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10.21.16 | 3:59 pm

Mark Zuckerberg decided not to remove Donald Trump’s hate speech

Some Facebook employees have argued that Donald Trump's calls to ban Muslims from the United States violate the company's policy on Facebook. The company's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, decided that it would be inappropriate to remove the comments, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Fast Company broke the news in December 2015 that Facebook had made an exception to its hate speech policy for Donald Trump.

06.23.17 | 2 hours ago

PayPal cuts off French white nationalist group as era of political boycotts heats up

In the new era of booming political boycotts, left-leaning activists are targeting the funding sources that keep their right-wing opponents online and in business. They scored a recent victory in France when PayPal and two big European banks, France's Credit Mutuel and Austria's Sparkasse, dropped their service to the French white nationalist group Generation Identitaire (Generation Identity). Canadian activist group SumOfUs says it will now target banking services that support U.S. white nationalist and other extreme-right sites, a topic we investigated recently.

06.23.17 | 2 hours ago

In a rare move, Google starts purging health records from its search results

[Photo: Brandon Morgan]

There are very few things Google will intentionally remove from its search results—in fact, it used to be only seven things. Now the company has updated the list of what it will take down, adding a new criteria: health records. The change, reported by Bloomberg, comes after reports that tens of thousands of medical documents were indexed onto Google's search engine late last year

Before the update, the list of delete-worthy content included revenge and child porn and personally identifiable information, including ID numbers, signatures, as well as bank and credit card numbers. Now Google has updated its policy to include "confidential, personal medical records of private people," Bloomberg reports.

06.23.17 | 3 hours ago

Smells like green spirit: Lime Skittles fans have hounded Mars Inc. into submission

Back in 2013, Wrigley/Mars Inc. decided to ruin lives and break up families by swapping out lime-flavored Skittles for green apple ones. The change induced tears, weeping, and wailing, rending of clothes, wearing of sack cloth and ashes, and whatever other forms of grieving Skittles devotees could unearth from Sophocles. In other words, some people complained about it on the internet. 

Now fans of that "long lost" flavor have so aggravated Wrigley/Mars by flooding their social media channels with emoji-filled pleas (no emoji translator needed) that lime Skittles are coming back, albeit for a limited time. This summer Walmart (and only Walmart; take that Amazon!) will be selling "Long Lost Lime" packs of Skittles alongside packs of Skittles "Originals" (even, though, as purists will point out, lime was the original). It will tide us over until spicy Skittles are released.

Walmart seems to be making a push into the retro market since they were also the only outlet where '90s enthusiasts could find Oreo O's cereal and even Zima. It's a way for the company to compete in the sizzling grocery-store wars, especially because '90s kids and teens are now right in the target demographic.

[Photo: Skittles]

06.23.17 | 3 hours ago

Facebook is building an army of U.K. users to fight extremism

As Facebook continues to try to deal with the rise of violent and extremist content posted to its platform, the company is implementing a new tactic: empower (or outsource) outside groups to be watchdogs. Its latest program, launched in the U.K., will fund and train local non-government groups to monitor and respond to extremist content, even giving them their own platform to communicate directly with the company, Reuters reports

Facebook—and other large tech companies like Alphabet—has been under fire lately from European governments over its inability to curb this sort of abusive content. The new program works alongside its artificial intelligence efforts, which aim to use technology to automatically take down flagged posts, as well as Facebook's army of outsourced content moderators around the globe. 

[Photo: Evan Kirby]

06.23.17 | 4 hours ago

SpaceX live-stream: Watch the refurbished Falcon 9 rocket blast off here

Elon Musk's private space-flight operation is gearing up for a doubleheader this weekend with the launch of two rockets. The first is a refurbished Falcon 9 rocket, which will blast off today from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There's a two-hour launch window beginning at 2:10 p.m. ET. (A backup launch opportunity is scheduled for tomorrow at the same time.) If successful, the rocket will carry the first Bulgarian satellite into space. You can check it out via the live-stream below.

Another Falcon 9 launch is planned for Sunday. This one part of its Iridium mission and will blast off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. More to come!

