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MARK ZUCKERBERG GETS GRILLED BY EU OVER DATA MINING, ELECTION MEDDLING

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The CEO of the world’s largest social network was supposed to charm European regulators. It didn’t work after he dodged some questions.

Mark Zuckerberg went to Brussels on the latest stop of his apology tour Tuesday to deliver yet another mea culpa for privacy and policy blunders that led to one of the largest data leaks in Facebook’s history and an unprecedented attack on democratic elections across the West.

If this was supposed to be part of a charm offensive for Facebook, it fell flat.

After listening to about an hour of questions from members of the European Union’s Parliament, Zuckerberg answered at the end — rather than responding to each question after it was posed. But he ended up only spending about 25 minutes giving his replies, ignoring some questions completely.

“I asked you six yes-and-no questions, and I got not a single answer,” said Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian politician. Zuckerberg paused and then responded, “I’ll make sure we follow up and get you answers to those” in the next few days.

CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House of Representatives House Energy and Commerce Committee
Cardboard cutouts of Mark Zuckerberg with the words “Fix Fakebook” on their chests were staged in front of the EU’s hearing Tuesday.

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The 34-year-old multibillionaire has been answering questions for weeks about everything from Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, which some argue handed a victory to Donald Trump, to the 87 million user profiles that were mistakenly shared with a now-defunct UK-based political consultancy called Cambridge Analytica.

European regulators were clearly unhappy.

“This represents an attack on our fundamental values,” said European Parliament President Antonio Tajani on Tuesday. “We need to prevent this from happening again.”

One noted that Facebook had learned about Cambridge Analytica three years ago, but only acknowledged recently that the firm had gotten access to users’ data. Another pointed to the pervasiveness of Facebook’s data collection. And others raised concerns about free speech allowing for Nazi propaganda.

I asked you six yes-and-no questions, and I got not a single answer.
Guy Verhofstadt, member of the European Parlliament
Verhofstadt suggested that Facebook may be running afoul of European antimonopoly laws, especially because Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp are among the most popular messaging services in the world. He asked if Facebook will open its books to European regulators to consider whether his company is a monopoly. “It’s not enough to say ‘we’re going to fix it ourselves.'”

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage, who heads up Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy, the European Parliament’s right-wing populist group, asked Zuckerberg to defend the platform’s political leanings and its transparency. Right-leaning Facebook users who hold mainstream, not extremist, political views “are being willfully discriminated against,” he said.

“Would you accept that today Facebook is not a platform for all ideas that is operated impartially?” said Farage. “I’m not someone who calls for legislation on the international stage, but I’m starting to think that we need a social media bill of rights.

Watch this: EU Parliament member to Zuck: Did you create a digital…
3:17
Zuckerberg insisted that hate speech, terror and violence have “no place on our services.” He added that his team is is creating artificial intelligence tools to identify, for example, almost all the content from ISIS. He also said Facebook is getting better at identifying bullying and possibilities of self harm.

“We’ll never be perfect,” Zuckerberg said. “Our adversaries, especially on the election side — the people trying to interfere — will have access to the same AI tools that we will. So it’s an arms race, and we’ll constantly be working to stay ahead.”

Zuckerberg ended the session telling Parliament, “I want to be sensitive to time because we are 15 minutes over.”

But members of Parliament didn’t care about time limits. And now they’re going to have to wait for answers.

Rebuilding trust
So far, Zuckerberg’s added new privacy controls that let people clear their web and app histories from Facebook, and he’s promised that the 10,000 curators the company is hiring this year will clean up fake news, hate speech and other objectionable content found on the social network.

Facebook’s chief also told EU lawmakers Tuesday that the company will add 3,000 workers across 12 European cities this year to help in its fight against online abuse, hate speech and election interference.

Watch this: Zuck’s mea culpa to EU Parliament
3:20
Zuckerberg has said the hiring is needed to address concerns that bad actors in Russia had used Facebook to spread propaganda and misinformation during the 2016 US presidential election.

When he introduced a new dating feature for Facebook at the company’s annual F8 developer conference last month, he was quick to add that it had been designed with “privacy and safety in mind from the beginning.”

Still, that hasn’t been enough.

