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17
Aug

Best games trailers from Gamescom 2016: FIFA 17, Mafia III and more


It’s that time of year again when the games industry meets en masse in Cologne for the biggest European videogames show, Gamescom.

And that means there are plenty of new games trailers emerging that you won’t have seen before.

All of the biggest games for the rest of 2016 and beyond are being exhibited at the show, which is for the trade and public, but you might not be able to head to the Koelnmesse yourself to check them out.

That’s why we’ve collected the best trailers we could find here, so you don’t feel left out.

FIFA 17

EA’s footy title adopts the Frostbite Engine for its graphics duties this time around so player models are more lifelike than ever before.

We also love that Premier League managers get their own celebrations, based on their real-life counterparts.

Tekken 7

The fighting game is coming in early 2017 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC and Bandai Namco announced during Gamescom that Lee Chaolan and his alter-ego Violet are joining as playable characters.

Here they are in all their glory.

Mafia III

We cannot wait for the full release of Mafia III. Everything we’ve seen so far has only raised our expectations.

And the 1960s soundtrack is almost worth it on its own.

Battlefield 1

After a fantastic E3 showing, Battlefield 1’s Gamescom level showed horses joining the fray for the first time.

The desert setting is also great for a massive multiplayer skirmish, as we found out in our hands-on play at the show.

Titanfall 2

The sequel to Titanfall might be languishing in the shadow of Battlefield 1 but it is no less important in the build up to Christmas.

A multiplayer tech test period will be held over the next two weeks, so you can find out why yourself.

PES 2017

With FIFA 17 heading in a new direction, with a story mode and new graphics, PES is finally back doing what it does best – super fast and frenetic gameplay.

What’s more, licence deals with Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund add much needed real world kits and stadiums.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

Having recently played through The Stick of Truth again, thanks to Xbox One backward compatibility, we’re ready for more hilarity with the sequel.

Here’s one-and-a-half minutes of gameplay for you to enjoy.

Steep

It’s been a while since a decent skiing and/or snowboarding game and Steep’s premise has great potential.

It features a massive open world in which to take part in multiple extreme sports activities, so is one to keep an eye on.

  • Gamescom 2016: All the launches, games and consoles at the show

We’ll be adding to this feature throughout Gamescom to keep it up to date with the latest and greatest.

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17
Aug

Can big data and AI fix our criminal-justice crisis?


America, land of the free. Yeah, right. Tell that to the nearly 7 million people incarcerated in the US prison system. The United States holds the dubious distinction of having the highest per capita incarceration rate of any nation on the planet — 716 inmates for every 100,000 population. We lock up more of our own people than Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan or Russia. And once you’re in, you stay in. A 2005 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) followed 400,000 prisoners in 30 states after their release and found that within just three years, more than two-thirds had been rearrested. That figure rose to over 75 percent by 2010.

Among those who do enter the criminal justice system, a disproportionately high number are people of color. In 2010, the BJS found that for every 100,000 Americans, 380 inmates are white, while 2.5 times that many (966) are Latino. A whopping 2,207 are black — nearly six times as many black Americans are incarcerated as their Caucasian counterparts.

Is it any wonder, then, that America’s minority communities express such little faith in the fairness of US legal institutions? In a nation that incorporated structural racism into its social system for nearly a century — after hundreds of years of slavery — are you really surprised that people of color have historically distrusted the legal system?

Activists Protest Chicago Police Department, Rahm Emanuel

Chicago demonstrators calling for an end to gun violence – Getty Images

Change is already happening. Police departments across the country are adopting the mantra “work smarter, not harder” and are leveraging big data to do it. For example, in February of 2014, the city of Chicago launched the Custom Notification Program, staging early interventions with people who were most likely to commit (or be the victim of) violent crime but who were not under investigation for such. The city sent police, community leaders and clergy to the person’s house, imploring them to change their ways and offering social services. According to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, of the 60 people approached far, not one has since been involved in a felony.

This unique method of community policing used an equally novel method of figuring out which citizens to reach out to first. The Chicago PD turned to big data to analyze “prior arrests, impact of known associates and potential sentencing outcomes for future criminal acts” and generate a “heat list” of people most in need of these interventions. According to the CPD, this analysis is “based on empirical data compared with known associates of the identified person,” though as we’ll see with other big data algorithms, the actual mechanics of how the algorithms place and rank people on these heat lists remains opaque.

Obama Meets With Task Force On 21st Century Policing At White House

President Obama and Philadelphia PD Commissioner Charles Ramsey discuss the Task Force on 21st Century Policing – Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

The Obama administration is also making forays into big-data solutions for law enforcement. In December 2014, President Obama launched the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a blue-ribbon commission tasked with uncovering the challenges that modern police forces face and figuring out how to grow their standing within the communities they serve.

