Transportation

Should The Media Cover Tesla Accidents? (chicagotribune.com) 268

Long-time Slashdot reader rufey writes: Last weekend a Tesla vehicle was involved in a crash near Salt Lake City Utah while its Autopilot feature was enabled. The Tesla, a Model S, crashed into the rear end of a fire department utility truck, which was stopped at a red light, at an estimated speed of 60 MPH. "The car appeared not to brake before impact, police said. The driver, whom police have not named, was taken to a hospital with a broken foot," according to the Associated Press. "The driver of the fire truck suffered whiplash and was not taken to a hospital."
Elon Musk tweeted about the accident:

It's super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage. What's actually amazing about this accident is that a Model S hit a fire truck at 60mph and the driver only broke an ankle. An impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death.

The Associated Press defended their news coverage Friday, arguing that the facts show that "not all Tesla crashes end the same way." They also fact-check Elon Musk's claim that "probability of fatality is much lower in a Tesla," reporting that it's impossible to verify since Tesla won't release the number of miles driven by their cars or the number of fatalities. "There have been at least three already this year and a check of 2016 NHTSA fatal crash data -- the most recent year available -- shows five deaths in Tesla vehicles."

Slashdot reader Reygle argues the real issue is with the drivers in the Autopilot cars. "Someone unwilling to pay attention to the road shouldn't be allowed anywhere near that road ever again."


Facebook

Facebook Exec Admits 'No Real Understanding' for the Scope of Fake News (mercurynews.com) 219

Three executives from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube appeared at Stanford to discuss free speech in the social media age, with one law professor raising concerns about how the online giants are curating their services. All three tech executives talked about increasing transparency and authenticity. But all acknowledge that nothing is foolproof and political speech in particular is most difficult to regulate, if it should be at all. "That puts a lot of control in the hands of the companies sitting here in term of what kind of speech is allowed to have the global reach," said Juniper Downs, YouTube's global head of public policy and government relations. "That is a responsibility we take very seriously and something we owe to the public and a civil society...."

Facebook is making information available on its platform to researchers to help understand the effect of Facebook usage on elections. Still, Facebook's Vice President of Public Policy Elliot Schrage urged caution. "There is no agreement whatsoever on the prevalence of false news and fake propaganda on our platform," he said. "We have no real understanding of what the scope of misinformation is." He suggested that despite these chaotic times, "I do think we should be pretty modest and circumspect in the approaches we take." Social media companies need to find creative ways to improve the spread of information, Schrage said. But it won't be easy. "No one company," he said, "is going to solve this problem."

The Courts

BuzzFeed Unmasks Mastermind Who Urged Peter Thiel To Destroy Gawker (buzzfeed.com) 156

One day in 2011 a 26-year-old approached Peter Thiel and said "Look, I think if we datamined Gawker's history, we could find weak points that we could exploit in the court of law," according to the author of a new book. An anonymous reader quotes BuzzFeed News: Peter Thiel's campaign to ruin Gawker Media was conceived and orchestrated by a previously unknown associate who served as a middleman, allowing the billionaire to conceal his involvement in the bankrolling of lawsuits that eventually drove the New York media outlet into bankruptcy. BuzzFeed News has confirmed the identity of that mystery conspirator, known in Thiel's inner circle as "Mr. A," with multiple sources who said that he provided the venture capitalist and Facebook board member with a blueprint to covertly attack Gawker in court. That man, an Oxford-educated Australian citizen named Aron D'Souza, has few known connections to Thiel, but approached him in 2011 with an elaborate proposal to use a legal strategy to wipe out the media organization. That plot ultimately succeeded... D'Souza was aware of Thiel's public comments likening Valleywag to al-Qaeda, and presented a brazen idea: Pay someone or create a company to hire lawyers to go after Gawker.
TechCrunch reported earlier this month that Gawker's old posts "will be captured and saved by the non-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation," which was co-founded in 2012 by the late John Perry Barlow. But in addition, the Gawker estate "continues to threaten possible legal action against Thiel, and hopes to begin discovery to examine the billionaire's motivations for secretly funding his legal war," the article concludes. If a New York bankruptcy court approves, and if the process "unearths anything of meaning, the estate may have grounds to sue Thiel on the grounds of tortious interference, the use of legal means to purposely disrupt a business.

