Category Archives: Tech

Firm That Worked For Facebook Tried To Plant Story Alleging Liberal Bias At Apple News

(CNN) — The conservative public affairs firm that worked for Facebook, and spread opposition research about the social media company’s critics and competitors, tried to get at least one journalist to do a story suggesting that the editors of Apple’s news application were biased against Republicans.

The firm provided little evidence to back up its claim.

The Apple News app is preloaded onto all new iPhones; millions of users access news on it every day. Apple employs editors who curate some of the stories featured on the app.

Definers Public Affairs, which Facebook fired on Wednesday after a New York Times report revealed the company had dug up information on Facebook’s critics and competitors, tried to show that staff working on Apple News had donated more money to Democratic candidates and causes than they had to Republicans.

Facebook told CNN Business that this research on Apple was not done on its behalf.

Definers sent the document, which was titled “Apple News Curators’ Political Donations,” as an unsolicited pitch to a CNN employee this summer.

The case the firm tried to make alleging political bias at Apple News was weak. As the dossier itself acknowledged, it was not even clear that all of the political donors it had found were Apple News employees or whether they were just people who shared similar names.

“30 individuals have been identified as working for Apple in media curation roles or specifically at Apple News. Five of these individuals have contributed to Democratic candidates or causes,” the document claimed. It also said that only one person connected to Apple News who had contributed to Republicans had been identified.

The document included screenshots of the employees’ LinkedIn profiles and details of their alleged donations.

The evidence was not very compelling.

One of the five employees Definers said were Democrats had donated $55 to Democratic candidates and causes in 2018, according to the firm.

Definers claimed another employee had donated $11,500, before acknowledging that it had not confirmed if the person “who made these contributions is the same individual that currently works for Apple News.”

Facebook also faced allegations of political bias in 2016 when it had a curated news feature edited by people rather than machines. The company scrapped the feature entirely after the controversy.

In a statement provided to CNN Business on Thursday night, a Facebook spokesperson said of Definers’ Apple News research, “This was not a project done for Facebook.”

Definers did not respond to CNN Business’ request for comment about the Apple News dossier.

On Thursday, after Facebook disclosed that it had ended its relationship with the firm, a spokesperson for Definers said in a statement, “We are proud to have partnered with Facebook over the past year on a range of public affairs services. All of our work is based on publicly-available documents and information.”

It released another statement on Friday. In that statement, it said, “To be clear: Definers was not hired by Facebook as an opposition research firm. That might be the sexy story for media outlets because several of us have spent years doing research and communications for high-stakes political campaigns, but that was not the scope of work we had for Facebook.

“In fact, Definers’ main services for Facebook were basic media monitoring and public relations around public policy issues facing the company. We ran a large-scale news alert service keeping hundreds of Facebook staff informed on news stories about the company and its policy challenges.”

Tim Miller, who lists himself on his LinkedIn profile as a partner at Definers, told the Times that Definers’ work on Apple had been funded by a third technology company, not Facebook. CNN Business has not yet confirmed the identity of that third company.

A spokesperson for Apple declined to comment.

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Schumer Deflects Claims That He Pushed Colleagues To Go Easy On Facebook

(CNN) — Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer defended himself Thursday against a report that he encouraged his colleagues to go easy on Facebook amid investigations into the social media giant’s role in spreading Russian misinformation during the 2016 presidential campaign.

According to the New York Times, Schumer urged Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, to find ways to work with Facebook rather than harm it.

Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman said in a statement Thursday that the New York senator “has worked aggressively to push Facebook to do more to purge fake accounts and bots used by the right wing and Russians to perpetuate a disinformation campaign and interfere with our elections.”

“Schumer has worried that Facebook would bow to pressure from Republicans, who oppose the purging of the fake accounts and bots, and has urged Senator Warner and the Senate Intelligence committee to make this the priority in their ongoing investigation of the company,” Goodman added.

Warner declined to answer questions about the Times’ claims on Thursday.

“I’m not going to talk about any private conversations I had with the leader,” Warner told reporters. “He was very aware of the fact that our committee has been relentless, and has still got a lot of questions that need to get answered.”

He added that the Times’ description of Facebook’s efforts to sidestep questions about Russian meddling efforts conducted via its platforms, including Instagram, validated congressional inquiries.

“Frankly, but for the Intelligence inquiry and constant pressure, I think we would be even more in the dark,” Warner said. “And I’m happy to see that there’s greater cooperation now, but clearly this was the case as we suspected that for a number of months, they just hoped this problem was going away.”

Warner’s House intelligence committee counterpart, California Rep. Adam Schiff, told CNN that he didn’t know whether the claims about Schumer are “accurate or not.”

Schiff added that he “certainly” intends to talk to Facebook about the Times’ “concerning” report.

“They were obviously slow to come to grips with what the Russians were doing on their platform and the misuse of their platform,” said Schiff. “If they were deliberately slow to convey that information to us, that’s deeply disturbing.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters in a conference call Thursday that the company had been too slow to deal with the Russian disinformation problem on its platform in 2016, but said it was “simply untrue” to suggest that he and other executives “weren’t interested in knowing the truth.”

The intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections in part by using social media platforms like Facebook changed the company’s relationship with Washington.

Many members of Congress appear to remain unsure of how to hold the company accountable. During Mark Zuckerberg’s April hearing before senators — the most high-profile showdown between Facebook and Washington — some of the members of Congress seemed either unfamiliar with its business or to treat it with deference.

Schumer has publicly been a Facebook fan.

In March, he told the tech website Recode that Facebook is a “very powerful force.”

“I think overall it’s been a very positive force,” said Schumer. “I think now people are taking advantage of the openness of the net, and Facebook has an obligation to try and deal with it. I’ve talked to them. I truly believe they want to. I truly believe they know that their future is at stake with this. I also believe it’s a hard thing to do.”

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Apple Signs Multiyear Production Deal With Film Studio A24

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple has signed a multiyear film production deal with A24, the acclaimed New York-based studio behind “Moonlight” and “Lady Bird.”

People close to the deal who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment confirmed the agreement Thursday. Apple is investing in scripted content with the intention of competing with the likes of Netflix and Amazon. The deal connects Apple with one of the most respected makers of prestige and arthouse titles in film.

Neither Apple nor A24 commented Thursday. Unclear is how many films the deal includes, or if the movies will be released theatrically.

A24 was previously rumored to potentially be an acquisition target for Apple. This deal leaves the distributor of films like “The Witch,” ”Mid90s,” ”Hereditary” and “Eighth Grade” with its independence.

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Google Wants Its Virtual Assistant In Every Room Of Your House

(CNN) — Google is teasing the future it thinks you want.

Inside a beautiful multi-million-dollar house is the Google Assistant Smart Home in San Francisco, the company recently set up a model home for a day outfitted with every Google device and connected home gadget imaginable.

The demo highlighted an assortment of new Assistant features coming in the weeks ahead. There are recipe recommendations on smart displays and custom alarms for children recorded by actors from popular cartoons.

The tour was also a chance to see how Google (GOOGL) imagines people living, parenting and even sleeping surrounded by its products.

Smart speakers have given new life to the smart home market, which was struggling to move past its early-adopter beginnings before Amazon’s (AMZN) voice assistant Alexa came along. Now the major companies, including Amazon, Samsung, Apple (AAPL) and Google, are fighting to lure customers into their own ecosystems.

The assistant personalities are different, but the applications are mostly the same.

In Google’s model home, most appliances are either internet-connected or plugged into a smart plug that lets you turn them on with a voice command. Communication is constant and everywhere — between rooms and family members who aren’t in the house.

A feature lets a member of the household broadcast a message to every room, such as “I’ll be home in 20 minutes, start the rice maker.” It’ll now let the person at home reply, so it’s like a phone call or text message conversation but through speakers.

In addition, Google smart displays will now show recommended recipes based on the time of day and year. If you make a mess while cooking, just ask Google to send out the robotic vacuum.

Parenting is the newest hot area for voice assistants, and the Google house was set up to show how it could work for a family with kids. Ask Google Assistant to read your children a bedtime story, and it can tell them stories about Dora the Explorer and PAW Patrol. If you’d prefer to read your kids a book yourself, you can ask Google Assistant to “read along” with a book it knows.

Parents are increasingly using alarms to help time kids’ screen time, tooth brushing or studying. To build on this, Google Assistant is adding alarms voiced by characters from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and LEGO City. If you want to wake up your children without walking to their room, you could ask Google to turn up the lights or play music in their room while you sip coffee downstairs.

Upstairs in the master bedroom, adults can unwind by asking Google to put their phone on silent mode. The next morning, an alarm will go off and trigger a routine, automatically starting a coffee maker near the bed and reciting the day’s weather and headlines.

Voice assistants may have started in a single room for playing music, but Google’s house previews a future where almost every room has an always-listening microphone, a speaker, camera and a screen of some sort. (There was no bathroom demo on the tour, but it’s safe to say they’ll be there soon too.)

The future Google is selling can seem unnecessary and sometimes pricey, but it could be incredibly convenient for a busy family. Unless the power goes out. Then they’d just have to sweep and parent on their own.

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Boeing To Donate $6M To Iowa State Student Innovation Center

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Officials say Iowa State will use a large portion of a $6 million gift from Chicago-based Boeing Co. to help fund construction of the Student Innovation Center.

The 140,000-square-foot (13,006 square meters) center on the Ames campus is expected to be finished in January 2020.

The university says the center will elevate Iowa State’s commitment to interdisciplinary, experiential learning and enrich the learning experience for students. It also is intended to serve as the hub for hands-on projects where students can collaborate across a wide range of disciplines.

Part of the money provided by the Chicago-based aerospace company will provide financial support for engineering students wishing participate in undergraduate research.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.