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10.05.16 | 11:46 am

Tech giants insist they’re not doing a Yahoo (scanning email traffic)

Tech giants quickly reacted with their own denials to yesterday's bombshell report that Yahoo had developed a secret program to scan its users' email traffic to cooperate with a government directive (which Yahoo vehemently disputes). Microsoft and Google both asserted that they have never scanned email traffic and Twitter and Apple say that they're never received such requests from the government. And a spokesperson for Facebook told Fortune that it had not received any such request, and stating that it would "fight" it if it ever did.

04.29.17 | 6:46 pm

Here are some of the best signs at today’s Climate March in D.C.

Close to 200,000 people marched through the heart of Washington, D.C. today to call attention to the climate change crisis and to protest the Trump administration on its 100th day.

Here are some of the best and most inspired signs at the march:

04.29.17 | 4:49 pm

Will Ferrell steals the show at Sam Bee’s Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

In a 12-minute set, Will Ferrell reprised his role as former President George W. Bush at Sam Bee's Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner event. Here are his best digs at President Trump:

"History's proved to be kinder to me than many of you thought it would. I was considered the worst president of all time–that has changed. I needed eight years, a catastrophic flood, a war built on a lie, an economic disaster–the new guy needed 100 days."

"I'll be honest, I never liked you guys in the press—our relationship was sometimes strained. You guys would always sneak up on me with 'gotcha' questions like, 'Why are we going to war?' Gotcha! 'Why did you not respond to Hurricane Katrina?' Gotcha! 'What is your middle name?' Gotcha. I just wish someone would've told me that all you have to say is 'fake news' over and over again."

"I don't know why anyone would become a journalist now. It's like being on the Titanic in this room. The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Boston Herald—the iceberg is coming and you guys are hanging on to your journalistic integrity, playing the violin as the ship goes down. You should do what they're going over there at Fox & Friends—those guys are dressing up like women and children and stealing the lifeboats."

"Journalism school is where you go so you can be a journalist. Or you can also just post angry, racist tweets and hope Breitbart hires you."

04.29.17 | 11:40 am

The EPA picked a weird time to update its website

You can't make this stuff up: Just a few hours before thousands of demonstrators were set to descend on Washington, D.C., for the Peoples Climate March, our trusty Environmental Protection Agency said its website would be "undergoing changes." The changes are curious to say the least—as of this morning, an EPA web page dedicated to climate change information is completely gone. The page redirects to an under-construction notice:

"Thank you for your interest in this topic. We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt. If you're looking for an archived version of this page, you can find it on the January 19 snapshot."

In addition to today's march in D.C., hundreds of sister marches are planned for around the world. Here's more context from the Washington Post

04.28.17 | 1:36 pm

Amazon might launch a touch-screen Echo soon

A premium display-equipped version of the Amazon Echo speaker has been the subject of rumors for over a year now, and it could launch next month, according to CNET. The site's unnamed source claims that Amazon has accelerated the launch to stay ahead of Google, whose recent launch of multi-user support for the Google Home speaker served as a "wake-up call." If CNET's report is accurate, the device would be Amazon's second new Echo product in as many months, following this week's launch of the camera-equipped Echo Look.

This wouldn't be Amazon's first Alexa device with a display, as the voice assistant also appears on the company's Fire tablets and Fire TV media players. But the premium Echo device could help establish more of an on-screen presence for Alexa, ahead of its arrival on smartphones, car dashboards, and even refrigerators.

04.28.17 | 12:26 pm

A new Starbucks will be bigger than your triple venti latte

Soon Starbucks fans will have a new spot to line up in front of while they wait for the return of Unicorn Frappuccinos. The Seattle-based coffee chain just announced their plan to open the world's largest Starbucks on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, taking over from a Crate & Barrel flagship, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

This won't be merely another place to pick up coffee and kale chips, though, but the newest iteration of their high-end concept, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. The 43,000-square foot, four-level Roastery will be a "fully sensorial coffee environment" and continue executive chairman Howard Schulz's dream of being the "Willy Wonka of coffee" where consumers can buy espresso drinks, pour-over coffees, coffee beans, coffee cups, coffee makers, coffee accessories, and—at least at the Seattle store—bicycles. The Chicago location is expected to open in 2019, making it the third Roastery in the country. The first opened in Seattle in 2014, and the second is scheduled to open in New York City in 2018. International Roastery outposts are planned for Shanghai, Milan, and Tokyo, with plans to open 20 to 30 over time. Perhaps by then our spellcheck will accept "Roastery" as a word.

[Photo: Alexas_Fotos]

04.28.17 | 12:01 pm

Google raters are people, too

In response to complaints that Google's advertising algorithm was serving up ads alongside racist and Holocaust-denying content, the company promised to do better. To stave off a boycott by some of the biggest companies in the world, they hired a vast team of round-the-clock raters to give that overly logical algorithm a human touch and to ensure that no ads were ending up next to offensive content.

But who are these raters of the lost algorithm (just go with that, please) who tirelessly monitor ad content on YouTube? Turns out no one really knows. According to Ars Technica, "Even Google engineers who work with rater data don't know who these people are." To get to the bottom of that mystery, Ars Technica took a deep dive into the world of these online raters and it's a fascinating peek into what makes the simple act of Googling work. Read it here while thinking up better "raters" puns. 

04.28.17 | 11:56 am

The stars of “The Circle” put Jack Dorsey in the hot seat

STX Entertainment released a roundtable discussion with the stars and director of The Circle, alongside Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Based on Dave Eggers's novel of the same name, the film follows a young woman on her rapid rise in a tech and social media company, which involves taking part in an experiment that crosses ethical lines of surveillance, privacy, and personal freedom.