"To head that off, Thiel bid for the remaining Gawker assets -- including the flapship domain Gawker.com, its archive, and outstanding legal claims, like those against himself -- though Holden has made it known that he may block any sale to Thiel, no matter how much the venture capitalist is willing to bid."
The Media

Hulu, NBC Experience Glitches During Super Bowl Telecast (theverge.com) 98

Variety reports: NBC's coverage of Super Bowl LII briefly went dark for nearly 30 seconds on Sunday night. NBC released a brief statement attributing the outage to an equipment failure... "We had a brief equipment failure that we quickly resolved," the statement read. "No game action or commercial time were missed." The outage happened during a commercial pause in the action between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.
And anonymous reader shared another story from The Verge: Hulu's live TV subscription service cut off the end of tonight's Super Bowl in some markets during the climactic final moments of the Eagles/Patriots game. Tom Brady was making a last-ditch push down the field in hopes of tying the 41-33 contest when Hulu customers lost all video and audio from NBC and U.S. Bank Stadium. Not everyone experienced the abrupt cutoff, which occurred at approximately 10:00PM ET. But those who did received an error screen before the game's conclusion. Error messages ranged from "no content available" to one that said the game couldn't be shown due to rights restrictions. Complaints immediately surged on Twitter and Reddit... In a tweet, the company said there had been "a technical issue" and said users could restart their Hulu app to restore the game feed.
Encryption

Camera Makers Resist Encryption, Despite Warnings From Photographers (zdnet.com) 291

An anonymous reader shares an article from the security editor of ZDNet: A year after photojournalists and filmmakers sent a critical letter to camera makers for failing to add a basic security feature to protect their work from searches and hacking, little progress has been made. The letter, sent in late 2016, called on camera makers to build encryption into their cameras after photojournalists said they face "a variety of threats..." Even when they're out in the field, collecting footage and documenting evidence, reporters have long argued that without encryption, police, the military, and border agents in countries where they work can examine and search their devices. "The consequences can be dire," the letter added.

Although iPhones and Android phones, computers, and instant messengers all come with encryption, camera makers have fallen behind. Not only does encryption protect reported work from prying eyes, it also protects sources -- many of whom put their lives at risk to expose corruption or wrongdoing... The lack of encryption means high-end camera makers are forcing their customers to choose between putting their sources at risk, or relying on encrypted, but less-capable devices, like iPhones. We asked the same camera manufacturers if they plan to add encryption to their cameras -- and if not, why. The short answer: don't expect much any time soon.

The Media

LWN.Net Celebrates Its 20th Birthday (lwn.net) 24

Free software/Linux news site LWN.net just celebrated its 20th birthday, with publisher Jonathan Corbet calling the last two decades "an amazing journey." LWN published the first edition of their weekly newsletter on January 22, 1998, and Corbet (who also contributes to the Linux kernel) writes today that "It has been quite a ride. We in the free-software community set out to change the world, and we succeeded beyond our wildest expectations."

Here's how he described their second edition the next week... We were arguably helped by the lead news in that edition: Netscape's decision to open-source its "Communicator" web browser. That quickly brought the world's attention to open-source software, though that term would not be invented for a few months yet, and to Linux in particular. LWN was a shadow of what it is now, but it was evidently good enough to ride on that wave and establish itself as a part of the Linux community.
Corbet reviews the highlights. ("Companies discovered our little hobbyist system and invested billions into it, massively accelerating development at all levels of the system...") But he also adds that "Through all of this, we also got to learn some lessons about successfully running a community information source on the net." For the last 16 years the site has supported itself with $7.00-a-month subscriptions, offering early access to their Weekly Edition plus subscriber-only mailing lists, "allowing our content to quickly become part of the community record."