MORE ON FACEBOOK AND THE EU
Zuckerberg: We’ll block interference in European elections
Zuckerberg defends Facebook’s openness
The questions Mark Zuckerberg didn’t answer to European Parliament
Some advertisers, including Firefox web browser maker Mozilla and speaker maker Sonos, stopped advertising on Facebook as the scandal was unfolding. And while users started a campaign called #DeleteFacebook, the company said it actually saw user growth during the three months ended March 31. And through it all, it turns out Facebook still pulled in money hand over fist — counting nearly $5 billion in profits during that same time, a 63 percent increase over the previous year — by using the details its users share to direct more relevant ads to them.

Facebook makes the majority of its money selling ads.

Prominent tech executives, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook, have criticized team Zuck. Musk, who deleted Tesla and SpaceX pages from Facebook, said the social network gave him “the willies.” Cook said Facebook failed to regulate itself and vowed Apple wouldn’t make money off its user’s data.

“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm,” Zuckerberg said during his comments during two-days of testimony to Congress last month. “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake.”

In Europe, Zuckerberg has to contend with regulators who take a much stronger stance on privacy than in the US.

Among the questions Verhofstadt asked — and didn’t get an answer to — was one about the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. Those new privacy rules go into effect in Europe on May 25 and Facebook said last month that it will adhere to the GDPR. Verhofstadt wanted to know if Zuckerberg was “telling the truth” about embracing the strict new privacy provisions.

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He also asked a stone-faced Zuckerberg how he’d like to be remembered: “As one of the great internet giants, together with Steve Jobs [and] Bill Gates, who have enriched the world and our societies? Or, on the other hand, [as] the genius who created a digital monster that is destroying our democracies and our societies?”

Verhofstadt said he’ll be watching to make sure Zuckerberg delivers the answers he promised on Tuesday.

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Shampoo magnate uses glasses-free 3D to push budget phones

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Rokit’s Io 3D and Io Pro 3D tout stereoscopy at a low price.

Remember how shampoo magnate John Paul DeJoria threw himself into the mobile world five years ago? He’s now offering smartphones — and they might be appealing if you find most budget phones a little boring. Rokit’s newly launched Io 3D and Io Pro 3D (above) both offer glasses-free 3D without the expense that usually comes with the tech. You won’t need to go to the length of buying a RED Hydrogen One just to bedazzle your friends. There’s even an “expansive” catalog of content to watch through an app that that hosts movies and other stereoscopic material.

Be ready for phones that are modest beyond the tentpole 3D feature. The Io 3D centers on a 5.45-inch, 1,440 x 720 display, a quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of expandable storage, a rear 8-megapixel camera and a front 2-megapixel cam. Move to the Io Pro 3D and you’ll get a 6-inch 2,160 x 1,080 display, an eight-core 2GHz MediaTek chip, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, a hybrid 13MP and 2MP rear camera system and a front 8MP shooter. Don’t expect excitement when you’re not gawking at 3D footage, then, although you do curiously get a year’s worth of health care services and insurance coverage (including death) for free.

The price is competitive, at least. You can order the Io 3D now for $200 (£140), and the Io Pro 3D for $300 ($250). There’s also a plain 2D phone, the 5-inch Io Light ($90) for those that only need the basics. They may be tougher sells when handsets like the Moto G7 are more powerful overall, but consider this: if you ever lose interest in the 3D, you’re out considerably less money than you might be otherwise.

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God Of War Wins Game Of The Year At GDC Awards

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God of War wins big, again.

Sony’s PS4 exclusive action game God of War has won yet another Game of the Year award. Tonight at the Game Developers Choice Awards, Sony’s PS4 game went home with the top prize. This is just the latest win for God of War, as it also won Game of the Year at December’s The Game Awards and in February at the DICE Awards.

Other winners tonight included Celeste for Best Audio, Into the Breach for Best Design, and Red Dead Redemption 2 for Best Technology. Australian developer Mountains won Best Debut for Florence; that game also Best Mobile Game. Amy Hennig, an industry veteran who directed Uncharted, took home the Lifetime Achievement Award.

You can see a full rundown of the categories and winners at the bottom of this post.

“The Game Developers Choice Awards represent the most refined games of the year, and the sheer variety of games honored tonight showed that games can still represent wholly new and unique creative visions,” GDC general manager Katie Stern said in a statement.

