Author: Devin Coldewey

Elon Musk has a very bad idea for a website rating journalists

TECHCRUNCH Elon Musk has, as I imagine he often does during meetings or long car rides, come up with an idea for a new thing. Unlike the HyperLoop, which was cool, and various space-related ideas, which we know he’s at least partly expert about, this one is just plain bad. It’s basically Yelp But For Journalism. Going to create a site where the public can rate the core truth of any article & track the credibility score over time of each journalist, editor & publication. Thinking of calling it Pravda … — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 23, 2018 He...

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It’s unconstitutional for Trump to block people on Twitter

TECHCRUNCH A uniquely 21st-century constitutional question received a satisfying answer today from a federal judge: President Trump cannot block people on Twitter, as it constitutes a violation of their First Amendment rights. The court also ruled he must unblock all previously blocked users. “No government official is above the law,” the judge concluded. The question was brought as part of a suit brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute, which alleged that the official Presidential Twitter feed amounts to a public forum, and that the government barring individuals from participating in it amounted to limiting their right to free...

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Representatives rip FCC Chairman Pai’s ‘lack of candor’ and double down on net neutrality questions

TECHCRUNCH 13 members of Congress have written to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai criticizing his “repeated evasive responses to our inquiries” and “outright refusal to respond to some of the members of this Committee.” Unsatisfied with the answers or evasions he has offered to date, they reiterate questions related to net neutrality and other issues that they’ve sent over the past months. “While we appreciate your continued willingness to testify before our Committee, we are concerned that you have been unable to give complete responses to verbal questions, questions for the record, or oversight letters from our members,” reads the...

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IBM’s Verifier inspects (and verifies) diamonds, pills and materials at the micron level

TECHCRUNCH It’s not enough in this day and age that we have to deal with fake news, we also have to deal with fake prescription drugs, fake luxury goods, and fake Renaissance-era paintings. Sometimes all at once! IBM’s Verifier is a gadget and platform made (naturally) to instantly verify that something is what it claims to be, by inspecting it at a microscopic level. Essentially you stick a little thing on your phone’s camera, open the app, and put the sensor against what you’re trying to verify, be it a generic antidepressant or an ore sample. By combining microscopy,...

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FBI reportedly overestimated inaccessible encrypted phones by thousands

TECHCRUNCH The FBI seems to have been caught fibbing again on the topic of encrypted phones. FBI director Christopher Wray estimated in December that it had almost 7,800 phones from 2017 alone that investigators were unable to access. The real number is likely less than a quarter of that, The Washington Post reports. Internal records cited by sources put the actual number of encrypted phones at perhaps 1,200 but perhaps as many as 2,000, and the FBI told the paper in a statement that “initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported.” Supposedly having three databases tracking the phones led to devices being counted multiple times. Such a mistake would be so elementary that it’s hard to conceive of how it would be possible. These aren’t court notes, memos or unimportant random pieces of evidence, they’re physical devices with serial numbers and names attached. The idea that no one thought to check for duplicates before giving a number to the director for testimony in Congress suggests either conspiracy or gross incompetence. The latter seems more likely after a report by the Office of the Inspector General that found the FBI had failed to utilize its own resources to access locked phones, instead suing Apple and then hastily withdrawing the case when its basis (a locked phone from a terror attack) was removed. It...

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Watch SpaceX launch the GRACE-FO and Iridium NEXT satellites here

TECHCRUNCH Today’s the day for SpaceX’s launch of Iridium’s NEXT communications satellites and a pair of twin birds from NASA that will monitor the fresh water on the surface of the Earth. You can watch the launch right here: [embedded content] Liftoff is scheduled for 12:47 PM Pacific Time, so SpaceX’s live stream should fire up about 15 minutes ahead of that; NASA will also have its own updates, since it has skin in the game. This is an unusual launch — the rocket will be making some complicated maneuvers 300 miles up to make sure NASA’s satellites are...

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Comcast is leaking the names and passwords of customers’ wireless routers

TECHCRUNCH Comcast has just been caught in a major security snafu: revealing the passwords of its customers’ Xfinity-provided wireless routers in plaintext on the web. Anyone with a subscriber’s account number and street address number will be served up the wi-fi name and password via the company’s Xfinity internet activation service. Security researchers Karan Saini and Ryan Stevenson reported the issue to ZDnet. The site is meant to help people setting up their internet for the first time: ideally, you put in your data, and Comcast sends back the router credentials while activating the service. The problem is threefold:...

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Intel discloses a new Spectre exploit variant, but leaves mitigation off by default

TECHCRUNCH The specter of Spectre still looms above Intel, which just today disclosed a new variant of that most dire of chip flaws. It’s issuing a mitigation patch in tandem with the announcement that may come with a serious performance hit — which is why it will be off by default. Like the other Spectre variants, this one has to do with “speculative execution,” a core component of modern computing architecture that predicts what might be required of it in the immediate future and executes on it, either keeping the results if the prediction is right or discarding them...

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