available filtering options it is pointless to try and order something there.

Gmail in G Suite now uses AI for inline spelling and grammar suggestions

Found on Venturebeat on Thursday, 22 August 2019
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Starting August 20 for rapid release domains and September 12 for scheduled release domains across all G Suite editions, Google will begin applying AI to make real-time spell-check suggestions while detecting potential grammar issues.

Grammar suggestions built on Smart Reply, a machine learning-powered feature that uses AI to generate brief, contextually relevant responses to incoming messages.

Another way to look at is that it makes people dumber because you only need to somehow get your idea across well enough for the AI to do the fine polish.

Potentially Big News: Top CEOs Realizing That 'Maximizing Shareholder Value' Isn't A Great Idea

Found on Techdirt on Wednesday, 21 August 2019
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Conceptually, maximizing shareholder value makes some sense, but only if you don't think about it for more than a few minutes. Because the whole thing falls apart as soon as you ask "over what time frame?"

Taking a longer term view suggests that "maximizing" profits in the short run is likely to create significant problems in the long run, whether it be competition or customers annoyed at you and the like.

Perhaps much bigger news is that the Business Roundtable, a gathering of top CEOs, has now put out a letter saying that shareholder value cannot and should not be the only focus of a corporation.

In the past the boss of a company either started it, or worked the way up from apprentice level. Today, managers who have no real background knowledge about the company itself get hired to maximize its value; then when everything begins to topple over, they leave and move on to the next victim; and with a resume showing how much success they had at previous companies.

Google wants to reduce lifespan for HTTPS certificates to one year

Found on ZD Net on Tuesday, 20 August 2019
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No vote was held on the proposal; however, most browser vendors expressed their support for the new SSL certificate lifespan.

On the other side, certificate authorities were not too happy, to say the least. In the last decade and a half, browser makers have chipped away at the lifespan of SSL certificates, cutting it down from eight years to five, then to three, and then to two.

"If the CAs vote this measure down, there's a chance the browsers could act unilaterally and just force the change anyway," HashedOut said. "That's not without precendent, but it's also never happened on an issue that is traditionally as collegial as this.

Google is trying to grab too much. Browsers don't have any reason to meddle with the systems behind TLS/SSL. It's the job of the CA to take care of that, and the customer should always have the last word. If someone wants a 5 year TLS certificate, why not? Don't even think about LE; it's not the perfect solution for every case.

They called you a troll, deal with it—court slaps down libel lawsuit

Found on Ars Technica on Monday, 19 August 2019
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Automated Transactions LLC (ATL) is a small firm known for its aggressive enforcement of broad patents related to automated teller machines. Numerous critics labeled ATL a patent troll, and in 2016 the firm sued several of them in New Hampshire state courts, arguing that the label was defamatory.

New Hampshire's Supreme Court ruled that calling someone a "troll" was just such a statement of opinion—and so it can't be defamatory.

In the 1990s, ATL founder David Barcelou invented a machine for automated gaming that made cash payouts to winners. While his invention never became commercially successful, he patented some of the underlying concepts—including patents related to the process of paying out cash to customers.

The patent system is obviously completely broken if you can patent giving cash to a customer.

The world's first solar road has turned out to be a colossal failure

Found on Business Insider on Sunday, 18 August 2019
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The unfortunate truth is that this road is in such a poor state, it isn't even worth repairing. Last May, a 100-meter stretch had deteriorated to such a state that it had to be demolished.

Despite costing up to roughly $6.1 million, the solar road became operational in 2016 — 75% of the panels were broken before being installed, it doesn't generate any energy, it can't be driven on, and 83% of its panels are broken, according to Daily Caller.

Such a massive failure raises the question if any serious scientists or engineers were asked before starting the project, or if it was just a politicial decision of blind actionism in order "to do something cool".

WeWork IPO filing shows it's losing nearly $5,200 per customer

Found on CBS News on Saturday, 17 August 2019
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WeWork's corporate parent We Company revealed in documents for its upcoming initial public offering that the office-share company lost more than $1.3 billion from its operations in the first half of this year.

"It is an interesting parallel with the dotcom companies," said Greg Kyle, director at the Bates Group who helped publicize the staggering losses being run-up by Internet start-ups during the late 1990s dotcom craze. "They're following the same pattern, in terms of spending to acquire customers. For some, like Amazon and Ebay, it worked out, but for many others much less so."

For some people it looks like a big failure, but for some CEO, this is pure gold.

How Bad Is Pakistan's Plastic Bag Problem? See For Yourself

Found on NPR on Friday, 16 August 2019
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Over more than a decade, Pakistani provinces have repeatedly imposed bans on single-use plastic bags made out of polyethylene (also called polythene), but those bans have faltered.

When the ban takes effect on Aug. 14, residents may be fined about $70 for being caught using a bag — nearly a month's wages for a laborer. Manufacturers will face larger fines for making plastic bags, as will shops for distributing them.

That's an approach that would be welcomed world-wide; and really needed too.

With Tumblr Sale, Verizon Continues To Stumble In Bungled Pivot Away From Telecom

Found on Techdirt on Thursday, 15 August 2019
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By late last year Verizon was forced to acknowledge that its Oath entity was effectively worthless. And this week, Verizon issued a statement saying that it would be selling Tumblr to WordPress owner Automattic after a rocky ownership stretch.

Companies like Verizon are good at two things: running networks, and lobbying government to hamstring broadband competition. Every time Verizon has tried to stumble outside of its core competencies (whether it's running its own app store, its VCast apps, or the Go90 fracas), Verizon has fallen flat on its face, because as a government-pampered telecom monopoly, innovation, disruption, and pleasing customers are alien phrenology.

Maybe Verizon should show some interest in Facebook...