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Facebook is finally banning anti-vax ads from its platform and Instagram



Anti-vaxxers must be steaming. In an effort to curb health misinformation amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook has revealed it’ll start purging ads that discourage vaccines and immunization on its platform and Instagram.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, this is hardly the first time the Zuckerberg empire has promised to crack down on vaccine misinformation. Last year, the company made a similar pledge, but later acknowledged it had failed to remove paid ads from a prominent anti-vax group that suggested evil doctors are conspiring to hide evidence of alleged harm to children.

Today, we’re launching a new global policy that prohibits ads discouraging people from getting vaccinated,” Facebook said in a statement. “Our goal is to help messages about the safety and efficacy of vaccines reach a broad group of people, while prohibiting ads with misinformation that could harm public health efforts.”

The move comes amidst increased criticism from health professionals bemoaning Facebook for undermining the importance of immunization by giving platform to anti-vax groups.

That said, the company will still allow ads that advocate for or against legislation concerning vaccines, including one for COVID-19.

We regularly refine our approach around ads that are about social issues to capture debates and discussions around sensitive topics happening on Facebook,” the company added. “While we may narrow enforcement in some areas, we may expand it in others.”

The campaign presents Facebook‘s latest efforts to discourage the spread of misinformation on its platform and give more exposure to trusted sources like the World Health Orgnaization (which has been guilty of disseminating some pretty bad advice, too) and UNICEF.

Facebook isn’t stopping at anti-vax content, though. Just last week, the company announced it’ll begin banning pro-QAnon accounts from its platform “even if they contain no violent content.” Unlike the anti-vax ban, though, the restriction applied solely to pages and accounts, rather than individual posts.


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Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ beta is here, and it looks scary as hell



This week, Tesla began pushing its “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) update to a select group of customers, and the first reactions are now beginning to roll in. The software, which enables drivers to use many of Autopilot’s advanced driver-assist features on local, non-highway streets, is still in beta. As such, it requires constant monitoring while in operation. Or as Tesla warns in its introductory language, “it may do the wrong thing at the worse time.”

Frankly, this looks terrifying — not because it seems erratic or malfunctioning, but because of the way it will inevitably be misused.

Early reactions to the software update range from “that was a little scary” to full-throated enthusiasm for CEO Elon Musk’s willingness to let his customers beta-test features that aren’t ready for wide release. This willingness has helped Tesla maintain its market leader position at the forefront of electric and autonomous vehicle technology, but it also presents a huge risk to the company, especially if those early tests go wrong.

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A Tesla owner who goes by the handle “Tesla Raj” posted a 10-minute video on Thursday that purports to show his experience with FSD. He says he used the feature while driving down “a residential street… with no lane markers” — a function that Tesla’s Autopilot previously was unable to do.

Right off the bat, there are stark differences in how FSD is presented to the driver. The visuals displayed on the instrument cluster look more like training footage from an autonomous vehicle, with transparent orange boxes outlining parked cars and other vehicles on the road and icons that represent road signs. The car’s path is depicted as blue dots stretching out in front of the vehicle. And various messages pop up that tell the driver what the car is going to do, such as “stopping for traffic control in 75 ft.”

The car also made several left- and right-hand turns on its own, which Raj described as “kind of scary, because we’re not used to that.” He also said the turns were “human like” in so far as the vehicle inched out into the opposite lane of traffic to assert itself before making the turn.

Another Tesla owner who lives in Sacramento, California, and tweets under the handle @brandonee916 posted a series of short videos that claim to show a Tesla vehicle using FSD to navigate a host of tricky driving scenarios, including intersections and a roundabout. These videos were first reported by Electrek.

The vehicles in both Tesla Raj and @brandonee916’s tests are driving at moderate speeds, between 25 and 35 mph, which has been very challenging for Tesla. Musk said Tesla Autopilot can handle high-speed driving with its Navigate on Autopilot feature and low speeds with its Smart Summon parking feature. (How well Smart Summon works is up for debate, given the number of Tesla owners reporting bugs in the system.) The company has yet to allow its customers hands-off driving on highways, like Cadillac with its Autopilot competitor Super Cruise. But these medium speeds, where the vehicle is more likely to encounter traffic signals, intersections, and other complexities, is where Tesla has encountered a lot of difficulties.

For now, FSD is only available to Tesla owners in the company’s early access beta-testing program, but Musk has said he expects a “wide release” before the end of 2020. The risk, obviously, is that Tesla’s customers will ignore the company’s warnings and misuse FSD to record themselves performing dangerous stunts — much like they have done for years and continue to do on a regular basis. This type of rule-breaking is to be expected, especially in a society where clout-chasing has become a way of life for many people.

