Lenovo’s new Yoga Book replaces the keyboard with an E Ink screen

It’s hard to explain just what the Yoga Book C930 is. It’s a laptop, but half of it has an E Ink display in place of a physical keyboard with haptic feedback when you type. But “laptop” doesn’t quite fit because this is a very thin, small device that’s more akin to a folio than a full computer.

But it’s a full computer, too: it’s a Windows 10 device with 7th-Gen Intel processors that should be able to keep up with light computing needs. It has a 360 “watch band” hinge that allows you to flip it all the way around into a tablet mode, so it’s also a tablet. You can use it like any Windows tablet with support for a pen. You can jot notes on the E Ink side or read and mark up PDF documents.

Once you get all the different things the Yoga Book C930 is trying to do, you can’t help but be intrigued. It’s a svelte, elegant device that seems like it belongs in a gauzy tech concept video — only it’s actually going on sale this October, starting at $999.99. We’re still awaiting pricing information for the upgraded model with a faster processor, as well as pricing and a release date for a model that will integrate LTE.

But before you get too excited, there are some hard realities to contend with. This isn’t the first go-round Lenovo has had with this form-factor. Last year’s Yoga Book had many of the same ideas, but its execution was lacking. Instead of an E Ink deck, it had a weird pressure-sensitive thing you were supposed to put a pad of paper on. It had an atrociously outdated processor and was available in both Windows and Android variants.

Lenovo is fixing a bunch of those problems this year. The big improvements are the improved processor, a couple of USB-C ports, a fingerprint sensor, and, of course, that E Ink display. Essentially, Lenovo decided to focus on making the Yoga Book a high-end Windows 10 tablet device instead of the weird mix of midrange Android and Windows models it had last year. (It was even considering Chrome OS.) But that doesn’t mean the new Yoga Book is fixing all of them or that it won’t introduce some new compromises.

Here’s a simple example: typing on a screen — even with haptic feedback — is still not as ergonomic as typing on a physical keyboard. But if you can get beyond that, you’ll find Lenovo has done some interesting work. The keyboard is expanded out to fill the entire 10.8-inch E Ink screen with a little oval at the bottom. Tap that, and it expands out over a portion of the keyboard to become a larger trackpad; tap outside it, and it goes back into keyboard mode. That’s in addition to easy wins that a touchscreen makes possible, like offering keyboards in multiple languages. Sadly, there’s no emoji-specific keyboard option available. Lenovo just hates fun, I guess.

If you use the pen, you can do some other neat tricks with the E Ink screen. Doodles and drawings can be copied and pasted directly into any Windows app. You can also use optical character recognition to translate your handwritten notes into straight text.

But for all those neat tricks, there are potential downsides. The display can’t show any arbitrary app, unfortunately. You can read and mark up PDFs with it, but that’s pretty much the extent of what you can put on the display. An e-reader this is not. Switching between modes on the E Ink display took a few seconds on the prototypes Lenovo showed, but it’s possible that could be sped up on the final shipping product.

Simply as a piece of hardware, and especially as a concept, the Lenovo Yoga Book C930 feels futuristic. Lenovo added a clever knock-knock feature: rap twice on the lid when it’s closed, and it will pop open. Is it necessary? Nope. Is it neat? Sort of!

But whether the execution can live up to the ideas is another question entirely. The prototypes I saw were elegantly designed but had weird preproduction hardware quirks: some were too hard to open, had off-kilter vibrations, or experienced noticeable delays when copying E Ink scribbles into Windows. The burden of proof is on Lenovo to show that those issues won’t appear in the final product. And starting at a thousand bucks, the execution had better be pretty great because that’s more expensive than a decked-out Surface Go.

Correction August 30th, 5:08PM ET: The first version of this article referred to E Ink as “E-Ink.” The E Ink Corporation is super particular about how its technology is identified. We have fixed the error.

YouTube may soon let you donate directly to fundraisers

YouTube is giving creators more ways to fundraise with a bunch of new tools it announced today. Still in beta, the group of tools is called YouTube Giving, and it includes options for fundraisers, community fundraisers, campaign matching, and Super Chat for Good.

The fundraisers feature lets fans donate to campaigns started by creators through a donate button. While the features are only open to a few creators so far, a fundraiser you can currently donate to is the Hope for Paws Fundraiser, which raises funds for animal rescue and recovery. YouTube says it’s covering transaction fees during the beta period, but it doesn’t specify if there will be fees once the feature fully goes live.

