Top Stories for the Week of January 31, 2018

  • Episode 541
  • January 31, 2018
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday January 31, 2018

A company who sold fake followers to social media users is under investigation for the practice.

New York's chief prosecutor says the state is opening an investigation into a firm that allegedly sold millions of fake followers to social media users.

"Impersonation and deception are illegal under New York law," said Eric Schneiderman.

According to the New York Times, the company, Devumi, stands accused of stealing real people's identities—which it denies.

The paper linked the "follower factory" to a host of celebrity accounts.

The Times published an in-depth report on Devumi on Saturday, including interviews with people who alleged their account details and profile pictures had been copied to create realistic "bots."

It is alleged that others who wanted to increase their follower count, including actors, entrepreneurs, and political commentators, could then pay to be followed by the bots.

On social media, accounts with a high number of followers are able to boost influence, which can directly impact public opinion. It can also bring other advantages to the account holders, such as job offers or sponsorship deals.

Mr Schneiderman said he was concerned that such "opaque" operations were undermining democracy.

On its website, Devumi offers customers the chance to order up to 250,000 Twitter followers, with prices starting at $12 (£8.50). Clients can also buy "likes" and retweets.

The company sells followers on a range of other platforms, including Pinterest, LinkedIn, Soundcloud and YouTube.

The company is registered at a New York City address, although the New York Times alleged it is only a front, with its actual offices being in Florida. It also employs workers in the Philippines.

Twitter has responded to the investigation, saying it is working to stop Devumi and similar companies.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

The largest cryptocurrency theft in history happened Friday in Japan, with a loss equivalent to $530 million USD.

Japanese media say an exchange has lost 58 billion yen through hacking—the equivalent of about $530 million in cryptocurrency.

The Coincheck exchange said on its website Friday that it had halted sales and withdrawals of the currency, which is called NEM. It later added that it had also restricted dealings in most other cryptocurrencies too.

Keep in mind, as many as 10,000 businesses in Japan are said to accept cryptocurrencies.

Kyodo News service reported that Coincheck President Koichiro Wada apologized at a news conference and said the company may seek financial assistance. Kyodo says the Coincheck exchange detected the unauthorized access to its system early Friday, and promptly froze trading.

The reported loss exceeds the 48 billion yen that the Japan-based Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange lost back in 2014.

Some 260,000 customers are said to be affected by the reported theft, but over the weekend, Coincheck promised to use its own funds to reimburse more than 46bn yen (around $423m) to customers who lost their NEM cryptocurrency coins on Friday.

The company says it has the digital address of where the assets were sent.


Sent to us by: Bekah Ferguson

Apple is making the slow down of old devices "optional".

Apple has confirmed that a software update will let iPhone owners switch off the "battery saver" feature that slows down some models.

The option to switch off the feature will appear on the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, SE, 6S, 6S Plus, 7 and 7 Plus models.

Last month, Apple apologised after it was found to be deliberately slowing down some of its devices.

Customers were angry that Apple had not been upfront about its actions before the practice was discovered. Many had long suspected the company slowed down older iPhones to encourage customers to upgrade.

Apple admitted to slowing some phones with ageing batteries, but said it was only done to "prolong the life" of the devices.

The ability to switch off the battery saver will appear in iOS 11.3 when it is released later this year.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Net neutrality will be enforced in New York under orders from the governor.

New York has become the second state to enforce net neutrality with an executive order that prevents ISPs from obtaining state contracts unless they follow net neutrality principles.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the executive order last week, just days after Montana Governor Steve Bullock did the same. The states are challenging the Federal Communications Commission, which repealed its own net neutrality rules and preempted states from imposing similar ones.

The executive orders attempt to run around the FCC's preemption of local laws. Instead of directly requiring all ISPs to follow net neutrality principles, the executive orders require state agencies to only do business with ISPs that offer neutral networks.

Cuomo said, "The FCC's dangerous ruling goes against the core values of our democracy, and New York will do everything in our power to protect net neutrality and the free exchange of ideas."

The order says that state agencies and departments may not "enter into any contracts for Internet service unless the ISPs agree to adhere to net neutrality principles." ISPs would disqualify themselves from obtaining state contracts if they "block, throttle, or prioritize Internet content or applications or require that end users pay different or higher rates to access specific types of content or applications."

The New York order goes beyond Montana's by including the specific provision against charging users higher rates to access specific types of Internet content and applications.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


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