And to help contextualize these issues IRL, The Circle cast stopped by Twitter HQ for a live chat with Dorsey, where they mainly covered diversity and inclusion in Silicon Valley and the responsibilities tech companies have in how people use their platforms.

Watch the full discussion below or click here for Dorsey's highlights.

04.28.17 | 11:20 am

Remember that email you never responded to? Now you can reply to it guilt-free

Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt, hosts of the excellent Reply All internet culture podcast, have created a new holiday that everyone with an email account should be celebrating—Email Debt Forgiveness Day. It's this Sunday and gives you the excuse to respond to emails that are long overdue, without any apology or explanation. "You don't ask for forgiveness, you just act like you've already achieved it," Vogt told me.

The holiday was inspired by so-called tax amnesty days, and was invented as a way to cope with the anxiety that comes with life in the modern world and an email inbox that is forever ticking upward. "We have an incredible amount of anxiety about answering emails," said Goldman. "So if we can get everyone in the United States…" "The world," added Vogt. "Yes, if we can get everyone in the world to celebrate this holiday, it's a freebie." Instead of explaining the delay in response, Goldman and Vogt suggest simply linking to their website, which explains the origin of the sudden response.

The unofficial holiday is now in its third year. Goldman and Vogt estimate that there are hundreds of celebrants around the world. This Sunday, Goldman plans to pick up loose ends of stories he started to report on and then abandoned, and then to write a long-overdue email to his brother. Vogt plans to spend his Sunday making a dent in the thousands of messages in his inbox. He isn't sure that he'll make it through that morass, but as he notes, "What else do you have to do on Sunday?" 

04.28.17 | 11:13 am

Ryan Seacrest, Ludacris, and YouTube are teaming up to find the next Justin Bieber

Never forget that YouTube is to blame for the rise of Justin Bieber. The talented Canadian upstart posted videos of his singing and guitar-playing, and the rest is history. Many have tried to replicate Bieber's path to a level of fame that means having your face on bedsheets and being able to wear rose-gold grills without irony, but few have succeeded. Now the unlikely combination of Ryan Seacrest, Ludacris, and YouTube hope to change that with an online talent show that just might unleash the next Justin Bieber upon the worldaccording to The Hollywood Reporter

The competition is called Best.Cover.Ever and it will give rising musicians the chance to perform their best cover versions of either the Backstreet Boys "As Long as You Love Me," Demi Lovato's "Confident," or Jason Derulo's "Trumpets" and earn a shot to perform with the original recording artist. Up-and-coming youngsters have until May 19 to find out who the Backstreet Boys are and then submit their song to YouTube.

04.28.17 | 10:43 am

Airbnb has a new plan to lure more business travelers

Today Airbnb said it will launch a new search filter to surface accommodations for business travelers. Listings categorized as "business" promise Wi-Fi and a desk—or other workspace accoutrements like toiletries—that you would ordinarily find at hotels. The new filter launches Monday. 

Already Airbnb offers 150,000 business-ready homes. It also says that 250,000 companies use the site to book stays for jet-setting workers. Though Airbnb mostly caters to vacationers right now, it is increasingly positioning itself as more than just a cheap and quirky option for traveling on a budget. This year it bought Luxury Retreats to grow its upscale listings. Now it's targeting business travelers, making it a creeping concern for traditional hotels. 

04.28.17 | 10:15 am

Google is trying to bring the internet to Cuba

The internet does not really exist in Cuba. (Hey, Raul Castro!) It's partially a side effect of the government trying to limit access to a world of information, earning Cuba the title of "one of the most restrictive media environments in the world," as reported by NPR. Those restrictions, combined with a lack of infrastructure and the means to purchase state-of-the-art electronics, translates to very few Cubans (fewer than 5% by some estimates) having access to the open internet. The internet that does exist is usually limited to tourist areas and bigger hotels, and is expensive. In my personal experience, it's also generally more sluggish than the dialup modem you used to access eWorld on your clamshell Mac.

While travelers to Cuba may appreciate the chance for a de facto digital detox, the people who live and work in Cuba have to exist without access in an increasingly digital world. Now Google is looking to make accessing the internet a little easier for those Cubans who do have it. The company just launched its own servers in the country. In a blog post, Google noted that Cubans "who already have access to the internet and want to use our services can expect to see an improvement in terms of quality of service," because content can now be cached locally. That applies not only to Google, but to Google-owned sites like YouTube. That means Cubans can now access pro-American videos like this.

[Photo: Unsplash user @lintaho]

04.28.17 | 9:35 am

Sidewire, where the political elite chat, turns on reader reactions, hopes for the best

Sidewire, the chat app for newsmakers, is making its first big step toward integrating readers into these dialogues with the launch of Reactions. Sidewire readers, who have heretofore been limited to marking favorite comments with a heart, can now add one of four reactions (a smiley or angry emoji, and a question mark or exclamation point) as well as add a question or comment. The difference for Sidewire is that newsmakers will still control whether to include responses or inquiries. They will be able to decide whether and how much to pull reader participation into chat. "You don't have to see it unless you want to," says Sidewire CEO Andy Bromberg. Sidewire is celebrating Reactions today with several high-profile chats, including ones with the bestselling author of the Hillary Clinton campaign tell-all Shattered, Silicon Valley's darling House Rep. Ro Khanna, and former Democratic campaign vet Bob Shrum.

Bromberg says the Sidewire community of political professionals, elected representatives, and journalists has seen an uptick in interest along with almost every other form of media covering the new presidential administration. Reactions, then, is both a natural evolution and a big risk. As I learned when reporting on Sidewire last year, newsmakers like it because there aren't any trolls. But readers could become disillusioned if they feel their voices aren't being heard and included. Sidewire has built a very civil, engaged community of pros talking to each other; now we'll find out if the audience is as professional.