Another beta feature lets multiple creators host the same fundraiser and have the cause displayed on their videos at the same time.

Creators will also be able to match the amounts received in a feature called campaign matching. Finally, YouTube is rolling out a variation of Super Chat called Super Chat for Good, which basically sends all user donations during a live stream to a nonprofit picked by the creator.

Some YouTubers are already involved in charity efforts through GoFundMe and other sites, so this looks like an effort from YouTube to add more functionality onto its platform and keep creators from migrating onto different services.

This is Google’s no-notch Pixel 3 smartphone

Well, it was bound to happen. After several consecutive weeks of leaks spilled nearly every detail about its larger Pixel 3 XL counterpart, the first real-world photos of Google’s Pixel 3 have been posted to the Pixel subreddit and republished by 9to5Google. And just as we’d anticipated, the front of the phone looks like a mini Pixel 2 XL; there’s no notch to be seen on this one. The photos also confirm stereo front-facing speakers, dual selfie cameras, and the same rear, all-glass design as the 3 XL (with a matte coating covering a good portion of it).

Today’s leak reveals the 5.5-inch display will have a resolution of 2160×1080 and 2:1 aspect ratio. The battery capacity is said to be 2,915mAh. According to screenshots that came from the phone, the two front-facing cameras are each 8-megapixel sensors. One has an aperture of f/1.8, the other f/2.2; it’s believed that Google is taking this two-camera approach to allow for wide-angle shots — and maybe a more secure face authentication feature, but there’s still no hard evidence of that. Somewhat interesting is that the dock at the bottom has seven apps in it, though we could just be looking at a third-party launcher. And yes, it definitely seems that the Pixel is moving to gesture navigation.

I don’t know about the rest of you Pixel fans out there, but I’m sold on this one. I just can’t do that notch, and for right now, I think I’m willing to trade some screen resolution and battery to avoid it.

Google is expected to hold the Pixel 3 launch event on October 9th in New York City. Aside from Google’s own Project Fi, Verizon will reportedly remain the exclusive US carrier of both phones.

Google reportedly bought Mastercard data to link online ads with offline purchases

If you’re a Mastercard holder in the US, Google has reportedly been tracking whether your buying habits are influenced by online ads in your offline purchases for the past year. The secret deal between the two companies was brokered after four years of negotiation, according to a Bloomberg report published today.

Neither Google nor Mastercard have publicly announced the partnership, and neither company let its customers know that their offline purchases made in stores are being tracked through Mastercard purchase histories and correlated with online ad interactions. Both Google and Mastercard say that the data is anonymized in order to protect personally identifiable information.

Google reportedly paid Mastercard millions of dollars for data on what people have been buying. It used that data to build a tool for advertisers that would break down whether people who had clicked online ads later went on to purchase a product at a physical retail store.

Bloomberg reported in detail how the process works. It starts with a customer who’s logged into a Google account on the web clicking a Google ad. That person browses a certain item, but doesn’t purchase it. Later on, if they use their MasterCard to buy that item in a physical store within 30 days, Google will send the advertiser a report about that product and the effectiveness of its ads, with a section for “offline revenue” listing the retail sales.

To opt out, you have to toggle off “Web and App Activity,” which is enabled by default. The very non-specific category controls whether Google can pinpoint your exact GPS coordinates through Maps data and browser searches and, as today’s news highlights, whether it can crosscheck your offline purchases with your online ad-related activity.

This is Google’s latest attempt to see how effective its ads have been in influencing offline purchase behavior, plugging a hole in its system where retailers would buy ads, but never ultimately know if it translated to a real-life purchase. Google has in the past provided advertisers with location history data culled from Google Maps and other more granular data points collected by its Android operating system. But that data never indicated whether a customer actually purchased a product. With clothes, beauty products, and other items that people usually like to try out in the physical store before buying, Google’s new tracking tool answers that question for advertisers.

Google told The Verge that users’ personally identifiable information is hidden from both Google and its partners. It declined to confirm the deal with Mastercard.

In a statement, a Google spokersperson said:

“Before we launched this beta product last year, we built a new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents both Google and our partners from viewing our respective users’ personally identifiable information. We do not have access to any personal information from our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners. Google users can opt-out with their Web and App Activity controls, at any time.”

Mastercard elaborated further in a statement to The Verge:

The way our network operates, we do not know the individual items that a consumer purchases in any shopping cart – physical or digital. No individual transaction or personal data is provided. That delivers on the expectation of privacy from both consumers and merchants around the world. In processing a transaction, we see the retailer’s name and the total amount of the consumer’s purchase, but not specific items.