06.23.17 | 6:57 am

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop $120 “Bio-Frequency Healing” sticker packs get shot down by NASA

Goop had claimed the costly "Body Vibes" stickers were "made with the same conductive carbon material NASA uses to line space suits so they can monitor an astronaut's vitals during wear" and because of that were able to "target imbalances" of the human body's energy frequencies when they get thrown out of whack, reports Gizmodo. The thing is, NASA confirmed to Gizmodo that they "do not have any conductive carbon material lining the spacesuits" of astronauts.

But NASA didn't stop there. When told that the founder of the company that makes the "Body Vibes" stickers sold by Goop claimed he "found a way to tap into the human body's bio-frequency" but that "most of the research that has been collected is confidential and is held as company private information," a former chief scientist at NASA's human research division told Gizmodo: "Wow. What a load of BS this is." For its part, a Goop spokesperson now says the stickers were never formally endorsed by them and "based on the statement from NASA, we've gone back to the company to inquire about the claim and removed the claim from our site until we get additional verification."

This isn't the first time Goop has endorsed questionable claims, such as the claim that taking an Aleve is like "swallowing a hand-grenade."

06.23.17 | 6:04 am

Amazon’s drone “beehive” patent proves the company is full of mad scientists

The patent describes a multilevel fulfillment center where drones swarm to deliver packages in densely populated urban areas. As Business Insider points out, the beehive patent joins other Amazon patents for fulfillment and logistics including flying warehouses, mobile truck-based mini warehouses, and even underwater warehouses.

[Image: Amazon/USPTO]

06.23.17 | 5:53 am

Google now hides your private medical records from search results

The search giant added "confidential, personal medical records of private people" to the list of information it removes from search results, the company noted on its removal policies page. Though it's not common for medical practices or insurers to upload your medical records to the internet for all to see, sometimes records do get uploaded inadvertently or via hacks.

Today's move by Google should make it harder for people to browse your health history should the above have happened to you. Google's full list of information they now may remove from search results include:

• National identification numbers like U.S. social security numbers, Argentinean single tax identification numbers, Korean resident registration numbers, Chinese resident identity cards, etc.

• Bank account numbers

• Credit card numbers

• Images of signatures

• Nude or sexually explicit images that were uploaded or shared without your consent

• Confidential, personal medical records of private people 

06.22.17 | 3:58 pm

The OTC hearing aid market could boom in 2018—if Congress lets it

Forty-eight million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, but only a few get hearing aids—whether because of cost ($1,000-$6,000 per pair), denial of the problem, or stigma. Bypassing the trip to a doctor and making hearing aids available over the counter could get affordable products to more Americans, says the Consumer Technology Association.

How does it know? Because of the growth in a gray area of devices called personal sound amplification products. PSAPs don't have FDA approval as hearing aids, which means the makers aren't allowed to say that they help people with hearing loss, but obviously that's the intention and why people use them. PSAP sales have grown 40% since last year—to 1.5 million units and $225 million, according to a new study CTA released today. It expects the market to grow another 50% in 2018.

Bipartisan legislation sailing through Congress may further help. The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 would allow PSAP makers to finally claim that they do, in fact, help people with both mild (somewhat noticeable) and moderate (somewhat debilitating) hearing loss. CTA has set standards and today announced a logo (see below) to designate PSAPs that actually work well and won't be harmful by over-amplifying sound. The standards might serve as a guideline for the FDA if Congress approves the Over The Counter Hearing Aid Act this summer. 

06.22.17 | 3:36 pm

After being blamed for division, Facebook’s new mission seeks to foster unity

On the surface, the new mission statement that social networking giant Facebook unveiled today, "Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together," doesn't sound all that different than the old one, "To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." But Facebook is a giant business, and it's taken a lot of flak recently for being a medium that propagates divisiveness. Step by step, Mark Zuckerberg's company has tried to tackle that reputation, with Zuckerberg's manifesto, with lots of new tools for combating the spread of fake news, as well as new systems for trying to keep terrorists off the service.

Facebook doesn't make changes to things like its mission statement without lots of internal discussion. So it's clear that the new one is about making the case that it's about building unity rather than just being a place for people to share their ideas–no matter what those ideas may be. As Zuckerberg put it today, "We need to give people a voice to get a diversity of opinions out there, but we also need to build enough common ground so we can all make progress together. We need to stay connected with people we already know and care about, but we also need to meet new people with new perspectives. We need support from family and friends, but we also need to build communities to support us as well."

