Samsung’s phone suffers some breaking news

Here’s my latest for BBC News pulling in reports of Samsung’s fantastical new folding phone having some rather big, and embarrassing, issues:

We’re still waiting on a statement from Samsung about this. But it’s a significant setback to the company’s hopes of wowing the world with what, on first glance, was a very impressive feat of engineering.

How big a disaster is this for Samsung? I don’t think it can be easily dismissed. If this breaks for reviewers, it will break for consumers. Ergo, it’s not ready—as many had suggested might be the case. Huawei must be delighted.

It’s been a couple of hours since the first reports of iffy devices, and Samsung is still yet to comment. It needs to if it’s to get on top of the bad press here. Something tells me there might be a disconnect between its US and South Korean press teams—we saw that happen a lot during the good old exploding battery days.

A tiny bit of relief for Samsung, though, comes via the WSJ’s Geoffrey Fowler:

Unforeseen circumstance: 5G may reduce the accuracy of weather reporting

As 5G begins to roll-out globally, there will be no shortage of people claiming adverse side effects. You can ignore them, mostly.

I say mostly, as there is one issue that is maybe worth some attention.  Credible experts suggest the frequencies used by 5G may have an affect on the accuracy of weather reports. This Hackaday piece is dense, but clear:

The satellites that watch our weather are largely passive sensor platforms that measure the energy reflected or emitted by objects below them. They gather data on temperature and moisture — pressure is still measured chiefly by surface measurements and by radiosondes — by looking at the planet in different wavelengths. Temperature is measured mainly in the optical wavelengths, both visible and infrared, but water vapor is a bit harder to measure. That’s where microwaves come in, and where weather prediction stands to run afoul of the 5G rollout.

Because:

For water vapor, 23.8-GHz turns out to be very useful, and very much in danger of picking up interference from 5G, which will use frequencies very close to that.

I don’t to quote too much of the Hackaday piece, as you should just read it. But, this emphasises the importance of meteorologists having water vapour data:

In late October of 2012, as Hurricane Sandy barreled up the East coast of the United States, forecasts showed that the storm would take a late turn to the northwest and make landfall in New Jersey. An analysis of the forecast if the microwave radiometer data had not been available showed the storm continuing in a wide arc and coming ashore in the Gulf of Maine. The availability of ASMU data five days in advance of the storm’s landfall bought civil authorities the time needed to prepare, and probably reduced the casualties caused by the “Storm of the Century”, still the deadliest storm of the 2012 season.

As I say, worth thinking about from a safety reason, but also a business one – meteorology firms have had to pay big sums to use the spectrum for that purpose, and they’ll likely want to protect that investment, presenting another potential legal hurdle to 5G, especially in the US.

What you can safely ignore, though, are things like this, which I spotted recently in San Francisco’s Haight district:

Probably a lost cause, friend

Death threats left online for good reason, Twitter says

A shocking Twitter “moment” that circulated on Monday highlighted dozens of instances of obvious hate speech towards US congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

What was most disturbing, aside from the comments themselves, was the fact they seemed to remain on the platform so long. But, Buzzfeed’s Alex Kantrowitz writes:

Twitter would’ve typically taken down the threatening tweets once they were reported, but the company left them up to enable potential law enforcement collaboration, a source close to the company told BuzzFeed News. The Capitol Hill police are working on the issue, the source said.

The incident highlights Twitter’s flawed approach to dealing with death threats on its platform. Instead of reporting death threats to law enforcement as a policy, Twitter simply deletes them. This means its users can make these threats with little fear of retribution, since the tweets usually disappear before police can review them.

Here’s a question: Are you telling me Twitter’s engineers aren’t capable of devising a system to get around this glaring issue?

YouTube’s Notre Dame blunder

In the scheme of things, it’s a minor point on an utterly devastating day for our cultural history.

But, as the ashes at Notre Dame start to settle, there should absolutely be a post-mortem into how YouTube can get things spectacularly wrong, yet again:

Several news outlets quickly started livestreaming the fire on YouTube. However, underneath several of them was a small gray panel titled “September 11 attacks,” which contained a snippet from an Encyclopedia Britannica article about 9/11. The feature is part of a larger rollout of tools and disclaimers to prevent users from consuming misinformation on the platform.