Mastercard told The Verge that the company shares aggregated and anonymized data, such as the merchant’s average ticket size and sales volumes, with merchants and their service providers so they have metrics to measure their ad campaigns’ “effectiveness.”

We knew about this partially last year, because Google announced a service called Store Sales Measurement, stating it recorded about 70 percent of US credit and debit cards transactions through third-party partnerships. At the time, we did not know what the specific partners were and we didn’t know how Google would make it work. Now it’s been anonymously confirmed that Mastercard is one of them. It’s likely that the 70 percent metric doesn’t involve just Mastercard, but includes other credit card providers as well.

Update August 31st, 1:16AM ET: Added Mastercard statement and updated second paragraph with mention of anonymized data.

Slack quietly adds auto-expiring statuses

Workplace chat and collaboration company Slack has quietly updated its status feature to include an expiration date, so you can set certain statuses like commuting, meetings, and vacation to expire after a distinct amount of time. Restarting Slack on mobile or desktop should pull up the new feature for all users, and it looks like the company updated its help center page for statuses yesterday to include information about the new change.

Now, when you pull up the status screen, you’ll get the same default statuses with pre-filled expiration times, including one hour for “in a meeting,” 30 minutes for “commuting,” and an unspecified length of time for “vacationing,” which is a nice touch. If you’d like more granular control, you can write in your own status or click one of the default ones and click the downward-facing arrow to pull up greater lengths of time, including “today” and “this week,” and a custom one for picking your own date and time for the status to clear.

It’s a subtle change, but a welcome one. It makes Slack statuses, which first arrived back in April of last year, even more useful for communicating your whereabouts and daily activities to your coworkers without having to clog up channels with unnecessary and manually written notices. Now, when you’re working remotely for a few days, heading to an appointment, or in an irregularly long meeting, you can let Slack do more of the work for you without having to obsess over clearing it yourself. And for those who worry about accidentally leaving up a “out to lunch” status for three hours, this feature should help keep you in check.

Trump says Amazon, Facebook, and Google represent a ‘very antitrust situation’

President Donald Trump continued his war of words against technology companies for a third day in a row, this time telling Bloomberg News in an Oval Office interview this afternoon that he sees the power and influence of companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google as a “very antitrust situation.” Trump began his heightened criticism of Silicon Valley starting on Tuesday by criticizing Google for alleged skewing of search results in favor of left-wing media organizations, after watching a related Fox News segment that cited deeply flawed study results.

“I won’t comment on the breaking up, of whether it’s that or Amazon or Facebook,” Trump said, replying to a question on whether tech companies like Facebook and Google should be regulated and potentially broken up by the US government. “As you know, many people think it is a very antitrust situation, the three of them. But I just, I won’t comment on that.” Trump reiterated his claim that “conservatives have been treated very unfairly” by Google. “I tell you there are some moments where we say, ’Wow that really is bad, what they’re doing,’” he added.

It is not clear why Amazon is included in this latest round of criticism, as it does not operate a communications platform, but it’s likely because Trump personally dislikes Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, and has criticized Amazon frequently in the past over apparent tax issues.

Trump’s attacks on tech companies have reached new heights this week and represent a growing strategy among right-wing politicians and media figures designed to paint Silicon Valley as an enemy of conservative speech. Facebook and Twitter have long been targeted by conservatives for perceived liberal bias regarding how they moderate their platforms, with Facebook having come under fire two years ago for alleged censoring of right-wing news sources in its Trending Topics feature, which has since been removed from the site.

Since then, Facebook has often been accused of censoring conservatives on its platform, though any concrete evidence on the practice remains virtually nonexistent and Congressional hearings on the subject tend to illustrate how profoundly misunderstood Facebook is by most politicians. Still, earlier this week, it was revealed that a small group of Facebook employees has come out in opposition to what it sees as systemic liberal bias within the company at a cultural level, with The New York Times reporting that the group of around 100 employees is calling for more idealogical diversity. There is no available evidence that the political makeup of Facebook employees has any concrete effect on its products whatsoever, although the existence of the right-wing group within the company is sure to complicate the optics of the situation in Washington.