Tesla has said Autopilot should only be used by attentive drivers with both hands on the wheel. But the feature is designed to assist a driver, and it’s not foolproof: there have been several high-profile incidents in which some drivers have engaged Autopilot, crashed, and died.

“Public road testing is a serious responsibility and using untrained consumers to validate beta-level software on public roads is dangerous and inconsistent with existing guidance and industry norms,” said Ed Niedermeyer, communications director for Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, a group that includes nonprofits and AV operators like Waymo, Argo, Cruise, and Zoox. “Moreover, it is extremely important to clarify the line between driver assistance and autonomy. Systems requiring human driver oversight are not self-driving and should not be called self-driving.”


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Quibi’s top executives are ready to blame themselves, not just the pandemic, for Quibi failing



Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg admitted he was wrong for comments he made in May blaming the entirely of the company’s failing on the coronavirus pandemic. He’s ready to accept the blame for Quibi’s collapse.

“It [wasn’t] fair,” Katzenberg told CNBC earlier today. That chat with CNBC was the first interview he and CEO Meg Whitman did after announcing Quibi was shutting down. “It was a bit of a quippy answer — a flippant answer — at the time. But other companies have faced the challenges of COVID and have managed to find a path. I think Meg and I believe in owning our miss. Simply to blame it on COVID is not fair, and not something either of us want to do.”

Both Katzenberg and Whitman clearly wanted to get one point across in that interview: this failure is ours. The two executives are now winding the company down, trying to find buyers who may be interested in both the company’s library catalog and patented Turnstyle technology, and giving investors back part of their money. Whitman added that it became increasingly clear, “for whatever reason, that Quibi was not going to be as successful as Jeffrey and I hoped.” In the end, Katzenberg said, “what we can do is own it.”

Disclosure: Vox Media is partnered with Quibi on two shows and there were once discussions for a Verge show.

Critics and analysts predicted Quibi’s failure from the company’s infancy. (Here are exactly 11 reasons why Quibi was destined to fail.) Katzenberg, Whitman, and other Quibi executives publicly waved those concerns aside. There was a “whitespace” for this kind of high-quality, short-form video that people would pay to watch — or so they thought, Whitman told CNBC.

“Over the summer we started to see a slowdown in our momentum,” Whitman said. “We took stock of where we were and said the best thing to do, the honorable thing to do, is return money to shareholders when we knew this wasn’t going to have a path forward.”

In an open letter to investors and employees, Katzenberg and Whitman said they suspected the combination of the idea’s flaws plus the pandemic was too much for Quibi. During their interview with CNBC, the two tried to explore what went wrong, and how they tried to fix it.

For example, Quibi’s price point was likely a barrier of entry for many people, Whitman said. The company introduced a free, ad-supported tier in Australia to see if that would encourage more people to sign up. While that tier had better results, Whitman said, they weren’t “good enough to keep on going.”

Katzenberg admitted he’s “very disappointed” in how it ended, and that the whole situation “hurts a lot.” “For me, I’ve got to get on that horse and find the next mountain to charge up,” Katzenberg said. “That’s the only thing I know how to do and I’ve got a lot to prove.”


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Netflix launches a virtual HBCU boot camp with Norfolk State to increase exposure to tech industry



Netflix is going back to school.

Working with Norfolk State University, the alma mater of one of the company’s senior software engineers, and the online education platform, 2U, Netflix is developing a virtual boot camp for students to gain exposure to the tech industry.

Starting today Netflix will open enrollment for 130 students to participate in a 16-week training program beginning in January.

That program will be divided into three tracks — Java Engineering, UX/UI Design and Data Science. Experts from Netflix will work with 2U to design each track and all courses will be led by faculty from Norfolk State University and feature guest lecturers from the tech industry, the company said.

Members from the company’s data science, engineering, and design teams will serve as mentors — including Norfolk State alumnus Michael Chase.

Netflix will foot the bill for students accepted into the program, and they’ll get course credit for completing the boot camp, the company said.

“The goal is for participants to come away better equipped with industry-relevant skills to enter today’s workforce and with valuable, long-lasting relationships,” Kabi Gishuru, the company’s director of Inclusion Recruiting Programs wrote in a statement. “As we continue to invest in building the best service for our members, we want to invest in the best team to support it. Creating space in the industry for all voices will only make it stronger.”


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