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    DeSantis/Musk event didn’t break the Internet, but it did break Twitter / ArsTechnica · 4 days ago - 16:35

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Enlarge / Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (credit: Scott Olson / Staff | Getty Images North America )

Yesterday, Florida's Republican governor Ron DeSantis became the first presidential hopeful to announce his campaign on Twitter Spaces, which Elon Musk had touted as a "smart move" for "any candidate" to "get the highest possible audience."

But instead of making sure that DeSantis' announcement was delivered to the broadest possible audience, Twitter glitched for nearly 30 minutes, causing more than half of DeSantis' initial 600,000-strong audience to ditch the audio session, briefly including DeSantis himself, The Washington Post reported . In the end, only 161,000 users heard DeSantis deliver his short speech, NBC News reported , with a total of approximately 300,000 users ultimately attending the audio-only event, which lasted more than an hour.

A screenshot widely shared from MSNBC's "Morning Joe" showed that the number represented fewer viewers than videos of US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got playing a game on Twitch, Buzzfeed got exploding a watermelon, and April the Giraffe got giving birth.

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    Google never agreed it wouldn’t copy Genius’ song lyrics, US official says / ArsTechnica · 5 days ago - 20:19 · 1 minute

Google never agreed it wouldn’t copy Genius’ song lyrics, US official says

Enlarge (credit: maxshutter | iStock / Getty Images Plus )

After song lyrics website Genius sued Google in 2019 for allegedly breaching its terms of service by copying its lyrics transcriptions in search results, the United States Supreme Court invited the US solicitor general, Elizabeth Prelogar, to weigh in on how the US viewed the case. The question before Prelogar was whether federal copyright law preempted Genius' terms of service, which prohibits any of its website visitors from copying lyrics for commercial uses.

Yesterday, Prelogar responded, filing a brief that sided with Google. She denied that Genius' case was a good vehicle to test whether copyright law preempted state-law contract claims and recommended that the court deny Genius' petition to review the case.

The key issue was that Genius' terms of service may not be a valid contract, because website visitors don't have to directly agree to the website's terms and may not even be aware they exist. Because of this, Prelogar said it was unclear whether any court would find that Google—or any visitor to Genius' site—ever agreed to not copy the lyrics. Reviewing Genius' arguments, Prelogar said that the Supreme Court should not review the case because "there is little indication that any other court of appeals would reach a different outcome in this case."

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    48 states sue phone company that allegedly catered to needs of robocallers / ArsTechnica · 5 days ago - 19:00

Illustration of robots wearing phone headsets and sitting in front of laptop computers.


Nearly every US state yesterday sued a telecom company accused of routing billions of illegal robocalls to millions of US residents on the Do Not Call Registry.

Avid Telecom , an Arizona-based company formed in 2000, "chose profit over running a business that conforms to state and federal law," according to a lawsuit led by Arizona AG Kris Mayes and joined by the attorneys general of 47 other states and the District of Columbia. The case involves every US state except Alaska and South Dakota.

The lawsuit was filed in US District Court for the District of Arizona against Avid Telecom, CEO Michael Lansky, and VP of Operations and Sales Stacey Reeves. The lawsuit arises from work done by the Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force of 51 attorneys general.

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    Widespread FBI abuse of foreign spy law sets off “alarm bells,” tech group says / ArsTechnica · 6 days ago - 22:09 · 1 minute

Widespread FBI abuse of foreign spy law sets off “alarm bells,” tech group says

Enlarge (credit: Chip Somodevilla / Staff | Getty Images North America )

The FBI isn't supposed to use its most controversial spy tool to snoop on emails, texts, and other private communications of Americans or anyone located in the United States. However, that didn't stop the FBI from sometimes knowingly using its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Section 702 powers to conduct warrantless searches on US persons more than 280,000 times in 2020 and 2021, according to new disclosures. US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) described the searches as  "shocking abuses."

Among the most concerning so-called backdoor searches on Americans were disclosures that the FBI ran more than 23,000 queries on people involved in storming the US Capitol, 19,000 on political campaign donors, and 133 on protestors after the police killing of George Floyd. The deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology's Security and Surveillance Project, Jake Laperruque, said that "these latest revelations should set off alarm bells across Congress," urging lawmakers in a statement not to re-authorize FISA Section 702 at the end of this year—when it's due to expire—without a "full overhaul."

"The systemic misuse of this warrantless surveillance tool has made FISA 702 as toxic as COINTELPRO and the FBI abuses of the Hoover years," Laperruque said, while his group's press release noted that the court opinion "confirmed the worst fears of civil rights and civil liberties advocates.