Twitter has more recently come under fire for its alleged shadow banning of right-wing public figures on the platform, a misleading use of the term that has nonetheless helped craft a narrative of liberal bias within the San Francisco-based social network. CEO Jack Dorsey has spent the past year trying to craft better moderation strategies to deal with hate speech and other unsavory actions on his platform. Yet he’s found himself often placating conservatives and waltzing into endless controversies around whether accounts like those of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars network get to stay on the platform.

Google, on the other hand, has remained relatively off the radar for Trump and other big-name conservatives — excluding the James Damore situation — until this week, even as the company has faced legitimate antitrust probes both in the US and Europe. In July, the European Union slapped Google with an unprecedented $5 billion fine for Android antitrust violations related to the promotion of its own software services in Google Search.

It’s unlikely Google will face anything close to that level of punishment or scrutiny here in the US, where corporate oversight is much more lax and tends to follow the tides of partisan political discourse. However, following Trump’s claims of search result bias, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has asked the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a formal investigation into any potential anti-competitive effects in Google’s search and digital advertising practices.

On Wednesday, Trump posted a video of unknown origin to his Twitter account claiming Google purposefully decided not to link to his State of the Union (SOTU) address. Google denied the allegation and provided proof and an explanation as to why Trump’s SOTU address in 2017 was not linked on the Google homepage. Nonetheless, the video did its job of increasing the perception of Google as an enemy of conservatives, and Trump supporters even showed up at the company’s Mountain View, California headquarters this afternoon to protest.

The video was posted after Trump claimed he was losing social media followers due to Silicon Valley’s liberal bias and told reporters Tuesday that the tech companies in question are on “troubled territory” and “better be careful.”

AptX Adaptive is Qualcomm’s latest solution to bad Bluetooth audio

If you stream music from an Android phone to a pair of wireless headphones, there’s a very good chance your devices are relying on a compression algorithm known as AptX, which is supposed to squeeze high-quality sound into the limited bandwidth provided by a Bluetooth connection. But existing AptX options have their limits, so Qualcomm — the company behind AptX since 2015 — is introducing a new version that’s supposed to grow and contract the size of audio data to meet the demands of whatever and wherever you’re actually streaming.

The new version of AptX is called AptX Adaptive, and its key feature is the ability to compress audio at a variable bitrate. That means if you’re in an environment with a lot of competing wireless signals, your phone will be able to compress your audio into a smaller file size so that it’s easier to stream to your headphones. And if you’re in an empty room listening to music, AptX Adaptive will allow your phone to send a higher bitrate file so that you get better audio quality.

Qualcomm says AptX Adaptive’s abilities go beyond just responding to signal strength. The codec will also take into account what kind of audio you’re streaming — if it sees the audio is coming from Netflix, it’ll know it’s a movie or TV show, for instance — and can adjust its settings according to the situation’s needs. This will all happen behind-the-scenes, Qualcomm stresses, without any need for users to select a mode on their phone or identify what they’re listening to.

AptX Adaptive is meant as a replacement to traditional AptX and the newer AptX HD. Its bitrate can actually go lower than normal AptX (down to 280kbps, whereas AptX was a flat 384kbps), but it can’t reach quite as high as AptX HD (only going up to 420kbps, instead of 576kbps). Chris Havell, senior director of product marketing at Qualcomm, says that the limit doesn’t mean worse audio because compression improvements have allowed AptX to achieve the same level of quality in a smaller file size.

“We basically improved the codec so what you were getting at 576 you now get at 420,” Havell says. Reducing the bitrate also means more bandwidth for resending data that didn’t make it over to your headphones, meaning the connection could be stronger, too. Havell also says AptX Adaptive isn’t stuck at just those two points — 280kbps and 420kbps — it can fluctuate anywhere in between as the situation demands.

AptX Adaptive is supposed to be built into Android Pie, so phones coming out over the next year will have support for it. Havell says he expects headphones with AptX Adaptive support to arrive in the first half of 2019. Those headphones will be backward compatible with older versions of AptX, too, so they’ll work even if your phone isn’t on the latest version of Android.

Unfortunately, the iPhone doesn’t support AptX, so this upgrade will really only impact Android phones. Beats headphones don’t use AptX either, which means customers of one of the most popular wireless headphone brands will miss out.

If you’re buying wireless headphones in the future though, you can always check the box to find out if they support AptX. Companies have to license the technology from Qualcomm, and part of the deal is a requirement that it be advertised on the box, so you’ll know it’s there.

