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South Park slams Facebook for selling fake news

“I make money from Facebook for my fake content in order to pay Facebook to promote my fake stories” said…Professor Chaos in one of the most brutal and succinct criticisms of the social network to date. The latest episode of South Park pulled no punches in its take down of the Facebook fake news scandal. It poses Mark Zuckerberg as an indecipherable bully protecting fake news spreaders for profit and says kids can’t recognize lies on the app, while blaming everyone for allowing Facebook so deep into our lives.

Meanwhile the episodes pokes fun at Netflix for greenlighting low-quality original series, and riffs on the horrible abuse of women by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

South Park’s intense, episode-long focus on Facebook’s fake news problems underlines the severity of the mainstream backlash. The blunt characterization of Facebook and Zuckerberg, and the direct harm fake news has on show’s protagonists could force the company to see its actions and explanations through the lens of the public.

“Children lack the cognitive ability to determine what’s true”

Spoilers ahead. If you care, you should probably just watch the 22-minute episode, which was both funny and jaw-dropping in how aggressively it attacks Zuckerberg in particular.

The plot is essentially that the school boys of South Park have formed a super hero team and are trying to sell an original TV series based on their adventures to Netflix. But their nemesis Professor Chaos ruins their reputation and Netflix deal by publishing fake news on Facebook saying the heroes do disgusting things, and then promotes those stories with Facebook ads.

“Look fellas, you have a right to be on Facebook, and I have a right to be on Facebook, and sometimes that’s gonna cause a little…chaos” says the villain.

The line seems to reference or at least align with Zuckerberg’s statement about Donald Trump accusing Facebook of being “anti-Trump”. Zuckerberg responded that “Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like. That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like.”

Professor Chaos goes on to build a profitable fake news and ads farm. The parents of South Park start seeing the fake news, and believe the kids are performing unspeakable sex acts on innocent victims.

But one parent stands up and says [Warning: Graphic Language] “We all know there’s been a lot of mixing of truth and fiction on Facebook lately, and children lack the cognitive ability to determine what’s true and what isn’t on Facebook. That’s now why we have kids dressing up in costumes, eating poop, and having sex with antelopes in our town.”

The kids are actually acting pretty normal and can spot the lies, but the parents are the ones unwittingly buying into it.

“You all brought Mark Zuckerberg into your lives”

The parents invite Zuckerberg to town for questioning. But when one says “Facebook has become a tool for some to disrupt our country and our community”, Zuckerberg laughs off the critique, saying “You say these things as if they are my fault, and yet they are not.”

When another responds “Well you did create a platform with a monetary incentive for people to spread misinformation”, Zuck tells the town it cannot block his fighting style, and waves his arms while making sound effects like old kung fu movie villain. This seems to be a dig on both Facebook’s unrelenting expansion into every area of life, and Zuckerberg’s at-times opaque public speaking style.

The heroes confront Professor Chaos and Zuckerberg, and say to the CEO, “This kid is deliberately lying about us on your platform for no other reason then to cause harm. Why are you protecting him?” “Simple, he paid me $17.23” Zuckerberg responds. It’s clear that many see Facebook’s policy of allowing fake news because of free speech as an excuse for greed.

In reality, Facebook’s execs have so much money they probably don’t care much about earning more. My seven years of reporting on and interviewing the company lead me to believe it earnestly believes in free speech despite the ugly side effects, and this scandal has been driven by its idealistic leadership’s naivety about the worst of humanity rather than greed.

Every South Park episode, while laced with profanity and absurdity, resolves with a moral turn. In this case, the townspeople demand police shoot Zuckerberg, or at least kick him out of town. But the police chief asks “Who invited Mark Zuckerberg to town in the first place?”, and the public glumly admits “we did”. “You all should have thought harder about this before letting him into your lives” the chief chides the town, and everyone watching South Park.

In the end, the kids gang-stomp Zuckerberg until he fights back, but catch just the second half of the fight on Facebook Live, in turn ruining his reputation despite his protests that it’s all untrue. With a touch of his smartphone, the defeated Zuckerberg neutralizes the fake news peddlers, with the show poking the real him for not using his power to more drastic action. The kids get their Netflix show, and Professor Chaos’ Dad berates Vladimir Putin for setting a bad example.

