Anti-Trump Activists Defend Fake-*Washington Post* Stunt

On Wednesday, a group of hoaxsters affiliated with the progressive nonprofit group the Yes Men circulated fake versions of The Washington Post, dated May 1, 2019, imagining a world in which President Trump has suddenly left office. Throughout the morning, the activists distributed print copies of the edition in front of the White House and debuted a website called My-WashingtonPost.com, which, despite looking like the real Post website, was splashed with the faux headline “UNPRESIDENTED: ENDING CRISIS, TRUMP HASTILY DEPARTS WHITE HOUSE.”

The stunt, which was promoted on Twitter by the left-leaning group MoveOn, was intended as a work of satire to “support impeachment,” according to Andy Bichlbaum, a cofounder of the Yes Men, who initially identified himself as “Andrew from The Washington Post” when WIRED called him Wednesday. “We’ve been around for about 20 years doing, I’d say, clowny sort of actions with a very serious impact,” Bichlbaum says.

But [...]  read more

Most Users Still Don’t Know How Facebook Advertising Works

Facebook has become an incredibly successful advertising platform in part because it allows marketers to show people ads using fine-grained categories, which are generated based on an individual’s behavior. Facebook says this allows it to show users ads that are more relevant to their interests. But its data collection practices have also led to a series of privacy scandals over the past several years, and increased scrutiny from lawmakers around the globe.

In response to questions about its targeting practices, Facebook has said that anyone can use the platform’s ad preferences menu to see and control how Facebook has categorized them. But a new survey from Pew Research Center suggests that the vast majority of US users don’t know Facebook keeps a list of their interests and traits this way. When respondents found out, most said they were uncomfortable with the assumptions Facebook had made about them.

The Numbers

From September 4 – October [...]  read more

A Poker-Playing Robot Goes to Work for the Pentagon

In 2017, a poker bot called Libratus made headlines when it roundly defeated four top human players at no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em. Now, Libratus’s technology is being adapted to take on opponents of a different kind—in service of the US military.

Libratus—Latin for balanced—was created by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University to test ideas for automated decision-making based on game theory. Early last year, the professor who led the project, Tuomas Sandholm, founded a startup called Strategy Robot to adapt his lab’s game-playing technology for government use, such as in wargames and simulations used to explore military strategy and planning. Late in August, public records show, the company received a two-year contract of up to $10 million with the US Army. It is described as “in support of” a Pentagon agency called the Defense Innovation Unit, created in 2015 to woo Silicon Valley and speed US military adoption of new technology.

Libratus’s defeat [...]  read more

Tech Workers Unite to Fight Forced Arbitration

Tech workers may be new to labor organizing, but they’re learning quickly. When a November walkout by 20,000 Google employees protesting the company’s mishandling of sexual harassment claims led to small changes that fell short of the organizers’ demands, some activists inside Google decided to broaden the fight.

On Tuesday, the group, called Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration, will launch a public awareness campaign about mandatory arbitration agreements, arguing that employers use them to suppress workers facing harassment and discrimination. “Ending forced arbitration is the gateway change needed to transparently address inequity in the workplace,” the group wrote in a blog post on Medium.

From 9am to 6pm eastern time on Tuesday, the group will post information about arbitration on a dedicated Twitter account, while a companion Instagram [...]  read more

The FTC Thinks You Pay Too Much for Smartphones. Here’s Why

The Federal Trade Commission thinks you’re paying too much for smartphones. But it doesn’t blame handset makers like Apple and Samsung or wireless carriers. Instead, the agency blames Qualcomm, which owns key wireless-technology patents and makes chips that can be can be found in most high-end Android phones and many iPhones.

Qualcomm charges companies like Apple a set percentage of the total price of a phone in exchange for the right to use its technology, according to the antitrust suit filed by the FTC. The percentages vary, but Qualcomm generally charges 5 percent of the value of a device, up to a maximum of about $20 per device, according to a legal brief filed by Qualcomm. [...]  read more

MacKenzie Bezos and the Myth of the Lone Genius Founder

When award-winning novelist MacKenzie Bezos and her husband Jeff Bezos, the chief executive and founder of Amazon, announced on Twitter Wednesday they were getting divorced, public discussion over the uncoupling quickly centered on the impact it might have on Jeff’s company, and on each sides’ net worth. Were he and his wife to split their estimated $136 billion fortune equally, news articles speculated that MacKenzie could become the “richest woman in the world,” far wealthier than even people like Elon Musk.