Plus, through events around the world, "we have met -- and become friends with -- many of our readers and many people in the community as a whole. This community is an amazing group of people; it has been a honor and a joy to be a part of it..."

"The free-software community's work is not done, and neither is ours. "
The Media

Peter Thiel Is Now Bidding on Gawker.com (reuters.com) 132

An anonymous reader writes: Its official. "Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has made an offer for Gawker," reports Reuters, adding that the potential acquisition "would let him take down stories regarding his personal life that are still available on the website, and remove the scope for further litigation between him and Gawker." It was Thiel's 2016 lawsuit which bankrupted the site, prompting a Washington Post blogger to write that Thiel "killed Gawker once. Now it looks like he may kill it again."

Elsewhere the Washington Post argues the whole episode "highlighted the immense legal risk borne by news outlets already facing a precarious financial reality in the digital age." The Post's blogger describes Thiel as "a billionaire leveraging his wealth to obliterate a media outlet...as part of a personal vendetta."

Last month former Gawker staffers attempted to crowdfund the purchase and relaunch of Gawker.com as a nonprofit media organization. But their 1,496 backers only pledged $89,844, far short of the campaign's $500,000 target.
The Media

Bill Gates Is First Guest Editor In Time Magazine's 94-Year History (geekwire.com) 64

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: Time invited Bill Gates to be the first guest editor in the 94-year history of the magazine. Among the news Bill deemed fit to print in Time's first augmented-reality-enhanced issue were articles by wife Melinda and pal Bono, both of whom graced the cover of Time with Bill as the 2005 Persons of the Year... Another article reveals that "the four learning hacks Bill Gates swears by" include Khan Academy (a $10+ million Gates Foundation partner), tech-backed Code.org (to which Bill, the Gates Foundation, Microsoft, and Steve Ballmer have given somewhere north of $17M), the Big History Project (to which Bill had contributed a "modest $10 million" as of 2014), and The Teaching Company (which got Bill stoked about Big History).
The issue also includes Gates' "four favorite ways to give back" and "six innovations that could change the world." In fact, the theme of the whole issue is "optimism," with 62-year-old Gates writing that "On the whole, the world is getting better. This is not some naively optimistic view; it's backed by data. Look at the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. Since 1990, that figure has been cut in half. That means 122 million children have been saved in a quarter-century, and countless families have been spared the heartbreak of losing a child."

Another optimistic essay came from Daily Show host Trever Noah, who writes, "Mock millennials all you want. Here's why they give me hope."
Space

Wired Publishes Fake Christmas Letter By Elon Musk (wired.com) 32

Wired's transportation editor just published what he's calling "Elon Musk's Christmas letter" touting the accomplishments of Musk's "family" of companies, "thanks to an anonymous tipster." (Though the story's photo caption suspiciously calls it "an absolutely real and totally not made up holiday message," and at the very bottom of the piece it's tagged as "satire" -- a word which also appears at the end of its URL.)

SpaceX (age 15) Man these companies grow up fast. SpaceX didn't just successfully launch its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station this summer, it upped its ambitions with a pretty detailed plan for colonizing Mars. (OK, as long as it comes home for Thanksgiving and Christmas!) The scheme involves an Interplanetary Transport System the company calls the BFR, or Big Fucking Rocket (you wonder where they get their sense of humor!), which it will definitely have built in just five years.

Tesla (age 14) After promising to start deliveries of its affordable Model 3 sedan this summer, my little automaker went all the way to production hell to make it happen. And boy is the car a wonder, with its huge glass roof, innovative touchscreen interface (so long, dashboard), and all the acceleration you know to expect from Tesla. I'm sure the 400,000 people who have pre-ordered one will agree whenever they get theirs...!

OpenAI and Neuralink (ages 2, 1) I've always thought we should merge our brains with computers, and I'm so glad two of my youngest are dedicated to making it happen... Maybe it'll even find the time to help big brother Tesla with that AI chip it's making for Autopilot.

The Boring Company (age 1) Celebrated its first birthday this month...! Boring knows my views on public transit, and has reassured me these tunnels will be for fancy hyperloops and private cars on electric sleds, only...