The lessons are clear. South Park highlights how Facebook is profiting off fake news which the company needs to avoid, even if it means making things harder for innocent advertisers. As for the public, we must accept some of the blame for Facebook’s influence because we allowed ourselves to become so addicted to its content and to treat it like a verified news source.

Now the question is, did Zuck think it was funny?

News Source = techcrunch.com

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Facebook launches gameshows platform with interactive video

Rather than build its own HQ trivia competitor, Facebook is launching a gameshow platform. Today the company announced a new set of interactive live and on-demand video features that let creators adds quizzes, polls, challenges, and gamification so players can be eliminated from a game for a wrong answer. The features could help Facebook achieve its new mission to push healthier active video consumption rather than passive zombie watching that hurts people’s well-being. Creators and publishers who want early access can sign up here.

Gameshow launch partners include Fresno’s What’s In The Box where viewers guess what’s inside, and BuzzFeed News’ Outside Your Bubble where contestants have to guess what their opponents are thinking. Plus, Facebook is testing the ability to award prize money with (Business) INSIDER’s Confetti, where viewers answer trivia questions and can see friends’ responses, with winners splitting the cash.

“Video is evolving away from just passive consumption to more interactive two-way formats”, Simo tells TechCrunch. “We think creators will want to reward people. If this is something that works will with Insider and Confetti, we may consider rolling out payments tools.”

When asked if Facebook was inspired by HQ, Simo repeatedly dodged the question and avoiding mentioning the startup’s name, but relented in saying “I think they’re part of a much broader trend that is making content interactive. We’ve seen that across much more than one player.”

Facebook won’t be taking a share of the prize money in this test. For now, it’s also forgoing its cut of its $4.99 per month subscriptions option that lets fans pay for exclusive content, which rolls out today to more creators. Facebook also just launched its Brand Collabs Manager that we scooped in May, which helps brands browse creators by demographic and portfolio so they can set up sponsored content and product placement deals.

Initially Facebook is not taking a cut there either. For all three of these features, though, Simo says “that doesn’t mean we never will.” Creators can sign up for these monetization options here.

The new interactive video features will be available to all publishers and creators, alongside the global launch of the Android version of Facebook’s Creator app for web celebs. The tools range from offering basic in-video polls to creating a full trivia gameshow. Creators and will be able to write out their trivia questions and designate correct answers, as well as “write down the logic of the game” says Simo.

While polls will work for Live and on-demand videos, gamification that impacts the outcome of the broadcast is only for Live. Brent Rivera and That Chick Angel are two creators who will be testing the features in the coming weeks. Facebook already found that fans enjoyed polling on its Watch show Help Us Get Married, which let viewers influence the wedding planning decisions about themes and the venue.

Facebook’s last attempt at original video, its Watch hub, saw mediocre adoption as the content felt also-ran rather than something special or must-see. That’s why Facebook is expanding Watch to offer a broader range of shows for more creators, including potentially longer or non-episodic content. That includes bringing Facebook videos originally only hosted on Pages into the Watch destination.

Facebook’s family of apps will get another chance at an original video home run when Instagram launches its long-form video hub tomorrow, according to TechCrunch’s sources.

What we’re seeing here is positioning that diverges Facebook and Instagram’s video efforts. Facebook’s might be more interactive, about playing and watching with friends, and embrace more novel new formats like mobile gameshows. Instagram, with its history of polished photos, could house more traditional high-end entertainment content.

“We’re not trying to do one show or one trivia game. We’re trying to get every creator to create such gameplay. The beauty of the creators space is that they each have a unique audience” Facebook’s VP of video product Fidji Simo tells me. With 2.2 billion users, making an in-house one-size-fits-all game may have been impossible.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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Lyft’s app code reveals unlaunched bike or scooter feature

Lyft hasn’t acquired a bike-sharing startup or gotten a scooter permit yet, but it’s already preparing its app for them with a feature codenamed “last mile”. Code and screenshots dug out of Lyft’s Android app reveal a way to search a map for last mile vehicles, and scan a QR code or enter a pin to unlock them.