It's a very optimistic message, and Facebook is going to have to do a lot to convince skeptics that it can be a force for positive change in a world that desperately needs one. It won't be easy, and it won't happen immediately. But as the largest community of people the world has ever seen, with nearly 2 billion active users, Facebook has the potential to be that change agent. "Our lives are all connected. In the next generation, our greatest opportunities and challenges we can only take on together–ending poverty, curing diseases, stopping climate change, spreading freedom and tolerance, stopping violence," Zuck wrote. "No single group or even nation can do them alone."

06.22.17 | 2:13 pm

Maybe this is the reason why there aren’t more women founders in tech

A report by the Information today levied allegations of unwanted advances against Justin Caldbeck, a "well-connected" cofounder and partner at Silicon Valley VC firm Binary Capital. Six women who have previously consulted with Caldbeck in some capacity—be it for funding or advice while starting a business—told the Information he had behaved inappropriately with them. The women making the accusations include Google alum and former Minted CTO Niniane Wang and Susan Ho and Leiti Hsu, who cofounded travel concierge service Journy. From the story: 

Ms. Wang alleges Mr. Caldbeck, while informally trying to recruit her for a tech company job, tried to sleep with her. Ms. Ho said that Mr. Caldbeck, while discussing investing in their startup, sent her text messages in the middle of the night suggesting they meet up. Ms. Hsu says that Mr. Caldbeck groped her under a table at a Manhattan hotel bar.

The other women, who chose to remain anonymous, reportedly had similar accounts. Binary denied the allegations altogether: 

Binary issued a statement that said the notion Mr. Caldbeck had "engaged in improper behavior with female entrepreneurs" was "false." Binary said that while the Information had "found a few examples that show that Justin has in the past occasionally dated or flirted with women he met in a professional capacity, let's be clear: There is no evidence that Justin did anything illegal, and there is no evidence that any of his investing decisions were affected by his social interests.

If you've been paying attention, none of this—the allegations or Binary's flippant response—is remotely surprising. The Information spoke to a number of women in tech who said they had similar encounters with other VCs, and they felt it was part of the reason female founders were underrepresented in tech. What's worse is that sexual harassment laws meant to protect employees don't apply to the VC-founder relationship. Read the full report here

Update: Binary gave Fast Company the following statement from Caldbeck: 

"Obviously, I am deeply disturbed by these allegations. While significant context is missing from the incidents reported by The Information, I deeply regret ever causing anyone to feel uncomfortable. The fact is that I have been privileged to have worked with female entrepreneurs throughout my career and I sincerely apologize to anyone who I made uncomfortable by my actions. There's no denying this is an issue in the venture community, and I hate that my behavior has contributed to it."

06.22.17 | 2:09 pm

Tech companies are poaching much-needed AI professors, says Microsoft researcher who poaches them

Computer science and now AI studies are booming at U.S. universities—in part because of the great job prospects that they offer to grads. But those same prospects are draining away AI and machine learning professors, who are lured by lucrative, challenging jobs in the private sector. That's happening even at top universities like Stanford, says Jennifer Chayes, a former UCLA mathematics professor who now heads Microsoft Research for New York City and New England. "I don't know if there are any—or there are very, very few—of the core [machine learning] faculty at Stanford left," she says. "I just hired one last year."

She talked about the issue at Bloomberg's Spotlight on Artificial Intelligence conference in San Francisco today. "Stanford can't begin to pay them enough," says Chayes. A bigger incentive, she thinks, is that working in the private sector is more intellectually appealing. Professors can focus on their research without having to teach hundreds of students. And they have access to better data from customers. "If you are a researcher in AI and ML, you need massive amounts of … interactive data," she says.

Many private-sector AI researchers teach at universities on the side, but Chayes says that's not a reliable fix. And while companies do train interns and employees—she says Microsoft has about 1,500 AI interns per year—this doesn't help with the basic research needed to develop new types of applications. "So I think it's a really bad trend," Chayes says. "[A]ll of us need to figure out a way to make it possible for AI and ML faculty to stay at universities and train the next generation."