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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

50 single-function kitchen gadgets you didn't know you wanted – CNET

Do you have some extra room in your kitchen?
Source: CNET

Cinderblock, the fat cat who hates workouts, paws her way into world's heart – CNET

“Cinderblock is Twitter’s cat now,” one fan said of the fluffy feline who’s become a motivational meme.
Source: CNET

Russian Hackers Are Still Targeting the Olympics

Fancy Bear has attacked 16 anti-doping agencies around the world, indicating that its Olympics grudge is far from over.
Source: Wired

Apple's New AirPods, Tesla's New Solar Roof, and More News

Catch up on the most important news from today in two minutes or less.
Source: Wired

Facebook staff demand Zuckerberg limit lies in political ads

Submit campaign ads to fact checking, limit microtargeting, cap spending, observe silence periods or at least warn users. These are the solutions Facebook employees put forward in an open letter pleading with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and company leadership to address misinformation in political ads.

The letter, obtained by The New York Times’ Mike Isaac, insists that “Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing . . . Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for.” The letter was posted to Facebook’s internal collaboration forum a few weeks ago.

The sentiments echo what I called for in a TechCrunch opinion piece on October 13th calling on Facebook to ban political ads. Unfettered misinformation in political ads on Facebook lets politicians and their supporters spread inflammatory and inaccurate claims about their views and their rivals while racking up donations to buy more of these ads.

The social network can still offer freedom of expression to political campaigns on their own Facebook Pages while limiting the ability of the richest and most dishonest to pay to make their lies the loudest. We suggested that if Facebook won’t drop political ads, they should be fact checked and/or use an array of generic “vote for me” or “donate here” ad units that don’t allow accusations. We also criticized how microtargeting of communities vulnerable to misinformation and instant donation links make Facebook ads more dangerous than equivalent TV or radio spots.

Mark Zuckerberg Hearing In Congress

The Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testified before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday October 23, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

More than 250 employees of Facebook’s 35,000 staffers have signed the letter, which declares, “We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.” It suggests the current policy undermines Facebook’s election integrity work, confuses users about where misinformation is allowed, and signals Facebook is happy to profit from lies.

The solutions suggested include:

  1. Don’t accept political ads unless they’re subject to third-party fact checks
  2. Use visual design to more strongly differentiate between political ads and organic non-ad posts
  3. Restrict microtargeting for political ads including the use of Custom Audiences since microtargeted hides ads from as much public scrutiny that Facebook claims keeps politicians honest
  4. Observe pre-election silence periods for political ads to limit the impact and scale of misinformation
  5. Limit ad spending per politician or candidate, with spending by them and their supporting political action committees combined
  6. Make it more visually clear to users that political ads aren’t fact-checked

A combination of these approaches could let Facebook stop short of banning political ads without allowing rampant misinformation or having to police individual claims.

Facebook’s response to the letter was “We remain committed to not censoring political speech, and will continue exploring additional steps we can take to bring increased transparency to political ads.â€� But that straw-man’s the letter’s request. Employees aren’t asking politicians to be kicked off Facebook or have their posts/ads deleted. They’re asking for warning labels and limits on paid reach. That’s not censorship.

Zuckerberg Elections 1

Zuckerberg had stood resolute on the policy despite backlash from the press and lawmakers, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). She left him tongue-tied during a congressional testimony when she asked exactly what kinds of misinfo were allowed in ads.

But then Friday, Facebook blocked an ad designed to test its limits by claiming Republican Lindsey Graham had voted for Ocasio-Cortez’s Green Deal he actually opposes. Facebook told Reuters it will fact-check PAC ads.

One sensible approach for politicians’ ads would be for Facebook to ramp up fact-checking, starting with presidential candidates until it has the resources to scan more. Those fact-checked as false should receive an interstitial warning blocking their content rather than just a “false” label. That could be paired with giving political ads a bigger disclaimer without making them too prominent-looking in general and only allowing targeting by state.

