Archive Monthly Archives: January 2019

Apple Tries to Avoid Facebook’s Mistakes With 2018 Midterms

Apple waded knee-deep into the muck of political news delivery Monday with the announcement of a special section in Apple News devoted to the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, which will determine whether Republicans hold onto their majorities in Congress.

From now until November, you will see a little Midterm Elections 2018 banner above the curated Top Stories section of the app. Whether you normally check Apple News just for celebrity gossip and sports doesn’t matter—the app is pushing this module to all US users. Clicking it will take you to a list of stories Apple News editors have deemed trustworthy, well-sourced, uninflammatory, and relevant. It is this human curation that Apple hopes will save it from the misinformation campaigns that have bedeviled other tech companies and online social networks.

“We won’t shy away from controversial topics, but our goal is to illuminate, not enrage. And we’ll always steer clear of rumor and propaganda,” Apple News Editor-in-Chief Lauren Kern wrote in a letter to readers in the app.

That language is a cheeky reference to Facebook, which has faced intense criticism ever since false news spread like wildfire on its platform during the 2016 presidential election. Apple News is not a social media site, and so can avoid some of the network effects that help misinformation spiral out of control. Instead of stories surfaced by an algorithm, the election coverage, like the app’s Top News module, will consist of hand-picked articles, each one scrutinized by a professional.

They have put their trust in Apple's judgement.

“I applaud Apple for taking on the task of trying to figure out if information is coming from trustworthy sources or not, and I think they are doing it in a pretty responsible way,” said David Chavern, CEO of News Media Alliance, a nonprofit trade group representing 2,000 news organizations in the US.

Chavern and others contrasted this approach to Facebook’s, particularly in the past few years.

Facebook used to have real, live human beings curate news stories, as part of the Trending Topics module launched in 2014. The company fired them all, though, in the summer of 2016, after one former worker told the website Gizmodo that the Trending Topics team habitually passed over stories from conservative news sites. Despite Facebook's own internal investigation concluding that the bias allegations were largely false, according to WIRED's reporting, the incident prompted a overcorrection as executives rushed to court conservatives and assure them that Facebook valued a plurality of opinions. They failed to notice the fake news crisis as it unfolded—and the role Trending Topics, whose algorithm amplified fake news and conspiracy theories alongside stories from trusted media outlets, played in it.

After the election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged his company’s misinformation problem in a post. “We're a new kind of platform for public discourse – and that means we have a new kind of responsibility to enable people to have the most meaningful conversations, and to build a space where people can be informed,” he wrote that December. And yet, he added in the next sentence, “With any changes we make, we must fight to give all people a voice and resist the path of becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.”

Facebook has since taken additional steps to address false news. It has tweaked the algorithm to emphasize personal posts and connections rather than news. It added third-party fact checkers, a political ad database for transparency, an ad campaign to educate the public about fake news, and a method to identify “trusted news sources.” But Facebook’s way of defining a trusted source was just to ask users, “Who do you trust?” That had the glaring problem of perpetuating political silos, where conservatives and liberals alike highly rate outlets that reflect to their world views and downvote anything opposed. Though this preference for ideologically conforming information is not new, Facebook's role as the town hall or water cooler of the internet multiplies its effect.

Apple takes a different approach, the one thing Facebook has so far refused to do: giving the reins to journalists. Apple won’t say exactly how many journalists it employs as Apple News editors, but a representative says it in the dozens. The company’s announcement of its elections section and Kern’s letter to readers both emphasized the promise of delivering trustworthy, accurate stories vetted by experienced editors.

Apple's press release also makes glancing reference to local news, which has been particularly hollowed out in the digital era. A special feature called "On the Ground" will highlight local news, though whether that will come from local organizations or national outlets is unclear.

While Apple News may be largely insulated from the social media network effects of its Silicon Valley peers, it is not immune to allegations of bias—the other critique that has dogged Silicon Valley giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

Apple highlighted Fox News, Vox, Axios, the Washington Post, and Politico as among the publications it will feature at launch, representing a wide spectrum of US political coverage. But some questioned the inclusion of Fox, which has recently come under fire for its coverage of the Trump administration, among other controversies.

“The upcoming Apple News election product strikes all the right notes on design (human-edited, well-structured) but the very first news source they mention is Fox News, indicating they have the same fear of right-wing liars as all the other tech platforms,” technologist Anil Dash wrote on Twitter.