These materials come to TechCrunch from Jane Manchun Wong, who’s recently established herself as a prolific app code investigator. Her work has led to TechCrunch scoops on Instagram video calling and Usage Insights, Twitter encrypted DMs, and Facebook’s personalized emoji Avatars that were confirmed by the companies.

Lyft’s entrance into last mile vehicles could win customers looking for quick, cheap, and exciting transportation beyond the longer car trips it already offers. Renting scooters or bikes from the same app as its car rideshare options would allow it to compete with dedicated last mile provides like LimeBike and Bird that don’t benefit from the customer cross-pollenation. It would also help it keep up with Uber, which recently acquired electric bikeshare startup JUMP.

The screenshots show a map you can browse to find nearby vehicles plus a “Scan to ride” button. That brings up a barcode scanner for unlocking the vehicle, though there’s also an option to enter 4-digit pin code on your phone for unlocking. Code reveals that vehicles can have status of ‘Idle, Unlocking, In Ride, Locked, or Post Ride’.

Lyft is one of a dozen companies the SF Chronicle reports have applied for five dockless scooter permits from San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Regarding these new in-app materials, a Lyft spokesperson told TechCrunch “As has been reported I can confirm that we’ve submitted an application to the SFMTA but we aren’t sharing any further details at this time.

Lyft is vying for a permit alongside Uber, Spin, LimeBike, Bird, Razor, Scoot, Ofo, Skip, CycleHop, Ridecell, and USSCooter. SF recently banned scooter rentals after an unregulated invasion by several of these companies saw the vehicles strewn in sidewalks, obstructing pedestrians.

Lyft’s Android code includes new “last mile” features

Meanwhile, The Information reports that Lyft is in talks to acquire Mobike, offering $250 million or more for the startup that operates NYC’s Citibikes, and SF’s Ford GoBikes. But Axios reports Uber is trying to muscle in with its own bid, which could block Lyft or at least force it to pay a higher price. Lyft already offers bike rentals in Baltimore, but only through the Baltimore Bike Share app, not its own.

Some might see all this premature, with scooter rentals existing in few cities and considerable backlash from some citizens. But given the alternatives are either slow walking, or ridesharing that can increase traffic congestion, create more carbon emissions, and be quite expensive for short trips, many who give scooters a shot are finding them quite pleasant.

A driver displays Uber and Lyft ride sharing signs in his car windscreen in Santa Monica, California, U.S., May 23, 2016. About a half dozen ride-hailing firms have rushed into Texas tech hub Austin after market leaders Uber and Lyft left the city a little over a monthago in a huff over municipal requirements that they fingerprint drivers. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files

Hopefully, cities will focus on giving permits to dockless bike and scooter companies willing to incentivize proper parking, bike lane riding, and helmet usage, and that build reliable hardware that doesn’t end up broken or out of battery on the streets. Given Lyft’s more cooperative brand in comparsion to Uber’s more confrontational style, it could leverage its public perception to gain access to markets with these vehicles.

If those permits or acquisitions come through, Lyft clearly wants to move fast to get last mile transportations in customers’ hands and under their feet.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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PAX introduces Session Control to let novice users control their intake

PAX Labs, makers of the popular PAX 3 and PAX Era vaporizers, have today updated their app to offer a new feature called Session Control.

The idea here is based around the fact that people can sometimes overindulge when using a vaporizer for the first time, as the effects of cannabis oil can take a minute or two to kick in, leading people to continue puffing.

With Session Control, users can control their intake by selecting micro, small or medium puffs. Once the user has maxed out their session by puffing, the PAX Era will lock for 30 seconds, stopping users from overdoing it.

PAX launched an app called PAX Mobile in 2017 to give vape users even more control over their experience. From temperature control to different color schemes, the PAX Mobile app lets users fiddle with the PAX 3 or PAX Era on the fly.

While temperature control makes sense for more experienced users, Session Control lets newer users control their intake without making the process overly complicated.

“We want the tech to get out of the way,” said PAX Labs CEO Bharat Vassan. “A big part of what we want to do is to not have people staring at their phone. That’s why we use firmware so that the device updates itself. This way, users can set it and forget it.”

Session Control is available for the PAX Era, which vaporizes oil, and Vassan said they’re thinking of ways to introduce something similar with the PAX 3, which is a floral vaporizer.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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