“A number of independently developed titles like Celeste, Gris, and Florence helped prove how internal or deeply personal turmoil can make for massively appealing games for millions of fans. While games like God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 capture our imagination with poignant moments juxtaposed against epic tales of staggering scale and technical prowess. We embrace and accept all these amazingly creative works, and we’re proud to recognize these nominees and winners alike for the imagination and hard work that brought them here.”

Also at GDC this week, Google announced its new game-streaming technology, Stadia, which is set to launch later this year. Former Microsoft and Sony executive Phil Harrison is heading up the Stadia team, and he believes latency won’t be an issue.

GDC 2019 continues all week, leading directly into PAX East in Boston at the weekend, so keep checking back with GameSpot for lots more.

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Google Moves To Disrupt Video Games With Streaming, Studio

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Google set out to disrupt the video game world on Tuesday with a Stadia platform that will let players stream blockbuster titles to any device they wish, as the online giant also unveiled a new controller and its very own studio.

The California-based technology giant said its Stadia platform will open to gamers later this year in the United States, Canada, Britain and other parts of Europe.

For now, Google is focused on working with game makers to tailor titles for play on Stadia, saying it has already provided the technology to more than 100 game developers.

“We are on the brink of a huge revolution in gaming,” said Jade Raymond, the former Ubisoft and Electronic Arts executive tapped to head Google’s new studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment.

“We are committed to going down a bold path,” she told a presentation at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The Stadia tech platform aims to connect people for interactive play on PCs, tablets, smartphones and other devices.

Google also unveiled a new controller that can be used to play cloud-based individual or multiplayer games.

Stadia controllers mirrored those designed for Xbox or PlayStation consoles, with the addition of dedicated buttons for streaming live play via YouTube or asking Google Assistant virtual aide for help beating a daunting puzzle or challenge.

Chief executive Sundar Pichai said the initiative is “to build a game platform for everyone.”

“I think we can change the game by bringing together the entirety of the ecosystem,” Pichai told a keynote audience.

‘Netflix of gaming’

Google’s hope is that Stadia could become for games what Netflix or Spotify are to television or music, by making console-quality play widely available.

Yet it remains unclear how much Google can grab of the nascent, but potentially massive industry.

As it produces its own games, Google will also be courting other studios to move to its cloud-based model.

Google collaborated with French video game titan Ubisoft last year in a limited public test of the technology powering Stadia, and its chief executive was in the front row at the platform’s unveiling.

A coming new version of blockbuster action game “Doom” tailored to play on Stadia was teased at the event by iD studio executive producer Marty Stratton.

“If you are going to prove to the world you can stream games from the cloud, what better game than ‘Doom’,” Stratton said.

Streaming games from the cloud brings the potential to tap into massive amounts of computing power in data centers.

For gamers, that could translate into richer game environments, more creative play options or battle royale matches involving thousands of players.

At the developers conference, Google demonstrated fast, cloud-based play on a variety of devices. But it offered no specific details on how it would monetize the new service or compensate developers.

Money-making options could include selling game subscriptions the way Netflix charges for access to streaming television.

“I think it’s a huge potential transition in the video game industry, not only for the instant access to games but for exploring different business models to games,” Jon Peddie Research analyst Ted Pollak said of Stadia.

“They say it’s the Netflix of gaming; that is actually pretty accurate.”

Ubisoft on board

Ubisoft, known for “Assassin’s Creed” and other titles, said it would be working with Google.

Its co-founder and chief Yves Guillemot predicted streaming would “give billions unprecedented opportunities to play video games in the future.”

An “Assassin’s Creed” title franchise was used to test Google’s “Project Stream” technology for hosting the kind of quick, seamless play powered by in-home consoles as an online service.

The reliability and speed of internet connections is seen as a challenge to cloud gaming, with action play potentially marred by streaming lags or disruptions.

Google said its investments in networks and data centers should help prevent latency in data transmissions.

In places with fast and reliable wireless, internet players will likely access games on the wide variety of devices envisioned by Google, while hard-core players in places where wireless connections aren’t up to the task could opt for consoles, according to Pollak.

“I think it is good news for everyone,” Pollak said when asked what Stadia meant to major console makers Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

The US video game industry generated a record $43.4 billion in revenue in 2018, up 18 percent from the prior year, according to data released by the Entertainment Software Association and The NPD Group.

AFP

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