Apple blocks its gay pride watch face in Russia

Apple first introduced its pride Apple Watch face during the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June. Inspired by the rainbow flag, it’s designed to celebrate gay pride and stand against discrimination to LGBTQ people. While Apple regularly touts its “unwavering commitment to equality and diversity” in highly-produced gay pride videos, the company has its limits. iOS developer Guilherme Rambo has discovered that the pride Apple Watch face is “hardcoded to not show up if the paired iPhone is using the Russian locale.”

Reddit users and Apple support forum users have been questioning the lack of a pride watch face in Russia over the past couple of months. The Verge has tested this on an iPhone running the latest iOS 12 beta, and the pride watch face simply disappears once you switch to the Russian locale.

Russia implemented a “gay propaganda” law in 2013, which the European Court of Human Rights ruled reinforces prejudice and encourages homophobia. The law comes with the threat of jail time and fines for what Russia deems to be offensive speech. Apple appears to be avoiding this particular legal quandary. Apple sells a special pride edition Apple Watch strap, donating a portion of the proceeds toward LGBTQ advocacy organizations. But it doesn’t sell it in Russia, either.

Google targeted Russia’s anti-gay laws with a rainbow Olympics homepage during the Winter Olympic Games in Russia in 2014. The Google homepage, including the Russian version, was changed to show a rainbow-inspired Google Doodle and the Olympic Charter, which calls for the Olympic spirit of no discrimination of any kind against every individual practicing sport.

We’ve reached out to Apple to comment on its pride Apple Watch face, and we’ll update you accordingly.

A conservative Facebook would probably fail — but Facebook should worry about it anyway

In the days after the 2016 election, Gizmodo published a much-discussed story that predicted our current moment. The story, written by Michael F. Nuñez, alleged that Facebook had built a tool to reduce the spread of fake news — and then abandoned the tool over fears it would disproportionately affect right-wing news sites. Nuñez reported that Facebook had undertaken a high-level overview of its products in an effort to identify ways in which they might be biased against conservatives.

Facebook denied most of the substance of the story. But subsequent reporting reporting did find concerns within the company that right-wing users might someday turn on the service en masse. (See the now-famous May 2016 meeting between Zuckerberg and 16 prominent conservatives.) As I wrote in 2016:

When an earlier generation of media companies acted as gatekeepers against false and misleading stories, they created a market for alternative media. That led to the rise of conservative talk radio, Fox News, and (most recently) the alt-right. Facebook’s worst nightmare is that conservatives stop seeing it as a neutral platform, and create a fair-and-balanced social network of their own.

On Thursday, that nightmare gained a bit of momentum. Axios’ Mike Allen spoke to Donald Trump Jr., who said he was in the market for a “conservative, Facebook-like social network,” which he would heavily promote to his millions of followers:

When I asked him if his father’s 2020 campaign might build such a platform, Don Jr. said: “I’d love to do it. But what I would prefer is, take one of the two Silicon Valley conservatives and let them start it. And then I’d help promote the platform and be all over that.”

Scary thought: Imagine tribal news delivered via tribal pipes. And, as one mischievous Trump adviser told us, imagine the president moving his Twitter show to that network.

Of course, merely wishing for a conservative Facebook won’t make it so. There’s already an alternative right-wing Twitter named Gab, and after two years it seems barely afloat. It’s also not clear an ideologically pure social network would even be that much fun to use; as Joe Weisenthal put it: “a right-wing only social network will give users no way to trigger the libs, and so what’s the point? People will just get bored.”

Moreover, the existing Facebook has been an incredible boon to the conservative movement, as NewsWhip’s rankings of the most popular publishers consistently attest. (Maya Kosoff: “the fact of the matter is that a legitimate ‘Facebook for conservatives’ would look . . . a lot like Facebook.”)

At the same time, there appears to be at least some level of risk that this drumbeat of bias complaints is doing lasting damage to Facebook’s image. On Wednesday the Media Research Center, a partisan organization devoted to promoting the idea that the media is biased against conservatives, published the results of a poll it sponsored. sample size was small — just 351 people — but the views are consistent with the ideas that Republican lawmakers have been floating in hearings lately. And it doesn’t help that trust in Facebook has been declining generally:

Of conservatives who have used Facebook, 32.3% say they have either left (7.5%), or are considering leaving (24.8%), Facebook due to its censorship of conservative views.

What’s more, nearly two-thirds (66.9%) of conservative likely voters have less trust in Facebook than they did a year ago. Likewise, nearly two-thirds (66.1%) do not trust Facebook to treat all political views equally and 64.6% believe sites like Facebook are intentionally censoring conservatives and conservative ideas.

