Your WIRED daily briefing. Today, China’s biggest social media platforms are under investigation for allowing users to spread terrorism-related material, Google has cancelled an internal diversity meeting following online harassment of staff, Android creator Andy Rubin has shared production images of the delayed Essential smartphone and more.
Get WIRED Awake sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning by 8am. Click here to sign up to the WIRED Awake newsletter.
China’s biggest social media firms – WeChat, Weibo and Baidu – are all under investigation for violating the country’s cybersecurity laws by failing to keep extremist content off their sites (BBC News). The Chinese Office for Cyberspace Administration says that people have been using the social media and chat platforms to spread terrorism-related material, obscene content and illegal rumours which, the administration says, have “jeopardised national security”. The investigation comes as part of a national effort to tighten already stringent online security regulations and is expected to prompt the companies to take further internal efforts to moderate content.
Google has cancelled a planned internal “town hall” meeting about sexism in the wake of a memo that saw a now-fired staff member claim that women were biologically unsuited to engineering (Ars Technica). The cancellation follows online hostility to Google staff, including the circulation of screenshots of Twitter profiles belonging to women, trans men and men of colour at the company, who were then targeted for harassment. Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote: “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall”.
The Essential phone, the first device from Android creator Andy Rubin’s new smartphone maker, may finally be on the verge of release (Ars Technica). Its originally scheduled June 30 launch date slipped by without fanfare, but Rubin has now posted manufacturing images on Twitter, saying: “We are in full mass production, ramping up to deliver your Essential Phone. Find out where you can get yours next week!” When its launch is confirmed, the device, which has a high-end Snapdragon 835 processor and titanium body, is set to cost $699 in the USA. UK availability has yet to be confirmed.
Floods are hitting Britain two weeks later than they did 20 years ago, and it’s because of climate change, a new study has suggested (WIRED). The large-scale study, conducted by TU Wien, shows that the timing of floods has shifted considerably over the last 50 years across Europe. The study authors have been able to link this to our warming climate. Jamie Hannaford, co-author and leader of the Hydrological Status and Reporting Group in the UK, says that floods come later to north western Europe, including Scotland, western Ireland, coastal Scandinavia and northern Germany, because of ‘north Atlantic oscillation’; fluctuations in the difference of atmospheric pressure at sea level between the equator and north pole. Hannaford says flooding trends in the north west are consistent with anthropogenic warming (pollution), but changing Atlantic pressure is also caused by a natural variability in the Atlantic itself. This makes the relationship between flooding and climate change harder to pin down in these areas.
Early Uber investor Benchmark Capital, which holds a seat on Uber’s board, is suing former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, claiming he fraudulently engineered a scheme to retain control of the company (WIRED). The lawsuit, filed in Chancery Court in Delaware, centers on a plan, approved by Uber stockholders in June 2016, to expand the board from eight members to 11. The arrangement gave Kalanick the power to choose the additional members. And when Kalanick lost the board seat reserved for the CEO following his forced resignation in June, he took one of those seats. Benchmark claims that Kalanick engineered the board expansion to insulate himself from the consequences of the various scandals plaguing the company, and wants to get him off the board. Meanwhile, head of operations Ryan Graves has stepped down to focus on his role on the company’s board.
Hackers are getting more and more innovative, and it’s more important than ever that security professionals and business leaders understand what the latest trends and developments are to combat such threats. WIRED Security 2017 takes place in London on September 28.
Vendors on Chinese service marketplace Taobao are facing an outcry for hiring out the services of groups of children in African countries including Zambia to pose for photos and videos ranging from birthday messages to adverts for online services and x-rated cam streams (The Verge). Speaking to Peoples’ Daily Online, a source said: “The children get very little money from shooting such ads. Most of them just get some snacks or stationery as rewards”. While the controversy brings to mind YouTuber PewDiePie‘s hiring of people in India to hold up anti-semitic signs via cut-rate freelance platform Fiverr, it comes with added exploitation of children’s labour, as well as turning global economic inequality into a service.
SoundCloud has warned shareholders that it may not be able “to continue as a going concern” in a letter obtained by Axios (TechCrunch). The shareholders are being asked to accept or reject a reorganisation scheme by the end of today. If they accept, then the company will get $169.5 million in new venture capital investment and a new CEO in the form of former Vimeo boss Kerry Trainor, replacing SoundCloud founder Alex Ljung.
Microsoft has launched its new Xbox Live Creators Program, which allows indie developers to directly publish games to the Xbox store (The Verge. Games will work on both Xbox One and Windows 10, and Microsoft is using a simplified certification process that means games won’t even need to seek concept approval from the company – or be finished – before they go live. The scheme is primarily targeted at hobby developers using the Universal Windows App framework and the Xbox One’s integrated development capabilities to put out titles. The first games to be published though the Live Creators Program include free 3D shooter Space Cat! and puzzle game ERMO.
Comic wild west RPG West of Loathing has launched with a trailer that summons shades of 20th century westerns, as well as the free online RPG that spawned it (Rock, Paper, Shotgun). This single-player spin-off of cult browser-based RPG Kingdom of Loathing retains its parent’s stick-figure art style and slapstick humour, but adds some surprisingly lovely animation as, per developer Asymmetric, you: “Talk your way out of trouble as a silver-tongued Snake Oiler, plumb the refried mysteries of the cosmos as a wise and subtle Beanslinger, or let your fists do the talking as a fierce Cow Puncher. Explore a vast open world and encounter a colorful cast of characters, some of whom are good, many of whom are bad, and a few of whom are ugly.” West of Loathing is out now on Steam for Windows, macOS and Linux, priced at £7.19.
Classic Sega Mega Drive platformer Ristar is now available for free on Android and iOS as part of the Sega Forever collection (Alphr). It’s a cute and tightly designed game starring a star with hands and combat chops and, like the rest of the collection, is entirely free, with a paid option to get rid of ads. Ristar joins Sega’s growing mobile retrogaming collection that includes Sonic, Phantasy Star II and The Revenge of Shinobi, which was released on Android and iOS at the end of July.
Popular on WIRED
As a keen player of the more in-depth fantasy NFL games, Scott Faust saw an opportunity. “I realised I could combine the proven mechanics of fantasy NFL with the game I love: Premier League football.” In 2014, Faust launched Togga, a free-to-play fantasy football game that uses data from Premier League statistician Opta to rate players on 18 actions, from key passes to interceptions and tackles won.
Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is replacing the web interface with an AI that sells customers whatever they want, whenever they need it. In this issue, WIRED looks at Jeff Bezos’ masterplan and what Amazon’s next move is. You can also read about Korea’s mega bot; the ultimate gear guide; pastry hacks; African architecture; how to disrupt the death industry; lab-grown diamonds and more. Out in print and digital. Subscribe now and save.