Tumblr Confirms That Russian Trolls Spread Misinformation On Its Service

Tumblr confirmed on Friday that Russian trolls spread misinformation on the blogging service in prelude to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Tumbler, part of the Verizon Communications’-owned Oath media group, said it discovered last fall that 84 accounts were linked to the Internet Research Agency. This Russian propaganda outfit was one of the groups identified in a recent Justice Department indictment alleging the Kremlin’s role in spreading fake news through popular social media services to increase division among Americans and interfere with the 2016 presidential elections.

Tumblr’s confirmation that Russia-linked groups misused its service follows a similar admission by social media forum operator Reddit in early March. The IRA and other Russian-linked entities were also alleged by the DOJ to have spread fake news and misleading online advertising on social networks like Facebook (fb) and Twitter (twtr).

Tumblr said that after discovering the questionable accounts, it contacted U.S. law enforcement, terminated the accounts, and deleted the posts, the contents of which Tumblr did not describe. The Russian-linked Tumblr accounts spread misinformation via “organic content,” or conventional postings, rather than online ads, Tumblr said.

The blogging service said it worked “behind the scenes” with the DOJ and provided information that led to the Justice Department’s indictment, revealed in February.

“Remember, the IRA and other state-sponsored disinformation campaigns play off our zero-sum politics,” Tumblr said in a statement. “They want to drive a wedge between us so that we spend our time fighting with each other instead of building towards the future. We’ll be watching for signs of future activity, but the best defense is knowing how they operate and how to judge the content you see.”

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Tumblr said it would notify users who interacted with any of the IRA-linked accounts and that it would keep a public record of usernames associated with those accounts. Some of the IRA-linked usernames include 1-800-gloup, best-usa-today, ricordio, and stopropaganda, according to a separate Tumblr post.

7 Excuses You Use to Put Off Starting Your Business

I have talked with hundreds of people about starting a business. People often tell me would love to start a business–then follow up with a list of reasons why they aren’t able to take the first step. From “I’m not good enough” to “not enough savings” and everything in between, there are many reasons starting a business can feel impossible.

And I understand. Starting a business feels overwhelming. Though I knew from my first lemonade stand that startup life was for me, it took me years of hesitating before I finally took the plunge. Here are the seven common reasons you might be hesitating–and seven ways to overcome these fears.

1. I don’t know how.

The beauty of business is that you can learn everything as you go from web resources, books, and peers. Most libraries have a business desk staffed with knowledgeable librarians who specialize in helping people just like you get started with business planning. Many libraries have free online access to the Lynda.com training database so you can learn online free and at your own pace. When I first started my company, Google was my best friend–anything I didn’t know was only a few clicks away. 

With increasing numbers of people working for themselves, chances are you know at least one person who is self-employed. Take them for coffee, ask them how they got started. It doesn’t have to be in the same industry. Ask for introductions to other entrepreneurs they know.

2. I’m too young or too old.

I hear twentysomethings say they’re too young and sixty somethings say they’re too old. But it doesn’t matter. The average American will change careers 5-7 times. That’s careers, not jobs. Age is truly one of the most meaningless measures of readiness. You can learn new things, you can adapt to change, and you can start a business at any age. You’re never too young or too old do change your life and start something you’re proud of.

3. What if I fail?

I fail frequently and you will, too. Get comfortable with the reality that 99 percent of everything you do won’t work. But the 1 percent that does work is magical.

4. My parents don’t support my startup dreams.

There are a lot of difficult dynamics at play when discussing your life choices with parents. But unless you’re asking your parents to bankroll your startup, it’s not really up to them. You only have one life, build one that you’re proud of without worrying about the opinions of others.

5. I don’t have the cash.

It’s a common misconception that you need a lot of capital to start a business. If you have access to a computer and the internet, you can start any number of businesses. I started my business with a $500 credit card loan and a hefty chunk of student loans. A lot of the software you need is available free and there are a variety of businesses you can start small.  As you start collecting payments, you can grow your business.

6. What will my friends or partner think?

If your friends or partner don’t support your dreams, get new ones. Seriously. It’s hard to let friends and lovers go, but if they are only contributing negatively to your dreams, it’s time to let them go. Practice now by telling your friends about your business idea–they might surprise you.