A frustration I have with this poll — and with the whole debate, really — is that the terms are so imprecise. What would mean for Facebook to “treat all political views equally”? Facebook was built to be personalized to the individual; if you want to see nothing but Fox News in your feed, you very easily can. Conversely, were Facebook to inject an equal bunch of articles from CNN or the New York Times into your heavily curated, Fox-only feed, you would likely see Facebook as more biased than it is today.

But it’s hard to fight a fundamentally emotional argument with reason. (That sentence also doubles as my preview of next week’s Congressional hearings.) Mainstream press outlets have largely been unable to convince conservatives that they are practicing journalism in good faith. And I suspect Facebook will have just as hard a time.

It seems almost quaint now to think about the months before the election, when Facebook scoured its products for evidence of actual bias against conservatives. It seems clear now that no matter what it found, or did, it would be facing the same fury it did today. And given the bad-faith arguments it rests on top of, it’s not at all clear what Facebook can do about it.


Trump Says Google, Facebook, Amazon May Be ‘Antitrust Situation’

President Trump told Bloomberg that Google, Facebook, and Amazon might be in a “very antitrust situation.” One of the most dreaded of all antitrust situations.

Jack Dorsey Gets His Day in Washington

Selina Wang says Twitter’s CEO will face the harshest scrutiny of anyone when he testifies before Congress (for the first time!) next week. The reason is because Twitter has fewer resources at its disposal, and also its decision-making is often opaque and incoherent:

Twitter Inc. is in a more precarious position than its larger competitors, though. Dorsey’s company can’t match their user bases or cash reserves, and the modest user growth he’s fostered over the past two years could vanish if Twitter starts losing conservatives over concerns, warranted or not, about bans and “shadow bans” (in which a user’s content is invisible to everyone but ­themselves—a ­practice Twitter says it doesn’t engage in). On the other side, the service could lose liberals who won’t participate on a site they perceive to be fostering abusive speech or bending rules to accom­modate conservatives.

The latest flashpoint is a decision Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and Google-owned YouTube made in early August to purge content from Alex Jones, the shock-radio host and creator of the website InfoWars, over posts and videos that violated their hate-speech and harassment policies. Twitter has also been under mounting pressure to ban Jones, notably for spreading false assertions that the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was a hoax. After his competitors’ decision, Dorsey tweeted that Jones “hasn’t violated our rules” and implied that other platforms had caved to political pressure.

Senators Criticize Google CEO for Declining to Testify

Lawmakers are upset that Sundar Pichai isn’t going to testify next week alongside Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey, Steven T. Dennis reports:

Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, said Google and the other companies should all send their CEOs.

“This is the United States Senate, this is an important issue, and we deserve to hear from the decision-makers, not the people who carry out the decisions,“ King said.

Hatch asks FTC to investigate Google’s market dominance

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has asked the Federal Trade Commission to re-open the investigation into whether Google’s search and digital advertising practices are anti-competitive, Harper Neidig reports. Note that this request is based in reality — unlike, say, claims that Google search results are “rigged” against the president.

Hatch sent a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons expressing concern about reports in recent years ranging from Google restricting competing advertising services to collecting data from users’ Gmail inbox contents.

“Needless to say, I found these reports disquieting,” Hatch wrote. “Although these reports concern different aspects of Google’s business, many relate to the company’s dominant position in search and accumulating vast amounts of personal data.”

Trolls for Sale in the World’s Social Media Capital

Jonathan Corpus Ong examines how Rodrigo Duterte’s cultivation of a troll army prefigured Russia’s 2016 influence campaign:

Duterte’s campaign machinery strategically focused onassembling bloggers, digital influencers, and fake account operators to tap into the public’s deep-seated anger—and convert these emotions into votes on election day. This was initially a cost-saving maneuver for an “outsider” candidate lacking extensive political resources, but it worked to great effect. This tactic owed much of its success to the fact that the Philippines is the world’s “social media capital,” with the average Filipino spending more time on social media than any other nationality.

WhatsApp kicks off radio campaigns in India to tackle fake news

Facebook already did a print campaign to warn against fake news; now there’s a radio campaign to go along with it, reports wire agency PTI. The initial ads are in Hindi but will expand to include other languages:

“The radio campaign will air starting today across 46 Hindi-speaking stations of All India Radio (AIR) across Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told PTI. […]

These campaigns advise users to verify authenticity of messages before forwarding them and to report content that they might find to be inflammatory. It also cautions users to be careful about forwarding messages that contain misinformation and said doing so, could have serious repercussions.