YouTube’s statement:

“These panels are triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call. We are disabling these panels for live streams related to the fire.”

What always stands out to me when something big like this happens, is that the people who spot YouTube acting improperly never seem to be YouTube itself.

The whole world was watching those streams, and yet nobody at YouTube deemed it necessary to see how their site was performing.

At Facebook last week, the company told us about how they are stepping up their detection and removal tools for harmful content, but in response to one question about human intervention, the company confirmed it didn’t a team of humans that would proactively go out and try and find instances of abuses.

Instead, as we’ve seen today, it’s apparently journalists doing that job.

By linking 9/11 to the Notre Dame fire, when there is as yet no suggestion of it being a terrorist attack, is more than misinformation – it’s borderline incitement. Here’s how Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, put it:

Cosmetics firm abandons social media (Update: sort of)

If this is a trend, it’s one worth keeping an eye on: Lush UK, the cosmetics firm famed for its stinky shops, has decided it can’t justify paying to get into newsfeeds with ads. And, attempts to arrive there organically are apparently not worth it either.

Why is this important? If brands don’t find value in being in a newsfeed, it’s because they know customer attention has shifted elsewhere. And, from what we know about shifts in how youngsters in particular are using social media, Lush is probably making a solid call. Replicate this across many advertisers and the networks have a problem on their hands.

The issue will be exacerbated by the growth of very good tools to interact with customers via a company’s own website. Hence, this:

So, Lush is saying: we don’t care about ads on social media, and we don’t care about customer service either—because we have better ways to achieve all that.

As I say, an interesting trend.

UPDATE:

Have just seen this by my colleague Zoe Kleinman suggesting it’s a pivot, rather than all-out abandonment:

[Lush] also hinted that it would be trying a new social approach – and it suggested a hashtag for those wishing to chat with it.

Mike Blake-Crawford from marketing agency Social Chain said the hashtag hinted at “more work with influencers”.

“The challenge for me is how they adequately capitalise on this conversation without a centralised social media ‘home’ for their products and campaigns,” he said.

Time: Cats respond to the sound of their own name

Atsuko Saito of Sophia University in Tokyo says there’s no evidence cats actually attach meaning to our words, not even their own names. Instead, they’ve learned that when they hear their names they often get rewards like food or play, or something bad like a trip to the vet. And they hear their names a lot. So the sound of it becomes special, even if they don’t really understand it refers to their identity.

—Cats Respond to the Sound of Their Names, Study Says | Time

Is Apple saving the news industry, or killing it off?

Honestly, the question is keeping me awake at night—and I’m apparently not alone. Vanity Fair on the unease among media execs taking part in Apple’s new subscription news service:

Eddy Cue and other Apple executives worked the room, among editors and business-side people from participating publications like New York, GQ, Time, Esquire, The Atlantic, and others—a casual cocktail reception to welcome Apple’s new publishing partners. But as the guests munched on mini empanadas and potato bites, some of them couldn’t help but wonder if there was a Trojan horse in their midst. As one attendee later joked, “Are we at a party, or a wake?”

It’s always been a pretty simple equation: will the slither of money publishers get per reader via Apple News+ be more or less than what it would earn by running ads?

I’ve been using News+ pretty heavily since it launched. There’s no doubt the treatments are great—but then, I felt that way about the iPad edition of Wired when it launched years ago.

News+ has a massive discovery problem already – the selection of magazines is overwhelming, and magazine’s desire to headline their pieces like the old days* means browsing can be a frustrating experience. You never quite know what you’re about to get.

(*Three stories in Vogue today headlined as: “Queen of Kings”, “A Long, Long Time” and “Full Swing”. Without further description, this just doesn’t work on the web.)

Russia’s new tactic in its war against the internet

In a video confession published by the S.B.U., Ukraine’s domestic intelligence service, a man it identified as the Russian agent said that he resided in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, and that his Russian handlers had ordered him “to find people in Ukraine on Facebook who wanted to sell their accounts or temporarily rent them out.”

“As I learned,” said the man, who was not identified by name, “their goal was to use those accounts to publish political ads or to plant fake articles.”

Source: In Ukraine, Russia Tests a New Facebook Tactic in Election Tampering – The New York Times