TMZ reports that the couple did not have a prenup. Washington, where they live, is a community property state, meaning that all property and debts acquired during the 25-year marriage could be equally split if the Bezoses can’t negotiate an agreement. Amazon, for the record, is 24 years old. But thinking about the divorce as an opportunity for MacKenzie [...]  read more

Lawsuit Claims Google Board Covered Up Sexual Misconduct

A shareholder lawsuit filed Thursday claims that Alphabet’s board of directors, including Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt, covered up sexual harassment by numerous Google executives, including Andy Rubin, whose $90 million exit package was approved by the board after an internal investigation found sexual harassment claims against Rubin credible.

At a press conference in San Francisco, attorneys representing Alphabet shareholder James Martin said that Page and Brin, the company’s cofounders, were among the people directly involved in the cover-up and should compensate shareholders for the value lost when Alphabet shares declined after the payments to Rubin and others were revealed.

The lawsuit is supported by nonpublic evidence, including minutes from Alphabet board meetings in 2014 and 2016, obtained through a shareholder inspection demand. In the public filing, the minutes are heavily redacted, which Google demanded as a condition of providing the documents. [...]  read more

Attack on Ethereum Classic Highlights a Crypto Weakness

The promise of digital cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is that you don’t need to trust the people to whom you send or receive money, because the software makes it technically impossible for anyone to cheat the system. Instead of relying on humans and their flawed judgment, you rely on the laws of mathematics. But a recent attack on the cryptocurrency Ethereum Classic—not to be confused with the original Ethereum project—shows once again how hard it is to remove human frailty from digital systems.

Like other cryptocurrencies, Ethereum Classic relies on a decentralized ledger known as a blockchain created and shared by the machines that process transactions on the network. This ledger ensures that no one can spend their virtual tokens twice. Unless, that is, someone could take over at least 51 percent of the machines in the network. That’s what appears to have happened last weekend.

Currency exchange Coinbase  [...]  read more

Juul’s Answer to Its PR Crisis? The Millennial Marlboro Man

Say you were a villainized e-cigarette startup, with a $13 billion cash investment from the tobacco giant that owns Marlboro, and blamed for kicking off a vaping epidemic among teens. You’d lay low, right? Maybe play nice with the FDA. Log off Instagram. Throw a few coins at a youth prevention campaign. Juul, however, is opting for a more aggressive route.

Juul Tuesday confirmed that it plans a national TV ad campaign, featuring ex-smokers who used Juul to help them quit traditional cigarettes. CNBC, which first reported the plan, said Juul plans an initial $10 million campaign, airing on national cable channels after 10PM local time, and aimed at adults 35 years and older.

TV ads for tobacco products have been banned under federal and state regulations since the 1970s, and print ads restricted. Advertising standards have not been formalized for e-cigarettes, which are regulated differently by the Food and Drug Administration. E-cigarette companies have advertised on [...]  read more

Forget the iPhone Shortfall Driving Apple’s Stock Drop. They’re All About Services Now

Only a few months ago, Apple was crowned the first company to be valued at more than $1 trillion. Now, in the wake of a surprise profit warning, its entire future is being questioned. Both reactions are extreme. A victory lap wasn’t warranted last summer, nor is a eulogy now. The company is at an inflection point. Apple, like others before it, is attempting to navigate the shift. It’s fair to wonder if it can; it’s premature to conclude that it can’t.

WIRED Opinion

About

Zachary Karabell is a WIRED contributor and president of River Twice Research.

Apple’s dramatic announcement of a multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall came at a particularly sensitive time for financial markets, which have been sinking on fears about the economic outlook. It took only a few hours before a rough thesis emerged that the combined effects of the China-US trade war, waning consumer confidence, and market volatility [...]  read more