The People With Power at Facebook

Sarah Kuranda does us all a great service by offering an up-to-date org chart. Sarah, may you continue to update this in all perpetuity. I bookmarked it immediately, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

How Misinfodemics Spread Disease

Misinformation influences more than politics. It’s actually making us sicker, Nat Gynes and Xiao Mina report: “Researchers are finding more and more that online misinformation fuels the spread of diseases such as tooth decay, Ebola, and measles.”

Recent research found that Twitter bots were sharing content that contributed to positive sentiments about e-cigarettes. In West Africa, online health misinformation added to the Ebola death toll. In New South Wales, Australia, where the spread of conspiracy theories about water fluoridation run rampant, children suffering from tooth decay are hospitalized for mass extractions at higher rates than in regions where water fluoridation exists. Over the past several weeks, new cases of measles—which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared eliminated from the United States in 2000—have emerged in places such as Portland, Boston, Chicago, and Michigan; researchers worry that the reemergence of preventable diseases such as this one is related to a drop in immunization rates due to declining trust in vaccines, which is in turn tied to misleading content encountered on the internet. With new tools and technologies now available to help identify where and how health misinformation spreads, evidence is building that the health misinformation we encounter online can motivate decisions and behaviors that actually make us more susceptible to disease.

Grindr IPO for gay dating app

Grindr essentially invented modern gay dating and has had a dramatic (and too-little-explored) affect on the culture. It’s now preparing to go public, and good lord I can’t wait to read the risk factors on that S1. Here you have a network where an extremely number of high-profile individuals are regularly sexting and exchanging nudes with often-fake profiles around the world, providing a ready source of kompromat to, say the Chinese government, which almost certainly will take an interest in everything passing through the Kunlun Group’s servers, assuming they haven’t already????

Johnny Johnny Yes Papa explained by the internet’s best meme creators

Sometimes a meme comes along at the perfect moment, and as soon as you see it, you know why it has captured the internet’s imagination. Johnny Johnny Yes Papa is not one of those memes. In fact Julia Alexander had to interview an army of experts to even begin to understand why a simply nursery rhyme (that does not rhyme!!!) has racked up billions of views across all manner of disturbing YouTube channels. This was the explanation that resonated most with me:

Creator behind Welcome to My Meme Page (300,000 Facebook followers): I think Demons have descended upon our world. We are thrashing under the fever of a Great Sickness, yet we do not know it.


Twitter will begin labeling political ads about issues such as immigration

Twitter is adopting Facebook’s rules requiring political advertisers to verify their identities, while carving out an exemption for news reports. (Facebook has not created such an exemption, and many outlets are still struggling to understand their responsibilities, as this piece in India’s Caravan indicates.) The impact of this will be fascinating to watch — Russia’s RT network tweets news, but it’s also funded by the Kremlin — making it arguably just political advertising by another name. Twitter has made journalists happy here, but it also may have just created a loophole for influence campaigns to exploit. Here’s Tony Romm:

Twitter said Thursday that it would begin requiring some organizations that purchase political ads on topics such as abortion, health-care reform and immigration to disclose more information about themselves to users, part of the tech giant’s attempt to thwart bad actors, including Russia, from spreading propaganda ahead of the 2018 election.

The new policy targets promoted tweets that mention candidates or advocate on “legislative issues of national importance,” Twitter executives said in a blog post. To purchase these ads, individuals and groups must verify their identities. If approved, their ads then would be specially labeled in users’ timelines and preserved online for the public to view. And promoted tweets, and the accounts behind them, would be required disclose the name of the actual organization that purchased the ad in the first place.


Why Google Doesn’t Rank Right-Wing Outlets Highly

Google News ranks right-wing outlets lower than mainstream outlets because they don’t do much reporting or adhere to basic journalistic standards, says Alexis Madrigal:

But even if the methodology is flawed, Google applies it equally to all the media organizations in its news universe. It might not be a “free” marketplace of ideas, but it is a marketplace with fairly well-known and nonpartisan rules. If right-wing sites aren’t winning there, maybe Google isn’t the problem.

And finally …

Snapchat, Weather Channel, and others hit with anti-Semitic vandalism

Operate a walled garden and journalists will rail against you for your greed. Operate a more open system and journalists will constantly ask, how did you let this happen???