“Whether or not you like Fox, the fact of the matter is they hire and pay reporters, they hire and pay editors, and you know where to send your complaints,” Chavern says. In other words, Fox is a legitimate journalistic outfit. It’s not a Macedonian fake-news farm.

Dash wasn’t alone in finding the Fox News shoutout jarring, though. “Apple has always been a control freak. That applies to news. Here's a new press release in which the company says, essentially, that it's going to pick the winners among journalism organizations based on quality. Note, however, that Fox 'News' is included,” tweeted media expert and journalist Dan Gillmor, co-creator of News Co/Lab at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Gillmor’s larger point—that Apple is appointing itself the arbiter of quality news—is exactly the kind of critique Facebook tries to avoid by insisting it’s neutral. But just because an algorithm is deciding instead of a human doesn’t make a platform neutral. “Too often a lot of the big tech companies have hidden behind the idea that they need to be neutral when it comes to content and what that has really meant is that there's a huge emphasis on garbage and fake news that crowds out the responsible sources,” Chavern says. Neutral is just another way of saying not-liable. With its new midterms section, Apple is accepting responsibility as mediators for the most controversial news of all, the political.

But the question remains how Apple will react when, inevitably, people take issue with the decisions its editors make.


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England delirium has Gareth Southgate and his tyros dreaming big | Daniel Taylor

England and Gareth Southgate have picked up the mood at home and talk at their training base has turned to the heroes of 1966 as their semi-final against Croatia looms

“I want to be back home as I hear they are having street parties.” Bobby Robson, 1 July 1990 – Cameroon 2 England 3

So far there is only one player who can vouch that England is experiencing the same kind of football frenzy the country last encountered when World in Motion was in the charts, when there was Bobby Robson and Gary Lineker and Nessun Dorma and let’s-all-have-a-disco and Paul Gascoigne, with that big, chip‑pan grin, until everything went so horribly wrong.

Fabian Delph has been trying to explain it to his teammates after his visit home for the birth of his daughter. Delph kept sharp by training at Manchester City. He flew back in a private jet with the family of Vincent Kompany, his club colleague, and he is being perfectly serious when he says England’s penalties against Colombia brought his wife, Natalie, into labour. Delph was home for four days and, now he is back in Repino, he has let the others know the madness of it all.

“We are out here in our bubble, our circle, and we don’t have outside distractions so we are not aware of what is going on. But going back was incredible. The support was absolutely amazing. Even people who are not into football, stopping me, shouting and telling me: ‘Make sure you bring it home.’ It was crazy, overwhelming. I have told the lads and they could not believe it.”

How, after all, can you do it justice when none of these players is old enough to remember that night in Turin 28 years ago? Are they aware of the survey that estimates one in 10 people is contemplating pulling a sickie for England’s semi-final against Croatia? Or the story from Nottingham’s Theatre Royal about the final scenes from Titanic: The Musical being interrupted by the cries of “yes” from two women in the front row? England’s players have been following through Twitter. But it is difficult, as Delph says, to comprehend unless you have seen it close up. “We are in for a shock when we are finished and go home.”

Back in Repino, meanwhile, the train to St Petersburg trundled through and most of the tweeting came from the birds in the pine forests. The FA deliberately chose this venue for England’s World Cup base because it was so quiet and out of the way. One supermarket, a pharmacy next door and a few miles along the coast, in Zelenogorsk, is the training ground and, for reasons unexplained, a statue of a dachshund in the centre of the village.

Did Southgate get that pint of bitter he said he was craving after the quarter-final victory against Sweden? England’s manager once had a reputation as the kind of man who would paint the town beige, not red. But it was never correct. Above all Southgate wants his players to enjoy these moments and drink it all in. Families were invited into the team hotel on Sunday. The players watched the game together and, behind the smoked windows of the team bus, Southgate had asked every member of his backroom staff to help create a playlist, two songs each. At Euro 96 the players used to sing Three Lions on the way to Wembley. Here they had another sing-along. “The players were actually quite happy,” Southgate reported. “They got us to turn it up.”

It was a happy camp and there was a lovely moment, before leaving the Samara Arena, when a few of us let Southgate know the video of his celebrations with the fans, conducting the England orchestra, was already online. Before that there was the screaming, fist‑pumping “come on” that went viral after the Colombia match. We showed him the footage. “There’s the emotion,” he said. “The fans have paid a lot. They have come a long way and to be able to connect with them … I’d love to be able to do it with the however many millions who are watching at home but the supporters who are here, they’re singing, and I know what they’ve been through.