7. I’m not good enough.

Stop it. You know you’re wrong about that. It’s going to be scary, but no one else is better equipped to make your ideas and dreams into reality.

Running your own business is a lot work and there are many stressful moments. But the real rewards of building something you’re proud of far outweigh the imagined obstacles. Now you’re ready to start a business–no excuses!

NBA leaps on esports bandwagon with new league

LONDON (Reuters) – The inexorable advance of esports will break new ground next month when the NBA becomes the first American professional sports organization to operate an esports league.

FILE PHOTO: Oct 16, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; IDK LOC (L) plays during the Tekken 7 top 8 pool play at Esports Arena. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

Seventeen of the 30 NBA franchises have confirmed they will own NBA 2K League teams and the Draft Pick takes place in New York on April 4.

To be eligible for consideration for the new league, which will provide $1 million in prize money, players must be over 18 and have purchased a copy of the game for their Xbox or Playstation.

They also need to have graduated from high school and have won 50 games in the Pro-Am mode before January this year. Of the tens of thousands who participated, the top 102 ranked players will take part to the opening round of games in May.

The financial package of the NBA 2K League indicates how seriously it is being taken – first-round picks will pocket $35,000 for a six-month contract while other players will be paid $32,000 basic.

Like their real-world counterparts, the players will be allowed to sign endorsement deals and will receive paid housing and relocation expenses. Every gamer will also get medical insurance and a retirement plan along with travel and food costs.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has kept one eye on online gaming with good reason – there are an estimated 130 million competitive gamers who also watch gaming online, and esports is a huge growth market currently worth one billion dollars a year globally.

Lucrative tournaments are springing up across the world and professional teams compete for huge prize money in front of millions of mainly young viewers online.

“We believe we have a unique opportunity to develop something truly special for our fans and the young and growing esports community,” Silver said.

Nicola Piggott, co-founder of esports communications consultancy The Story Mob, told Reuters the NBA/NBA 2K partnership is a logical step for sports teams.

“Esports has so much to offer regular sport, with its intense tribalism, hyper-connected fanbase and the overlap between the two, so this makes a lot of sense,” she said.

“It also gives the NBA the potential to extend their brand to a completely new global audience. It really is a win-win for all parties.”


The NBA initiative has been the catalyst for other sports to join the esports bandwagon.

World soccer’s governing body FIFA has linked up with long-time licensing partner EA Sports to launch FIFA Ultimate Team, which morphed into the FIFA 18 Global Series and will culminate with the FIFA eWorld Cup 2018 Grand Final in August.

Other American sporting organizations have since announced the formation of online tournaments they are not only endorsing but are working on with software companies.

Major League Soccer (MLS) launched the eMLS Cup in January and the National Hockey League has revealed plans for its NHL Gaming World Championship, a global ice hockey competition that will stage matches in the U.S., Canada and Europe before the final on June 19 in Las Vegas.

Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), the internet and interactive division of baseball, has been described by Forbes Magazine as “the biggest media company you’ve never heard of”, generating over $1 billion revenue in 2017.

It is developing its own videogame series, R.B.I 18, and is deciding when to make its move, hoping to cash in as fans flock in thousands to watch the first generation of eSportsstars battle it out on huge hi-definition screens.

The world’s first purpose-built esports stadium has opened in southwestern China and others are planned for the U.S. this year.

The most watched esports event last year drew in 80 million unique viewers and records are set to be smashed in 2018 with NBC Sports, ESPN, Viasat, Sportnet, Facebook, Twitch and YouTube all set to screen tournaments.

Editing by Ed Osmond

China gives Baidu go-ahead for self-driving tests after U.S. crash

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s capital city has given the green light to tech giant Baidu Inc to test self-driving cars on city streets, indicating strong support for the budding sector even as the industry reels from a fatal accident in the United States.

A Baidu’s Apollo autonomous car is seen during a public road test for self-driving vehicles in Beijing, China March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Beijing’s move is an important step as China looks to bolster its position in the global race for autonomous vehicles, where regulatory concerns have come into the spotlight since the crash earlier this month.

The accident in Tempe, Arizona, involving an Uber self-driving car, was the first death attributed to a self-driving car operating in autonomous mode, and has ramped up pressure on the industry to prove its software and sensors are safe.

Beijing has given Baidu, best known as China’s version of search engine Google, a permit to test its autonomous vehicles on 33 roads spanning around 105 kilometers (65 miles) in the city’s less-populated suburbs, the firm said in a statement.

Baidu is leading China’s push in driverless technology, with Beijing keen to keep up with global rivals such as Waymo, the self-driving arm of Google parent Alphabet and Tesla. It has a major self-driving project called Apollo.

“With supportive policies, we believe that Beijing will become a rising hub for the autonomous driving industry,” Baidu Vice-President Zhao Cheng said in the statement.

Baidu’s Apollo autonomous cars are seen during a public road test for self-driving vehicles in Beijing, China March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Two people close to DiDi Chuxing, China’s dominant ride-hailing company which is also working on self-driving, said earlier this week firms developing autonomous vehicles were not likely to slow down plans for testing and developing

“I am quite positive on the potential of the technology because autonomous technology makes vehicles far less prone to accidents than human drivers,” one of the people said.

Didi declined to comment.

Earlier this month China issued licenses to auto makers allowing self-driving vehicles to be road tested in Shanghai, which included Shanghai-based SAIC Motor Corp Ltd and electric vehicle start-up NIO.

Regulations in the sector are, however, still catching up with fast growth and increasing numbers of firms wanting to carry out tests on public roads.

Baidu Chief Executive Robin Li tested his firm’s driverless car on Beijing’s roads last July, stirring controversy as there were no rules for such a test at the time. The firm hopes to get self-driving cars onto the roads in China by 2019.

Baidu said that before conducting tests on public roads, autonomous vehicles using its Apollo system would go through simulation tests as well as trials on closed courses.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Stephen Coates

BlackBerry to provide software for Jaguar Land Rover EVs

(Reuters) – BlackBerry Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd’s Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) said on Thursday they reached a licensing agreement to use the Canadian company’s software in the luxury car brand’s next-generation electric vehicles.

FILE PHOTO: A Blackberry sign is seen in front of their offices on the day of their annual general meeting for shareholders in Waterloo, Canada in this June 23, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File photo

BlackBerry will provide its infotainment and security software to JLR, in the Canadian firm’s latest licensing deal for its autonomous-driving technology after similar agreements with Qualcomm Inc, Baidu Inc and Aptiv Plc.

BlackBerry’s QNX unit, which makes software for computer systems on cars and has long been used to run car infotainment consoles, is expected to start generating revenue in 2019.

Its Certicom unit focuses on security technology and serves customers such as IBM Corp, General Electric Co, and Continental Airlines.

JLR, which was bought by the Tata group in 2008, said last year that all its new cars would be available in an electric or hybrid version from 2020.

Britain’s biggest carmaker said in January it would open a software engineering center in Ireland to work on advanced automated driving and electrification technologies.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri

EU to unveil plan to tax turnover of big U.S. tech firms

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission will propose rules on Wednesday designed to make digital companies pay their fair share of tax and set to hit U.S. tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

FILE PHOTO – The Google logo is seen at the “Station F” start up campus in Paris, France, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The Commission is expected to propose that companies with significant digital revenues in Europe pay a 3 percent tax on their turnover, according to a draft seen by Reuters last week.

If backed by EU states and lawmakers, whose support is far from certain, the tax would apply to large firms with annual worldwide revenue above 750 million euros ($919 million) and annual “taxable” EU revenues above 50 million euros.

The tax, designed as a short-term measure before the EU finds a way to tax profits, could also encompass other high-profile U.S. firms such as Airbnb, Amazon and Uber.

The legislation comes as the United States unsettles Europe with its own tax reform and the threat of a trade war along with reports that Facebook user data was accessed by a consultancy to help President Donald Trump win the 2016 election.

EU antitrust authorities have also been busy investigating the business practices of Amazon, Google and Apple, leading to accusations, which the Commission denies, that it is targeting Silicon Valley.

The proposals require backing from the European Parliament and the 28 EU countries, but they are divided on the issue. EU tax reforms need the backing of all member states to become law.

Large EU states have accused the tech firms of paying too little tax in the bloc by routing some of their profits to low-tax member states such as Ireland and Luxembourg.

FILE PHOTO – A Facebook logo is pictured at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

U.S. tech companies themselves have said they are paying tax in line with national and international laws and, in some cases, that the tax should be paid in the United States on profits repatriated there.

The proposal is to tax companies according to where their digital users are based.

A senior EU diplomatic predicted it would be hard to push through the legislation, among the most important for the bloc, because of deep divisions between larger countries set to gain more tax income and smaller ones set to lose.

Smaller countries also fear becoming less attractive to multinational firms.

Ireland has warned that the proposals risk merely re-slicing the tax cake, rather than actually taxing more. Some countries also believe that smaller companies should also face a bill.

The tax is expected to apply to digital advertising, which would bring in companies such as Google and Facebook, and to online platforms offering “intermediation services”.

Tech industry groups have complained that it is wrong to tax revenues as that would unduly hit companies, such as Amazon, with thinner margins.

($1 = 0.8161 euros)

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Alison Williams

'Socially responsible' investors reassess Facebook ownership

NEW YORK (Reuters) – With European and U.S. lawmakers calling for investigations into reports that Facebook user data was accessed by UK based consultancy Cambridge Analytica to help President Donald Trump win the 2016 election, investors are asking even more questions about the social media company’s operations.

A Facebook sign is displayed at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

An increasingly vocal base of investors who put their money where their values are had already started to sour on Facebook, one of the market’s tech darlings.

Facebook’s shares closed down nearly 7.0 percent on Monday, wiping nearly $40 billion off its market value as investors worried that potential legislation could damage the company’s advertising business.

Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is facing calls from lawmakers to explain how the political consultancy gained improper access to data on 50 million Facebook users.

Cambridge Analytica said it strongly denies the media claims and said it deleted all Facebook data it obtained from a third-party application in 2014 after learning the information did not adhere to data protection rules.

“The lid is being opened on the black box of Facebook’s data practices, and the picture is not pretty,” said Frank Pasquale, a University of Maryland law professor who has written about Silicon Valley’s use of data.

The scrutiny presents a fresh threat to Facebook’s reputation, which is already under attack over Russia’s alleged use of Facebook tools to sway U.S. voters with divisive and false news posts before and after the 2016 election.

“We do have some concerns,” said Ron Bates, portfolio manager on the $131 million 1919 Socially Responsive Balanced Fund, a Facebook shareholder.

“The big issue of the day around customer incidents and data is something that has been discussed among ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) investors for some time and has been a concern.”

Bates said he is encouraged by the fact that the company has acknowledged the privacy issues and is responding, and thinks it remains an appropriate investment for now.

Facebook said on Monday it had hired digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg to carry out a comprehensive audit of Cambridge Analytica and the company had agreed to comply and give the forensics firm complete access to their servers and systems.

“What would be a deal-breaker for us would be if we saw this recurring and we saw significant risk to the consumer around privacy,” said Bates.

More than $20 trillion globally is allocated toward “responsible” investment strategies in 2016, a figure that grew by a quarter from just two years prior, according to Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, an advocacy group.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees $193 billion in city pension fund assets, said in a statement to Reuters on Monday that, “as investors in Facebook, we’re closely following what are very alarming reports.”

Sustainalytics BV, a widely used research service that rates companies on their ESG performance for investors, told Reuters on Monday it is reviewing its Facebook rating, which is currently “average.”

“We’re definitely taking a look at it to see if there should be some change,” said Matthew Barg, research manager at Sustainalytics.

“Their business model is so closely tied to having access to consumer data and building off that access. You want to see that they understand that and care about that.”

ESG investors had already expressed concerns about Facebook before media reports that Cambridge Analytica harvested the private data on Facebook users to develop techniques to support Trump’s presidential campaign.

Wall Street investors, including ESG funds, have ridden the tech sector to record highs in recent months, betting on further outsized returns from stocks including Facebook, Apple Inc and Google parent Alphabet Inc.

Jennifer Sireklove, director of responsible investing at Seattle-based Parametric, a money manager with $200 billion in assets, said an increasing number of ethics-focused investors were avoiding Facebook and other social media companies, even before the most recent reports about privacy breaches.

Parametric held a call with clients on Friday to discuss concerns about investing in social media companies overall, including Google.

“More investors are starting to question whether these companies are contributing to a fair and well-informed public marketplace, or are we becoming all the more fragmented because of the ways in which these companies are operating,” she said.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and David Randall; Additional reporting by Kate Duguid in New York and Noel Randewich in San Francisco; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and Clive McKeef

Lithium-Silicon Batteries Could Give Your Phone 30% More Power

A new battery technology could increase the power packed into phones, cars, and smartwatches by 30% or more within the next few years. The new lithium-silicon batteries, nearing production-ready status thanks to startups including Sila Technologies and Angstron Materials, will leapfrog marginal improvements in existing lithium-ion batteries.

Recent promises of breakthrough battery technology have often amounted to little, but veteran Wall Street Journal tech reporter Christopher Mims believes lithium-silicon is the real thing. So do BMW, Intel, and Qualcomm, all of of which are backing the development of the new batteries.

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The core innovation is building anodes, one of the main components of any battery, primarily from silicon. Silicon anodes hold more power than today’s graphite-based versions, but are often delicate or short-lived in real-world applications. Sila Technologies has built prototypes that solve the problem by using silicon and graphene nanoparticles to make the technology more durable, and says its design can store 20% to 40% more energy than today’s lithium-ions. Several startups are competing to build the best lithium-silicon batteries, though, and one —Enovix, backed by Intel and Qualcomm — says its approach could pack as much as 50% more energy into a smartphone.

One of the major battery suppliers for both Apple and Samsung is Amperex Technology, which has a strategic investment partnership with Sila. That could point to much more long-lasting mobile devices on the way. The new batteries, Amperex Chief Operating Officer Joe Kit Chu Lam told the Journal, will probably be announced in a consumer device within the next two years. BMW also says it aims to incorporate the technology in an electric car by 2023, increasing power capacity by 10% to 15% over lithium-ion batteries.

China Will Block Travel for Those With Bad ‘Social Credit’

Chinese authorities will begin revoking the travel privileges of those with low scores on its so-called “social credit system,” which ranks Chinese citizens based on comprehensive monitoring of their behavior. Those who fall afoul of the system could be blocked from rail and air travel for up to a year.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission released announcements on Friday saying that the restrictions could be triggered by a broad range of offenses. According to Reuters, those include acts from spreading false information about terrorism to using expired tickets or smoking on trains.

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The Chinese government publicized its plans to create a social credit system in 2014. There is some evidence that the government’s system is entwined with China’s private credit scoring systems, such as Alibaba’s Zhima Credit, which tracks users of the AliPay smartphone payment system. It evaluates not only individuals’ financial history (which has proven problematic enough in the U.S.), but consumption patterns, education, and even social connections.

A Wired report last year found that a user with a low Zhima Credit score had to pay more to rent a bicycle, hotel room, or even an umbrella. Zhima Credit’s CEO has said, in an eerie prefiguring of the new travel restrictions, that the system “will ensure that the bad people in society don’t have a place to go, while good people can move freely and without obstruction.”

Though the policy has only now become public, Reuters says it may have come into effect earlier — in a press conference last year, an official said 6.15 million Chinese citizens had already been blocked from air travel for social misdeeds.

YouTube Kids Has Been Promoting Conspiracy-Theory Videos

YouTube Kids, an app that is purportedly more well-policed than YouTube’s own website, contains videos promoting debunked and frightening conspiracy theories. Business Insider discovered that the app, whose users are presumably mostly children, has been suggesting the videos based on otherwise innocuous search terms.

For instance, searches for “moon landing” returned videos arguing that NASA had faked that event. A search for “UFO” led to videos by David Icke, a veteran conspiracist who claims that the Earth is ruled by a secret race of “lizard people.”

The potentially devastating impacts of showing such material to young children were illustrated back in 2009, when conspiracy theorists began circulating the idea that an invisible planet called “Nibiru” would collide with the Earth in 2012, and destroy it. A NASA astrobiologist reported receiving multiple inquiries from young people who were so terrified by the theories that they were contemplating suicide.

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According to Business Insider, YouTube, which is owned by Google, removed specific videos that it highlighted to them, but many similar videos remain accessible through the app. In a statement, YouTube said that “sometimes we miss the mark” on content curation.

But in fact, YouTube Kids seems to quite faithfully following the well-worn path by which YouTube itself has grown. A recent study found that the content-suggestion system on YouTube’s main site consistently promoted more extreme takes on topics users searched for, often including conspiracy theories and fabricated stories.

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