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    Netflix crackdown on account sharing hits US with $8 fee for each extra user / ArsTechnica · 6 days ago - 21:35

Illustration of a house with a Netflix logo and several TV screens.

Enlarge (credit: Netflix)

Netflix is now telling US customers to stop sharing accounts with people outside their households or pay $7.99 a month for each extra member. "Your Netflix account is for you and the people you live with—your household," Netflix says in an email targeted at customers whose accounts are being used in multiple locations.

The email provides two options: transfer the extra person's profile to a new membership that they can pay for separately, or spend $7.99 a month extra to "share your Netflix account with someone who doesn't live with you."

"Starting today, we will be sending this email to members who are sharing Netflix outside their household in the United States," Netflix announced .

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    Fake Pentagon “explosion” photo sows confusion on Twitter / ArsTechnica · 6 days ago - 21:01 · 1 minute

A fake AI-generated image of an

Enlarge / A fake AI-generated image of an "explosion" near the Pentagon that went viral on Twitter. (credit: Twitter)

On Monday, a tweeted AI-generated image suggesting a large explosion at the Pentagon led to brief confusion, which included a reported small drop in the stock market. It originated from a verified Twitter account named "Bloomberg Feed," unaffiliated with the well-known Bloomberg media company, and was quickly exposed as a hoax. However, before it was debunked, large accounts such as Russia Today had already spread the misinformation, The Washington Post reported .

The fake image depicted a large plume of black smoke alongside a building vaguely reminiscent of the Pentagon with the tweet "Large Explosion near The Pentagon Complex in Washington D.C. — Inital Report." Upon closer inspection, local authorities confirmed that the image was not an accurate representation of the Pentagon. Also, with blurry fence bars and building columns, it looks like a fairly sloppy AI-generated image created by a model like Stable Diffusion .

Before Twitter suspended the false Bloomberg account, it had tweeted 224,000 times and reached fewer than 1,000 followers, according to the Post, but it's unclear who ran it or the motives behind sharing the false image. In addition to Bloomberg Feed, other accounts that shared the false report include “Walter Bloomberg” and “Breaking Market News," both unaffiliated with the real Bloomberg organization.

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    Google bans Downloader app after TV firms complain it can load a pirate website / ArsTechnica · 6 days ago - 19:13

Screenshot of the Google home page displayed on Downloader, an Android app with a built-in browser.

Enlarge / The Downloader app that was suspended from Google Play. (credit: Elias Saba )

The Google Play Store suspended an app that combines a web browser with a file manager after a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint pointed out that the app is capable of loading a piracy website—even though that same pirate website can be loaded on any standard browser, including Google Chrome.

The free app , which is designed for Android TV devices and is called Downloader, had been installed from Google Play over 5 million times before its suspension on Friday, an Internet Archive capture shows. The suspension notice that Google sent to Downloader app developer Elias Saba cites a complaint from several Israeli TV companies that said the app "allows users to view the infamous copyright infringing website known as SDAROT."

Saba provided us with a copy of the suspension notice.

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    Meta has no choice but to sell Giphy at $262M loss to Shutterstock / ArsTechnica · 6 days ago - 18:15 · 1 minute

Giphy logo displayed on a phone screen and Meta logo displayed on a laptop screen

Enlarge (credit: Getty )

Talk about a fire sale. With limited interest in GIF platforms and UK regulators forcing a sale, Meta has decided to sell Giphy to Shutterstock for a mere $53 million. After purchasing it for $315 million in 2020 and subsequently being ordered to sell it by the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Meta has been challenged to find a suitable Giphy buyer at a time when GIFs are perceived to be less trendy than three years ago. The GIF library has found a fitting future owner in Shutterstock, but for Meta, it means a $262 million loss.

The deal

Shutterstock announced today its definitive agreement to buy Giphy for $53 million, seven months after Meta said it would accept the CMA's ruling that it must divest Giphy . Shutterstock said the deal is expected to close in June and is "subject to customary closing conditions."

The deal should assuage trepidation from Giphy, which encouraged the CMA to enact behavioral ordinances rather than force Meta to sell Giphy. The animated images company feared GIFs just weren't as cool as they were in 2020, and so the platform would mostly attract "weak or inappropriate" suitors.

“User sentiment towards GIFs on social media shows that they have fallen out of fashion as a content form, with younger users in particular describing GIFs as ‘for boomers’ and ‘cringe,’" Giphy told the CMA in August.

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