So, my friends and fans, comrades and competitors, investors short and long, my best tidings. May your lives be as rich, electrifying, and ambitious as ours.

For its 13th resupply mission of the ISS on December 15th, (the real) SpaceX used a recycled rocket, and Friday (the real) Elon Musk jokingly tweeted a video of the weird trail left behind by SpaceX's latest rocket launch with the caption, "Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea." By late Saturday he'd posted an update. "Having a sinking feeling that most people actually do think it was aliens..."

"So strange that people often believe things inversely proportionate to the evidence."
Facebook

Former Exec Who Said Facebook Was 'Destroying Society' Still Loves Facebook (gizmodo.com) 46

Remember that former Facebook exec who felt "tremendous guilt" about creating tools "that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works"? He's now walking back his criticism -- at least somewhat. Gizmodo reports: Palihapitiya said that he believes that "Facebook is a force for good in the world," and went on to express his belief that the social network is really trying to make its platform less of a hellish garbage fire of misinformation and election interference. "Facebook has made tremendous strides in coming to terms with its unforeseen influence and, more so than any of its peers, the team there has taken real steps to course correct," he wrote in the post... Facebook is certainly trying to soothe naysayers who think the platform might be rotting the brains of our youth -- a viewpoint that Sean Parker, Facebook's first president, essentially expressed last month... For Palihapitiya's part, Thursday night's statement wasn't a total reversal of his original claims, but seemingly an apologetic gesture toward Facebook (or perhaps friends still working at the company). Yes, social media has the capacity to utterly destroy us, but can't you see that Facebook is trying to be better?
His post argues social media platforms "have been used and abused in ways that we, their architects, never imagined.

"Much blame has been thrown and guilt felt, but the important thing is what we as an industry do now to ensure that our impact on society continues to be a positive one."
AI

Artificial Intelligence Is Killing the Uncanny Valley and Our Grasp On Reality (wired.com) 238

rickih02 writes: In 2018, we will enter a new era of machine learning -- one in which AI-generated media looks and sounds completely real. The technologies underlying this shift will push us into new creative realms. But this boom will have a dark side, too. For Backchannel's 2018 predictions edition, Sandra Upson delves into the future of artificial intelligence and the double edged sword its increasing sophistication will present. "A world awash in AI-generated content is a classic case of a utopia that is also a dystopia," she writes. "It's messy, it's beautiful, and it's already here."
"The algorithms powering style transfer are gaining precision, signalling the end of the Uncanny Valley -- the sense of unease that realistic computer-generated humans typically elicit..." the article argues.

"But it's not hard to see how this creative explosion could all go very wrong."
Google

Google News Will Purge Sites Masking Their Country of Origin (bloomberg.com) 151

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: Google moved to strip from its news search results publications that mask their country of origin or intentionally mislead readers, a further step to curb the spread of fake news that has plagued internet companies this year. To appear in Google News results, websites must meet broad criteria set out by the company, including accurately representing their owners or primary purposes. In an update to its guidelines released Friday, the search giant added language stipulating that publications not "engage in coordinated activity to mislead users."

Additionally the new rules read: "This includes, but isn't limited to, sites that misrepresent or conceal their country of origin or are directed at users in another country under false premises." A popular tactic for misinformation campaigns is to pose as a credible U.S. news outlet. Russian Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed organization, used that technique to reach an audience of nearly 500,000 people, spread primarily through Twitter accounts, Bloomberg reported earlier.

The Media

'The Gawker Foundation' is Crowdfunding a Bid To Re-Launch Gawker.com (savegawker.com) 91

"Gawker may soon return from the dead," reports TechCrunch. While Univision acquired most of Gawker Media's sites last year (and renamed them as the Gizmodo Media Group), the deal didn't include Gawker itself. In fact, BuzzFeed reported last month that a bankruptcy administrator has not been able to find a buyer for the Gawker site, and that lawyers for Peter Thiel (the billionaire venture capitalist who helped fund the lawsuit that led to Gawker's bankruptcy) were arguing that he'd been unfairly excluded from the process. Now a group of former Gawker employees calling themselves the Gawker Foundation has launched a Kickstarter campaign to buy the old domain and relaunch with a nonprofit, membership-funded model.
"The truth is often inconvenient, and Gawker's work isn't done," explains a mirror of their campaign site at SaveGawker.com. "We want to dig deeper." $10 pledges get you a laptop sticker, $250 pledges earn you an invite to their glorious re-launch party, and to solicit $10,000 pledges they're even asking wealthy backers to "Give us half of one bitcoin."