Deciding on potential spending limits and silent periods would be more messy. Low limits could even the playing field and broad silent periods, especially during voting periods, and could prevent voter suppression. Perhaps these specifics should be left to Facebook’s upcoming independent Oversight Board that acts as a supreme court for moderation decisions and policies.

fb arbiter of truth

Zuckerberg’s core argument for the policy is that over time, history bends toward more speech, not censorship. But that succumbs to utopic fallacy that assumes technology evenly advantages the honest and dishonest. In reality, sensational misinformation spreads much further and faster than level-headed truth. Microtargeted ads with thousands of variants undercut and overwhelm the democratic apparatus designed to punish liars, while partisan news outlets counter attempts to call them out.

Zuckerberg wants to avoid Facebook becoming the truth police. But as we and employees have put forward, there is a progressive approach to limiting misinformation if he’s willing to step back from his philosophical orthodoxy.

The full text of the letter from Facebook employees to leadership about political ads can be found below, via The New York Times:

We are proud to work here.

Facebook stands for people expressing their voice. Creating a place where we can debate, share different opinions, and express our views is what makes our app and technologies meaningful for people all over the world.

We are proud to work for a place that enables that expression, and we believe it is imperative to evolve as societies change. As Chris Cox said, “We know the effects of social media are not neutral, and its history has not yet been written.�

This is our company.

We’re reaching out to you, the leaders of this company, because we’re worried we’re on track to undo the great strides our product teams have made in integrity over the last two years. We work here because we care, because we know that even our smallest choices impact communities at an astounding scale. We want to raise our concerns before it’s too late.

Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing.

Misinformation affects us all. Our current policies on fact checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for. We strongly object to this policy as it stands. It doesn’t protect voices, but instead allows politicians to weaponize our platform by targeting people who believe that content posted by political figures is trustworthy.

Allowing paid civic misinformation to run on the platform in its current state has the potential to:

— Increase distrust in our platform by allowing similar paid and organic content to sit side-by-side — some with third-party fact-checking and some without. Additionally, it communicates that we are OK profiting from deliberate misinformation campaigns by those in or seeking positions of power.

— Undo integrity product work. Currently, integrity teams are working hard to give users more context on the content they see, demote violating content, and more. For the Election 2020 Lockdown, these teams made hard choices on what to support and what not to support, and this policy will undo much of that work by undermining trust in the platform. And after the 2020 Lockdown, this policy has the potential to continue to cause harm in coming elections around the world.

Proposals for improvement

Our goal is to bring awareness to our leadership that a large part of the employee body does not agree with this policy. We want to work with our leadership to develop better solutions that both protect our business and the people who use our products. We know this work is nuanced, but there are many things we can do short of eliminating political ads altogether.

These suggestions are all focused on ad-related content, not organic.

1. Hold political ads to the same standard as other ads.

a. Misinformation shared by political advertisers has an outsized detrimental impact on our community. We should not accept money for political ads without applying the standards that our other ads have to follow.

2. Stronger visual design treatment for political ads.

a. People have trouble distinguishing political ads from organic posts. We should apply a stronger design treatment to political ads that makes it easier for people to establish context.

3. Restrict targeting for political ads.

a. Currently, politicians and political campaigns can use our advanced targeting tools, such as Custom Audiences. It is common for political advertisers to upload voter rolls (which are publicly available in order to reach voters) and then use behavioral tracking tools (such as the FB pixel) and ad engagement to refine ads further. The risk with allowing this is that it’s hard for people in the electorate to participate in the “public scrutiny� that we’re saying comes along with political speech. These ads are often so micro-targeted that the conversations on our platforms are much more siloed than on other platforms. Currently we restrict targeting for housing and education and credit verticals due to a history of discrimination. We should extend similar restrictions to political advertising.

4. Broader observance of the election silence periods

a. Observe election silence in compliance with local laws and regulations. Explore a self-imposed election silence for all elections around the world to act in good faith and as good citizens.

5. Spend caps for individual politicians, regardless of source

a. FB has stated that one of the benefits of running political ads is to help more voices get heard. However, high-profile politicians can out-spend new voices and drown out the competition. To solve for this, if you have a PAC and a politician both running ads, there would be a limit that would apply to both together, rather than to each advertiser individually.

6. Clearer policies for political ads

a. If FB does not change the policies for political ads, we need to update the way they are displayed. For consumers and advertisers, it’s not immediately clear that political ads are exempt from the fact-checking that other ads go through. It should be easily understood by anyone that our advertising policies about misinformation don’t apply to original political content or ads, especially since political misinformation is more destructive than other types of misinformation.

Therefore, the section of the policies should be moved from “prohibited content� (which is not allowed at all) to “restricted content� (which is allowed with restrictions).

We want to have this conversation in an open dialog because we want to see actual change.

We are proud of the work that the integrity teams have done, and we don’t want to see that undermined by policy. Over the coming months, we’ll continue this conversation, and we look forward to working towards solutions together.

This is still our company.

Source: TechCrunch

Spider eyes inspire a new kind of depth-sensing camera

As robots and gadgets continue to pervade our everyday lives, they increasingly need to see in 3D — but as evidenced by the notch in your iPhone, depth-sensing cameras are still pretty bulky. A new approach inspired by how some spiders sense the distance to their prey could change that.

Jumping spiders don’t have room in their tiny, hairy heads for structured light projectors and all that kind of thing. Yet they have to see where they’re going and what they’re grabbing in order to be effective predators. How do they do it? As is usually the case with arthropods, in a super weird but interesting way.

Instead of having multiple eyes capturing a slightly different image and taking stereo cues from that, as we do, each of the spider’s eyes is in itself a depth-sensing system. Each eye is multi-layered, with transparent retinas seeing the image with different amounts of blur depending on distance. The differing blurs from different eyes and layers are compared in the spider’s small nervous system and produce an accurate distance measurement — using incredibly little in the way of “hardware.”

Researchers at Harvard have created a high-tech lens system that uses a similar approach, producing the ability to sense depth without traditional optical elements.


The “metalens” created by electrical engineering professor Federico Capasso and his team detects an incoming image as two similar ones with different amounts of blur, like the spider’s eye does. These images are compared using an algorithm also like the spider’s — at least in that it is very quick and efficient — and the result is a lovely little real-time, whole-image depth calculation.


The process is not only efficient, meaning it can be done with very little computing hardware and power, but it can be extremely compact: the one used for this experiment was only 3 millimeters across.

This means it could be included not just on self-driving cars and industrial robots but on small gadgets, smart home items and, of course, phones — it probably won’t replace Face ID, but it’s a start.

The paper describing the metalens system will be published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: TechCrunch

Omidyar Network CEO opens up about VC-influenced philanthropy

In 2004, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam, set aside some of the wealth they acquired after the online marketplace went public and created Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm “dedicated to harnessing the power of markets,â€� according to an official overview.

Since then, the firm — which operates a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and an LLC — has committed $839 million in nonprofit grants and $735 million in for-profit investments. Today, 60 employees in Mumbai, London, Washington D.C. and Redwood City look for opportunities to invest and contribute across four main areas: Reimagining Capitalism, Beneficial Technology, Discovering Emergent Issues, and Expanding Human Capability.

In 2018, coinciding with a strategic shift that saw Omidyar Network spin out several of its initiatives, the firm elevated to CEO Mike Kubzansky, who had started the firm’s Intellectual Capital arm. In a wide-ranging discussion, Scott Bade spoke to Kubzansky about Omidyar Network’s origins and evolution, and his approach to venture philanthropy.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Scott Bade: Omidyar Network has stood out because of its unique structure as both a grant-making institution and as an investor. Could you describe how Omidyar Network got started and how it evolved over the last decade and a half?

Mike Kubzansky: Pierre [Omidyar] originally started the Family Foundation. But having looked at the experience of eBay, he became frustrated that he couldn’t [achieve] the same scale of impact [that eBay had] in a conventional grant-making structure. So we converted Omidyar Family Foundation to Omidyar Network in 2004 with the fundamental insight to add to the classic 501(c)(3) structure of a foundation an LLC to enable us to invest in companies. 

Great, and by investment, how does that work? Are you a typical LP or is there a different investment thesis?

Yeah, so historically first it’s worth saying, being influenced by Silicon Valley DNA, we have typically taken a venture lens on things and typically have invested at the seed or Series A round. Again, that comes straight out of the Silicon Valley experience.

Within that, we’ve had this notion of investing across the returns continuum. In some cases, we feel you can get a fully risk-adjusted market rate return. In some cases you might be ahead of the market, or looking at a firm that’s actually having a market-level impact, in addition to a firm-level impact. In those cases we’ve been willing to take a lower rate of return, at least at entry, in terms of what we would invest in. Typically it’s been venture, part of it syndicate; we have never taken a majority share in a company. 

Before we dig deeper into the programmatic work, I want to dig deeper on your methodology. Clearly when it comes to both defining impact and figuring out how to measure it and maximize it, ON has been different from traditional philanthropy. But how do you define whether a given objective warrants either a grant or an investment or an advocacy approach?

You’ve hit on a question that we’ve spent a lot of time discussing internally. Having this flexible capital structure enables you to range across a lot of different forms of engagement in the world. So our thinking currently is – and this gets into our strategy shift – focus less on things that are easy to measure, like service delivery and financial inclusion and how many people are reached, and focus much more on upstream structural power, rules of the game, mindsets and beliefs about the underlying systems, which we think actually are at the root cause of a lot of the distress and income inequality we see in the world today. 

Thinking like venture capitalists

You talked about thinking like a venture capitalist. Does that mean that that even with your philanthropy or advocacy you take on greater risks that are a long shot at achieving, but perhaps have a high-expected value return? 

Yeah, so you’ve hit on exactly an issue that’s really important to us, which is the ability to take risk. Philanthropic money is the most risk-tolerant capital out there, whether it’s deployed for-profit or not-for-profit or on advocacy. And we view part of our role, in terms of social impact, as being risk capital for very difficult issues that society needs to take on. That mindset pervades how we think about approaching a problem.

We think about risk in a bunch of different ways: one, the ability to take on long-term issues which others may not be able to take on because they’re trying to make quarterly profits or that sort of thing. So there’s where we can take a run at some of the upstream rules of the game and checks on power, which might take time to accomplish. We [also] take it as an ability to take on difficult issues as well, not just time consuming, not just ones that have long-time horizons.

So what is your theory of change? Is your goal to be a think or do tank, is it to be an advocacy group, is it to shape norms, is it to fund pilots or some combination of that? 

Yeah, I think we are, it’s fair to say we are still working through that, but we are in the process of putting out our points of view on what we think needs to change under capitalism and under technology. So for instance, we’ve published a point of view on what we think good digital ID looks like and ought to be. 

Under the Reimagining Capitalism banner, our take is that it is going to take a mix of things. One [part is] about rebalancing structural power. For instance, working people  have not typically seen any of the gains over the last 40 years where profits and productivity have gone up very dramatically but wages have stayed stagnant. So how do you rebalance power between working people and the companies or the capital sources that are working in the economy?

And so our theory of change includes some level of, how do you change the way people understand economics – everything from how you teach economics to how you measure to result of our economy, not in GDP but perhaps in wellbeing or other formats [like] by income decile – all the way straight through to ideas about who the economy is for. 

We would argue that neoliberalism is a version of capitalism, it is not capitalism itself,  and that we can get to a better version of capitalism if we change some of these underlying beliefs and mindsets about the economy. 

… The original ethos of the Valley has tracked through to our notion that we want to see power redistributed back to people and away from concentrated sources of power. 

How has being in Silicon Valley, the mindset of being in the tech world, influenced that thesis on capitalism? 

Source: TechCrunch

Max Q: International Astronautical Congress 2019 recap edition

Our weekly round-up of what’s going on in space technology is back, and it’s a big one (and a day late) because last week was the annual International Astronautical Congress. I was on the ground in Washington, D.C. for this year’s event, and it’s fair to say that the top-of-mind topics were 1) Public-private partnerships on future space exploration; 2) So-called ‘Old Space’ or established companies vs./collaborating with so-called ‘New Space’ or younger companies, and 3) who will own and control space as it becomes a resource trough, and through what mechanisms.

There’s a lot to unpack there, and I plan to do so not all at once, but through conversations and coverage to follow. In the meantime, here’s just a taste based on the highlights from my perspective at the show.

1. SpaceX aims for 2022 Moon landing for Starship

SpaceX timelines are basically just incredibly optimistic dreams, but it’s still worth paying attention to what timeframes the company is theoretically marching towards, because they do at least provide some kind of baseline from which to extrapolate actual timelines based on past performance.

There’s a reason SpaceX wants to send its newest there that early, however – beyond being aggressive to motivate the team. The goal is to use that demonstration mission to set up actual cargo transportation flights, to get stuff to the lunar surface ahead of NASA’s planned 2024 human landing.

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2. Starlink satellite service should go live next year

More SpaceX news, but significant because it could herald the beginning of a new era where the biggest broadband providers are satellite constellation operators. SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell says that the company’s Starlink broadband service should go live for consumers next year. Elon also used it this week to send a tweet, so it’s working in some capacity already.

3. NASA’s Jim Bridenstine details how startups will be able to participate in the U.S. mission to return to the Moon to stay

Bridenstine did a lot of speaking and press opportunities at IAC this year, which makes sense since it’s the first time the U.S. has hosted the show in many years. But I managed to get one question in, and the NASA Administrator detailed how he sees entrepreneurs contributing to his ambitious goal of returning to the Moon (this time to set up a more or less permanent presence) by 2024.

4. Virgin Galactic goes public

Virgin Galactic listed itself on the New York Stock Exchange today, and we got our very first taste of what public market investors think about space tourism and commercial human spaceflight. So far, looks like they… approve? Stock is trading up about 2 percent as of this writing, at least.

5. Bezos announces a Blue Origin-led space dream team

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos got a first-ever IAC industry award during the show (it has an actual name but it seems pretty clear it’s an invention designed to fish billionaire space magnates to the stage). The award is fine, but the actual news is that Blue Origin is teaming up with space frenemies Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper – old and new space partnering to develop a full-featured lunar lander system to help get payloads to the surface of the Moon.

6. Rocket Lab is developing a ride-share offering for the Moon and more

Launch startup Rocket Lab has become noteworthy for being among the extremely elite group of new space companies that is actually launching payloads to orbit for paying customers. It wants to do more, of course, and one of its new goals is to adapt its Photon payload delivery spacecraft to bring customer satellites and research equipment to the Moon – and eventually beyond, too. Why? Customer demand, according to Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck.

7. Europe’s space tech industry is heading for a boom

It seems like there’s a lot of space startup activity the world over, but Europe has possibly more than its fair share, thanks in part to the very encouraging efforts of the multinational European Space Agency. (Extra Crunch subscription required.)

Source: TechCrunch

Denny’s inks deal with Beyond Meat to supply new menu item — Denny’s Beyond Burger

Denny’s signed an agreement with the plant-based food manufacturer Beyond Meat to use Beyond’s meat replacement in a new menu item — the Denny’s Beyond Burger.

Beyond Meat and its largest rival, Impossible Foods, are engaged in a fierce competition to provide meat alternatives to some of the nation’s largest food companies, but increasingly Beyond Meat is pulling away.

In recent months the company has signed agreements with McDonald’s and Denny’s, and expanded a supply agreement with Dunkin’ for signature sandwiches.

The initial pilot with Denny’s will include all of the South Carolina-based restaurant chain’s Los Angeles Denny’s. At Denny’s, the Beyond Burger will come with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pickles, American cheese and a special sauce on a multigrain bun.

As part of the promotion behind the rollout of the sandwich, Denny’s in Los Angeles will give guests a free burger on Halloween night with the purchase of a sandwich. The restaurant chain (and a former employer of mine) will roll out the Beyond Burger nationwide in 2020.

“We could not be more excited to announce this game-changing partnership with Beyond Meat,� said John Dillon, chief brand officer for Denny’s, in a statement. “As a company we strive to evolve with the tastes and demands of our customers and we knew finding a plant-based option that met our incredibly high-quality standards and taste expectations was critical in staying at the top of our game. The new Beyond Burger at Denny’s offers guests a great tasting burger, and we’re delighted to launch it in Los Angeles, and will be preparing for the national rollout in 2020.�

Source: TechCrunch

Apple AirPods Pro: Price, Details, Release Date

The next version of Apple’s white ear-dongles enter a crowded wirefree headphone market on October 30.
Source: Wired