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“I met lots of them before we came. They told me their stories, how many years they have been travelling to watch England and what it meant to them. I played for three clubs and I have a real affinity with all three but England has been the biggest part of my life.” For the first time there was a brief moment when it sounded as if his voice was cracking.

Southgate was a 19-year-old on the books of Crystal Palace, still living with his parents in Crawley, when Italia 90 was alive. He watched the semi-final against West Germany at a mate’s house with a curry and some beers but even then the teenager was learning for the future. Southgate taped all the matches of that tournament. “I videoed it to look at the players, the matches and, as a young player, I guess I wanted to see the best players, the level they were playing and what I could learn from it.”

‘We’ve
‘We’ve already talked about the team that won the World Cup and how they’re still revered,’ says Gareth Southgate. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

England’s beaten semi‑finalists came back to an open-top bus parade – the lingering memory being Gazza wearing a pair of fake breasts – and maybe that was part of the problem. Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, France and all the elite football nations would never celebrate losing a semi-final. Southgate was part of the England team that reached the same stage of Euro 96. “It doesn’t mean a lot now,” he volunteered.

The point here is that, for all the nostalgia surrounding 1990, that penalty shootout defeat in Turin was a bad experience for England and the only glory, in the truest sense of the word, went to the winners. Will Southgate tell his players the same holds true now? “I don’t think I’ll need to,” he replied. “They know what they want to do. They know they stand on a moment of history and they are desperate to do as well as they possibly can. They don’t need any motivation for this now. It’s all there, it’s all apparent.”

Southgate gave the impression he would rather have faced Russia in the semi-final on Wednesday, acknowledging that England would encounter a “really top team” in Croatia, but it would come as a surprise now if they were suddenly afflicted by stage-fright or the kind of inferiority complex he detected, as a player, before the 2002 quarter‑final against Brazil.

“We are enjoying the journey. Everything we’ve done has been based on enjoyment. How far can we go? Let’s push the boundaries, let’s create our own history. We know where we are, we know we’re not the finished article and I don’t think we have loads of world-class players. There are other teams in the tournament who have a better collection of individuals but we’ve been a real team. We have some excellent players, no doubt about that, but the collective strength has been massive.”

And, without wishing to get too far ahead, what if England could actually beat Croatia and then, hell’s bells, do the same against France or Belgium in the final? What if the players of 2018 really have it in them to emulate Alf Ramsey’s 1966 heroes? Is it safe to broach this subject yet? Southgate seemed to think so. “We’ve already talked about the team that won the World Cup and how they’re still revered. We’ve had events at St George’s Park when some of those guys have been in, such as when the road was named after Sir Alf. I’ve met quite a few of those players. We know how they are held and, in the modern era, that [winning the World Cup] would be even crazier now, with social media and everything else. Globally it is so much bigger.”

A small thing, perhaps, but this was the first time Southgate has felt comfortable enough to talk about the possibility of going all the way, of heading back to Moscow next Sunday and testing his poorly shoulder in the Luzhniki Stadium by lifting a trophy that, for so many years, always seemed out of reach. If you were English, it was reassuring to hear. And just a touch surreal.

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London attack: Video emerges of police shooting – BBC News

A video has emerged showing armed police shooting dead the three men who carried out the London terror attack.

CCTV footage shows the three men attacking a pedestrian in Borough Market before charging at armed officers. The men are then shot dead.

It comes after police investigating Saturday’s attack – which left eight people dead – made three fresh arrests during raids in east London.

In total, 17 people have been arrested and five remain in custody.

Police have named Youssef Zaghba, a 22-year-old Moroccan-Italian man who lived in east London, Khuram Butt, 27, from Barking, and Rachid Redouane, 30, who also lived in Barking, as the men who carried out the attack.

The three men drove into pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing people in Borough Market.

Image caption The video shows armed officers getting out of a police car
Image caption They can then be seen pointing rifles at the three men
Image caption Officers then surround the men having shot them

The new footage – which first emerged on social media – shows police shooting dead the men within seconds of arriving in Borough Market.

Police have been praised for ending the attack within eight minutes of the first 999 call.

The video shows a person walking into shot, before being chased and apparently being stabbed by the three men.

While the attack is ongoing, armed police arrive, prompting the three men to then charge at officers. However, the three men are shot dead within seconds.