"By setting ourselves up as an ownerless, advertiser-less, non-profit media organization, the editorial team will be able to do what they do best. More than a dozen Gawker Media alumni are involved in this project..."
The Media

After Bankrupting Gawker, Peter Thiel Demands a Chance to Buy Them (buzzfeed.com) 149

An anonymous reader quotes BuzzFeed: In a federal bankruptcy court filing on Wednesday, lawyers for venture capitalist Peter Thiel objected to the ongoing sale process of Gawker.com, arguing that the billionaire has been unfairly excluded from bidding for the assets of the defunct news website... Whoever ends up buying the site will also buy its archives, which are still up, and will have the right to do with them what they want, including delete them. In the filing, Thiel's lawyers allege that he was prevented from receiving information in regard to a potential bid for Gawker.com by plan administrator William Holden and his counsel, Gregg Galardi, following a Wall Street Journal story in October that said Holden and Galardi had started to market the website to potential buyers...

The Wall Street Journal reported that Holden has been exploring the sale of Gawker.com since July, and that he recently marketed the site's potential legal claims against Thiel as part of its appeal. The marketing of those claims is at the center of Thiel's complaint, in which his lawyers argue that Holden should not be able to conduct a sale of those claims and ask that the court drop a motion that allows for discovery to move forward. Thiel's representatives also said that they contacted those administrating the sale of Gawker.com last month "to express Mr. Thiel's interest in participating in the sale process," but that they had been rebuffed and then ignored.

Thiel's complaint calls him the "most able and logical purchaser."
Government

'Panama Papers' Group Strikes Again with 'Paradise Papers' (theguardian.com) 402

Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed tipped us off to a new document leak that's just revealed massive tax havens used by the world's most wealthy and powerful people. An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: The material, which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens, was obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with partners including the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times. The project has been called the Paradise Papers.
It's the same group responsible for the Panama Papers, and the Guardian reports that in these 13.4 million new files, journalists have discovered:
  • "Aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations, including Nike and Apple."

"The publication of this investigation, for which more than 380 journalists have spent a year combing through data that stretches back 70 years, comes at a time of growing global income inequality," reports the Guardian. "Meanwhile, multinational companies are shifting a growing share of profits offshore -- €600 billion in the last year alone -- the leading economist Gabriel Zucman will reveal in a study to be published later this week. "Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality," he said."


The Media

New Victims in the 'Billionaire War on Journalism' (newsweek.com) 207

Newsweek offers a new reminder that internet journalism can vanish in a corporate shutdown or be "sued out of existence" -- so it certainly isn't permanent. Writers at the local New York City news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist -- as well as Gothamist's network of city-specific sister sites, such as LAist and DCist -- learned this chilling lesson on Thursday, when billionaire Joe Ricketts abruptly shut down the publications and fired their employees. The decision has been widely regarded as a form of retaliation in response to the newsroom's vote last week to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East. Worse, for a full 20 hours after the news broke, Gothamist.com and DNAinfo.com effectively didn't exist: Any link to the sites showed only Ricketts's statement about his decision, which claims the business was not profitable enough to support the journalism...

The larger tragedy is a nationwide death of local news. Alt-weeklies are flailing as ad revenue dries up. The Village Voice, a legendary New York paper, published its final print issue in September. Houston Press just laid off its staff and ended its print edition this week. Countless stories won't be covered, because the journalistic institutions to tell them no longer exist. Who benefits from DNAinfo being shuttered? Billionaires. Shady landlords. Anyone DNAinfo reported critically on over the years. Who loses? Anyone who lives in the neighborhoods DNAinfo and Gothamist helped cover.