Today we had one of the latter cases:

New Yorkers who opened up Snapchat, The Weather Channel, CitiBike, or a number of other apps and services this morning found that the name of their city had been swapped with anti-Semitic vandalism, replacing it with “Jewtropolis.”

The offensive change appears to have been a result of edits to Mapbox, a widely used service that powers the maps inside of all these apps and more. The change was also spotted inside the app for StreetEasy and on The New York Times’ map of 2016 election results. Mapbox also lists Vice, Vox (our sibling site), and the FCC as groups that have made use of its maps, however, the vandalism didn’t show up on those sites.

I can’t help but feeling like, were there not so many Nazis walking around these days, this would seem more like a junior-high prank than a genocidal influence campaign. But, you know!

Talk to me

Send tips, comments, questions, and suggested features for partisan social networks: casey@theverge.com.

Beyerdynamic’s new wireless headphones put the LED lights where they belong: on the inside

The Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC headphones come with a neat lighting trick: instead of having exterior LEDs spoiling their aesthetic, they have internal lights to inform the user of their status. It’s such a simple switch in thinking, executed with a smidgen of flair, yet its effect is profound. When you think about it, the only time you want to see a status light on your headphones is when they’re off your head, and you probably want to see that light without ambiguity. So Beyerdynamic has done what’s obvious in hindsight by illuminating the inner periphery of the cups with informative colors.

When you first pick up a Lagoon pair that’s already on, the left ear cup will glow blue and the right one will glow red because that’s when you’ll want help differentiating between the symmetrical left and right ear cups. When they’re in Bluetooth syncing mode, the headphones will pulsate in a matching blue, alternating from cup to cup. When successfully paired, orange, Beyerdynamic’s brand color, will indicate that the headphones are connected and ready for use. Red alerts will show up when the battery is about to run out, and charging is accompanied by a graduating palette of colors, with the lights first blinking red, then orange, then yellow, and finally green when fully charged.

It’s not often that I spend so much time talking about how headphones look and behave when they’re not on someone’s head, but this feature has been really growing on me in the hours since I first saw and tried it at Beyerdynamic’s booth. It’s just thoughtful. Someone took the time to consider how wireless audio users really use their headphones and tailored a solution specifically to the challenges faced by that (constantly expanding) crowd.

When worn, the Beyerdynamic Lagoon are comfortable, though not as stupendously light and luxurious as Sony’s latest 1000Xs or Bose’s QC35s. Those are two of the most prominent noise-canceling over-ear headphones, and Beyerdynamic is clearly picking a fight with them (rather than, say, Bowers & Wilkins’ PX, which is heftier and less compact).

There’s a touch of creakiness to the demo Lagoon models I saw here at IFA, though I’m told that’s only because they’re early units built specifically for the show. The final headphones will also have replaceable pads, according to Beyerdynamic. In terms of other basic features, the Lagoon is a close match to its Sony and Bose rivals: all three models have collapsible designs and come with a rigid carrying case included. Sony and Beyerdynamic, having the more recent models, also gain the edge on Bose by offering USB-C charging.

The battery life promises made by Beyerdynamic with the Lagoon are eyebrow-raising. With active noise canceling turned on, these headphones are rated to last 24 hours — and when it’s switched off, they’re supposed to last for 46 hours. If these numbers are even close to reality, the Lagoon will wind up being the most forgiving pair of headphones for people who make a habit of forgetting or misplacing their charger.

I’m still not a fan of touch controls on headphones, which is what Beyerdynamic has implemented on the Lagoon. During my testing at IFA, the Lagoon’s controls were especially finicky and irritating, not recognizing my double taps to play and pause the music, but I’m willing to accept that as an understandable imperfection of a demo unit. Beyerdynamic will have to nail this in the final retail product, much as Sony finally perfected the touch controls on its 1000X M3s.

Aside from an accompanying app that lets you tailor the sound to your preferences, Beyerdynamic has also smartened up the Lagoon with an automatic play/pause facility that recognizes when you take them off and put them back on. That already works with great accuracy. A long press on the right cup’s touchpad will launch either Google Assistant or Siri, depending on your phone’s operating system and your own choice. I’ve found practically every new pair of wireless headphones launching this week has USB-C charging and a digital assistant trigger. These are good trends; I’m not complaining.

Beyerdynamic plans to release the Lagoon ANC later this year at a price of €399. They’ll have to prove their worth on the strength of their noise canceling, battery endurance, and sound quality, but we’ll have to wait for the final review units to judge those aspects.

Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge