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Facebook and Instagram will pin vote-by-mail explainers to top of feeds

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Starting this weekend, everyone of voting age in the U.S. will begin seeing informational videos at the top of Instagram and Facebook offering tips and state-specific guidance on how to vote through the mail. The videos will be offered in both English and Spanish.

The vote-by-mail videos will run on Facebook for four straight days in each state, starting between October 10 and October 18 depending on local registration deadlines. On Instagram, the videos will run in all 50 states on October 15 and October 16, followed by other notifications with vote-by-mail information over the next two days.

Facebook vote-by-mail video

Image via Facebook

Facebook vote-by-mail video

Image via Facebook

The videos let voters know when they can return a ballot in person, instruct them to sign carefully on additional envelopes that might be required and encourage returning ballots as soon as possible while being mindful of postmarking deadlines. Facebook will continue providing additional state-specific voting information in a voting information center dedicated to the 2020 election.

Even more than in past years, app makers have taken up the mantle of nudging their users to vote in the U.S. general election. From Snapchat to Credit Karma, it’s hard to open an app without being reminded to register — and that’s a good thing. Snapchat says it registered around 400,000 new voters through its own reminders and Facebook estimates that it helped 2.5 million people register to vote this year.

Voting rights advocates are concerned that 2020’s rapid scale-up of vote-by-mail might lead to many ballots being thrown out — a worry foreshadowed by the half a million ballots that were tossed out in state primaries. Some of those ballots failed to meet deadlines or were deemed invalid due to other mistakes voters made when filling them out.

In Florida, voters that were young, non-white or voting for the first time were twice as likely to have their ballots thrown out compared to white voters in the 2018 election, according to research by the ACLU.

Adding to concerns, state rules vary and they can be specific and confusing for voters new to voting through the mail. In Pennsylvania, the most likely state to decide the results of the 2020 election, new rules against “naked ballots” mean that any ballot not cast in an additional secrecy sleeve will be tossed out. In other states, secrecy sleeves have long been optional.

Facebook gets ready for November

Since 2016, Facebook has faced widespread criticism for rewarding hyper-partisan content, amplifying misinformation and incubating violent extremism. This week, the FBI revealed a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer that was hatched by militia groups who used the platform to organize.

Whether the public reveal of that months-long domestic terrorism investigation factored into its decisions or not, Facebook has taken a notably more aggressive posture across a handful of recent policy decisions. This week, the company expanded its ban on QAnon, the elaborate web of outlandish pro-Trump conspiracies that have increasingly spilled over into real-world violence, after that content had been allowed to thrive on the platform for years.

Facebook also just broadened its rules prohibiting voter intimidation to ban calls for poll watching that use militaristic language, like the Trump campaign’s own effort to recruit an “Army for Trump” to hold its political enemies to account on election day. The company also announced that it would suspend political advertising after election night, a policy that will likely remain in place until the results of the election are clear.

While President Trump has gone to great lengths to cast doubt on the integrity of vote-by-mail, mailed ballots are a historically very safe practice. States like Oregon and Colorado already conduct their voting through the mail in normal years, and all 50 states have absentee voting in place for people who can’t cast a ballot in person, whether they’re out of town or overseas serving in the military.

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The Apple Watch Series 6 Is Already $20 Off

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

Apple Watch Series 6 (44mm) | $415 | Amazon
Apple Watch Series 6 (40mm) | $385 | Amazon

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It’s only been out a week since launch and we’re already seeing discounts on the Apple Watch Series 6. Amazon has some 40mm models down to $375, while the 44mm falls to $415, both about $20 off and shipping anywhere between 1-4 weeks out.

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The Apple Watch Series 6 runs laps around the competition as far as technology is confirmed. It features everything you love about the Series 5 watch like an ECG heart rate sensor, and also adds new tricks like a blood oxygen sensor and an always-on altimeter, making it more ideal than ever for fitness buffs.


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Samsung thinks its new 85-inch Interactive Display is the digital whiteboard for the COVID-19 classroom

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Samsung would like you to believe its new 85-inch Interactive Display can bridge the gap between students in the classroom and students studying at home, now that blended-learning is the new normal across the country. In reality, it’s just a slightly bigger digital whiteboard — but assuming it doesn’t cost too much, the tweaked vision does sound intriguing.

Now that COVID-19 has swept the country, some students are huddling around tiny Chromebook screens at home while others stay in class, and Samsung’s internet-connected digital whiteboard promises to let students and teachers collaborate with each other, whether they’re in that classroom drawing on the board or adding to it in real-time from their laptop at home. The goal here isn’t to necessarily connect everyone better – they’ve had a few months to get a handle on that over Zoom – but rather to let the kind of collaboration that can happen when everyone’s together, happen while students are apart.

Samsung’s 65-inch Flip 2
Samsung

While the Interactive Display is mostly just a larger version of Samsung’s existing Flip 2 digital whiteboards, the 85-inch size means it’s as large as an actual school whiteboard (though it weighs far more at 164 pounds). Compared to the previous 55- and 65-inch models, more students could theoretically use the board at once. Samsung imagines the display primarily mounted in a classroom where they can use its 4K touchscreen and support for four pens (it comes with two) to write and draw; it supports up to 20 fingers (and pen tips) simultaneously. Teachers might be able to hook up multiple computers or other video sources to the display, too, with two HDMI 2.0 ports compared to the one on the Flip 2.

But before you petition your school for one, it’s worth mentioning that the device has no announced price. The 65-inch Flip 2 comes in at $2,599.00, and Samsung’s 85-inch TVs start at $1,799.99, so perhaps the Interactive Display won’t cost too much more than those? Still, most schools are even more constrained during the pandemic than they would be normally, and this screen doesn’t even come bundled with some of the education software Samsung is advertising. I think it would be great for these to be used in schools, but to me, Samsung’s framing for the Interactive Display sounds a little more opportunistic than realistic.

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How to enable dark mode on all of your essential apps

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Welcome to TNW Basics, a collection of tips, guides, and advice on how to easily get the most out of your gadgets, apps, and other stuff.

Ah, dark mode — the charcoal gray color palette associated with night time and eyeball-saving. It’s not without its detractors, not even among my own colleagues. But there are plenty of people, including me, who can’t get enough of the dusty-colored theme. Luckily dark mode is available on just about every device and app — so we’ll walk you through how to make your digital life just a little bit darker.

Note that we’re going to show you how to enable dark mode on several of the most essential apps and services — there isn’t enough time or space on our servers to show you how to enable dark mode everywhere, as it’s a very omnipresent theme. But these will make a good starting point.

Social media

Most social media apps have added dark mode to make late-night browsing easier. Facebook, of all sites, is one of the latecomers. It only added dark mode with the latest redesign, which you can read about here. The dark mode toggle is in the main drop-down menu of the site. While Instagram doesn’t have an in-app dark mode option, it syncs to your phone’s dark mode — you can read about how that works here.

Twitter has a similar setting to Instagram, in that you can sync its color palette with the system settings — meaning, if your phone is already in dark mode, it’ll go dark automatically. You can also manually set it to dark mode by going to the settings, and looking for the dark mode toggle under “Display and Sound. You can read more about the options here.

Messenger originally only had dark mode via an emoji-based Easter egg, but it has since joined the bandwagon for real. In order to switch on dark mode, you just have to tap your profile picture and the toggle is right there at the top of the options. You can read more about it here.

Workplace apps

It’s not just social media that wants to spare your eyes. Several of your favorite workplace apps have also added dark mode settings, so even your work computer can look as sooty as a fireplace. For starters, Slack now has a dark mode available on its iOS and Android apps (which you can read about here) as well as its desktop client (which you can read about here).

Dark mode selection on Slack for desktop

WhatsApp has also added dark mode to its web and mobile version, albeit at different times. You can read about how to enable dark mode on the web client here, and on Android here. As with other apps mentioned here, WhatsApp will automatically go into dark mode on iOS when iOS itself is set to dark mode.

Google has also added dark mode to its Docs, Sheets, and Slides on Android, which you can read abut here. Also, it’s not a workplace app per se, but Google Play also has dark mode — in order to switch it on, you just need to go to the app settings and look for the Theme menu. You can read about it here.

Operating systems

Just like all of the above, the different operating systems for phones offer dark modes for you to turn on at night to make browsing or working easier on your eyes. Apple added dark mode to iOS 13, and as mentioned, turning it on will kick most apps into dark mode if it’s available. You can read about how to turn it on here. Similarly, Android introduced a Dark theme in the Android 10 update, which you can find in the Display settings.

Enable dark mode on iOS 13 from settings

If you want some variety, Windows 10 also has a light mode in addition to dark — you can find both in the personalization settings. You can read more about it here.

And that’s it! While this won’t necessarily make your whole life an obsidian paradise, it’ll at least put dark mode on all of your favorite apps. Good luck!

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