The Media

Peter Thiel Could End Up Owning Gawker (pagesix.com) 68

An anonymous reader writes: Gawker's assets are now up for sale, and Page Six reports that they could be sold to a Hollywood movie studio which is "seriously interested" in adapting the site's stories into movies or TV shows -- and is also looking into filming the story of Gawker itself. Another interested buyer is described as a "group of hard-core Gawker fans" who are currently performing their own due diligence. But the bankruptcy manager for Gawker "has not ruled out the possibility" of selling the site to Peter Thiel. Also up for sale are "potential legal claims" Gawker may have against Peter Thiel, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Google

Google Says It Hasn't Promised To Help News Sites By Sharing Money and User Data (cnet.com) 22

UPDATE (2:53 PST): Google say it hasn't lined up any deals to share revenue and user data with online news sites, calling Sunday news reports "totally wrong."

"We have not reached any conclusions on the revenue side," Google spokeswoman Maggie Shiels told CNET. "We haven't reached any conclusions [regarding] subscriptions and need to speak to publishers."

An anonymous reader shared the text of CNET's original report: The web giant is planning to share a chunk of its revenue with publishers, the Financial Times reported Sunday. Google's plan is to mate its treasure trove of personal data with machine learning algorithms to help news publications grow their subscriber base, the newspaper reported... The deal Google is offering to news publishers will reportedly be similar to the arrangement Google has with traditional advertisers through its AdSense business. "We want to have a healthy ecosystem where we'll benefit both as a society and with our business," Richard Gringas, Google's head of news, told the FT.
Financial Times claimed that Google had promised that the revenue sharing "will be very, very generous," while TechCrunch had reported that Google would also be claiming "a 30% finder's fee" for every new subscriber.
Power

CNN Skeptical of Elon Musk's 'Big Promises' (cnn.com) 206

An anonymous reader writes: Tesla's electric semi-truck will be launched three weeks later than planned, CNN reports. It's been bumped to November 16th because Tesla says it's "diverting resources" to address problems with its Model 3 sedan production -- they've produced just 17.3% of the cars they'd planned -- and to make more batteries to send to areas hit by hurricanes. CNN notes Tesla's Model X "didn't start shipping until two years after it was supposed to roll out," and production of its Model S sedan "was also much slower than originally promised." Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, complains Tesla "may well have far too much on its plate. It should focus and deliver on some key promises."

But Elon Musk "has a history of some pretty pie-in-the-sky promises," complained CNN business anchor Maggie Lake, citing Musk's claim that he had verbal approval for an underground hyperloop connecting New York City to Washington D.C. ("This is news to City Hall," said New York's press secretary at the time, and no actual approval has ever been produced.) Lake also noted Musk's promise to fix South Australia's blackout problems by building the world's largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days back in March. Last Friday Tesla signed a contract to begin the work, so the 100-day countdown has begun.

CNN's report ran under the headline "Elon Musk: Big Dreamer or Monorail Salesman?" -- referencing a satirical 1993 episode of The Simpson's. "Here's a spoiler alert," the segment concludes. "If you haven't seen that episode...the monorail plan doesn't work out too well. Let's put it that way."
The Media

Police Allegedly Arrest UK News Photographer For Standing In A Field (wordpress.com) 216

Long-time Slashdot reader Andy Smith, a Scotland-based news photographer, writes: I'm a press photographer. Slashdot has previously covered how the police used underhanded tactics to seize some of my work photos. But that was far from the end of the story. Several months of harassment culminated in me being arrested for standing in a field, something protected by law here in Scotland. I was given a police caution, which is a formal alternative to prosecution, but the police then cancelled the caution and prosecuted me anyway. Ironically, I was meant to be joining the police this month as a volunteer, but that has now been delayed by at least six months.
Earlier Andy had filmed the same police sergeant warning him not to photograph a minor traffic accident -- which had "seemed to anger him."

Slashdot Top Deals