Armed officers can then be seen examining the bodies of the men, who were wearing fake suicide vests.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has said 46 shots had been fired at the three attackers by eight police officers – five from the Met and three from the City of London force.


Analysis

Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba have been named as the London Bridge attackers

By Danny Shaw, home affairs correspondent

The footage makes both compelling and harrowing viewing. The first grainy images show a man being set upon by the three attackers as he walks along one of the narrow roads around Borough Market.

They repeatedly stab him, bundling him to the ground, before a police car arrives. Armed officers, guns raised, get out of the car. Six seconds later the attackers are dead.

The speed, professionalism, nerve and expertise shown by the firearms officers shines through in the video. Their actions undoubtedly saved many lives.


Separately, CCTV footage of Butt, Redouane and Zaghba apparently meeting at about 00:10 BST on Monday 29 May – five days before the attack – has also been published by the Times.

The film shows the men meeting outside a gym in Barking, according to the newspaper.

It shows Redouane throwing his mobile phone on the floor and walking off camera with the other two attackers, for about 10 minutes, before returning to collect his mobile.

The footage has been passed to police, the Times added.

Image copyright The Times
Image caption Rachid Redouane, Khuram Butt, and Youssef Zaghba (from left) meeting last month

On Wednesday night, two men were arrested on a street in Ilford, the Metropolitan Police said.

A 27-year-old man was held on suspicion of the preparation of terrorist acts. A 33-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply controlled drugs, and was later further arrested over firearms allegations.

A third man, aged 29, was arrested on suspicion of the preparation of terrorist acts at an address in Ilford.

The other two men arrested were held under the Terrorism Act earlier on Wednesday – a 30-year-old detained in Ilford and a 27-year-old in Barking.

Twelve people arrested after the day after attack have been released without charge.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media caption“I was shocked – he was quite a kind person, quite a jolly person” says the receptionist at Khuram Butt’s gym

NHS England said 29 patients remained in London hospitals, with 10 in a critical condition.

A British Transport Police officer who was seriously injured after confronting the three attackers armed only with a baton has said he did “everything I could” to fight them off.

The officer, who has not been named, has been praised for his bravery, and added: “I want to say sorry to the families that lost their loved ones. I’m so sorry I couldn’t do more.”

Image caption Clockwise from top left: Chrissy Archibald, Sebastien Belanger, Kirsty Boden, Ignacio Echeverria, Sara Zelenak, Xavier Thomas, Alexandre Pigeard and James McMullan were all killed in the attack

The family of French national Alexandre Pigeard, a waiter at Boro Bistro, in Borough Market, said he was stabbed to death while working on the restaurant’s terrace.

“Alexandre was a marvellous son, a perfect older brother and a radiant young man,” they said in a statement. “All his friends praised his kindness, his good humour and his generosity.”

On Wednesday, police searching for French national Xavier Thomas, 45, said they had recovered a body from the Thames, bringing the death toll to eight.

Mr Thomas’s next of kin have been told, police said, but formal identification has not yet taken place.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A “peace wall” of post-it notes has been growing at London Bridge

Meanwhile, the prime minister of Spain said Ignacio Echeverra, 39, who died defending a woman with his skateboard, should be given a posthumous award – the Silver Cross of the Order of Civil Merit. Mr Echeverra was from Madrid and was working for HSBC bank in London.

The others killed in the attack have been named as Sebastien Belanger, 36, from France, Australians Sara Zelenak and Kirsty Boden, Canadian national Chrissy Archibald, and James McMullan, from Hackney, London.

It earlier emerged that Khuram Butt was known to police and MI5 in 2015, but the Metropolitan Police said there had been no evidence of a plot.

Butt had appeared in a Channel 4 documentary The Jihadis Next Door, broadcast last year.

An Italian police source confirmed to the BBC that Youssef Zaghba had been placed on a watch list, which is shared with many countries, including the UK.

In March 2016, Italian officers stopped him at Bologna airport and found IS-related materials on his mobile phone. He was then stopped from continuing his journey to Istanbul.

But speaking at her house in Bologna, Zaghba’s mother told the BBC she believed her son was radicalised in the UK.

Rachid Redouane claimed to be a Moroccan-Libyan. He married a British woman, 38-year-old Charisse O’Leary, in Dublin in 2012.

His ex-wife said she was “deeply shocked, saddened and numbed” by his actions.

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