Based on the task force’s recommendations, the administration set forth the Police Data Initiative (PDI) in May 2015. This initiative focuses on using technology to improve how law enforcement handles data transparency and analysis. The goal is to empower local law enforcement with the tools and resources they need to act more transparently and rebuild the trust of the public.

Since the Initiative launched, 61 police departments have released more than 150 data sets for everything from traffic stops and community engagement to officer-involved shootings and body-camera data. All this data is collected by the local departments — neither the White House nor any federal agency collects anything — and then organized for public consumption through open data web portals as well as police department websites.

Both the police and nonprofits around the country have already begun to leverage this information. Code for America and CI Technologies are working to integrate these data sets into the popular IA Pro police-integrity software, which will enable departments to spot troublesome officers sooner. Likewise, North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) has teamed with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice to better map and visualize key policing metrics within the city, making them more accessible to the public. “Local departments have found that this data transparency helps paint a more-complete picture of what policing looks like in their neighborhoods,” Denise Ross, senior policy adviser at the White House and co-lead on the Police Data Initiative, told Engadget, “and helps bring a more authentic, informed conversation to the public.”

This openness couldn’t come at a more urgent time. “I think people are feeling vulnerable in different ways on both sides,” Jennifer Eberhardt, Stanford professor of psychology, told PBS last December. “I mean, you have community members who feel vulnerable around the police. And then there’s a vulnerability on the police side, where, when something happens in Ferguson or anywhere in the country, police departments all over the nation feel it.”

Those feelings of vulnerability have life-and-death consequences. A yearlong study conducted by The Washington Post found that of the nearly 1,000 people killed by police officers in 2015, 40 percent were unarmed black men. Now consider, black men make up just 6 percent of the national population. Granted, of those 1,000 or so people, white men were more likely to be shot while brandishing a gun or threatening the officer. However, a staggering 3 in 5 who were killed in response to benign behavior — “failing to comply” with an officer, as Philando Castile was — were either black or Latino.

MINNESOTA-POLICE/

Philando Castile’s mother looks at a picture of her son during a press conference at the Minnesota state capitol – Reuters

“The system does not affect people in the same way,” Lynn Overmann of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy told the Computing Community Consortium in June. “At every stage of our criminal-justice system [black and Latino citizens] are more likely to receive worse outcomes. They are more likely to be stopped, they’re more likely to be searched for evidence, they’re more likely to be arrested, they’re more likely to be convicted and, when convicted, they tend to get longer sentences.”

North Carolina’s CMPD also partnered with the University of Chicago to develop a more effective early intervention system (EIS) that helps departments identify officers most likely to incur adverse interactions with the public. These interactions can include use of force and citizen complaints. The system enables the CMPD to more accurately track at-risk officers while reducing the number of false positives. When implemented, it spotted 75 more high-risk officers than the current system, while incorrectly flagging 180 fewer low-risk officers.

In addition to the data sets released by the Police Data Initiative, many local law enforcement agencies have begun integrating body worn camera (BWC) data into their training and transparency operations. Body cams are a hot-button issue — especially following Ferguson — but in California, the Oakland Police Department implemented them nearly six years ago. Since their adoption in 2010, the Oakland PD has seen a 72 percent decrease in use-of-force incidents along with a 54 percent drop in citizen complaints.

Unfortunately, managing the large volumes of data that the body-camera system produces — eight terabytes a month from the department’s more than 600 cameras — is not easy. There’s simply too much information to comb through with any reasonable efficiency. That’s why the Oakland police have partnered with Stanford University to automate the video-curation and -review process. It can also help the department better train its officers by highlighting both negative and positive interactions to reduce the prevalence of unconscious bias exhibited by officers.

This video data has been put to good use by other organizations as well. A study conducted by Stanford SPARQ (Social Psychological Answers to Real-world Questions) researchers leveraging BWC data (as well as police reports and community surveys) found that Oakland police officers exhibit clear bias when stopping motorists. The report, which was released in June, found that black men were four times more likely to be pulled over than whites, four times more likely to be searched after being stopped and 20 percent more likely to be handcuffed during their stop, even if they were not ultimately arrested.

stop and frisk

NYPD officers stopping and frisking individuals – NY Daily News via Getty Images

Among the 50 recommendations made by the study, SPARQ researchers strongly advocated for more police-interaction data collection and that body-camera data be regularly used to audit and continually train officers to reduce this bias. Paul Figueroa, Oakland’s assistant chief of police, echoed the sentiment in a post on The Police Chief blog. “Video can provide invaluable information about the impact of training on communication techniques,” he wrote. “Significant knowledge is available about verbal and nonverbal communication, and effective communication training on a regular basis is required for California law enforcement officers.” To that end, police cadets in California have long been taught communication and de-escalation techniques — the “tenets of procedural justice,” as ACP Figueroa calls them.

Body cameras are far from the perfect solution, especially at this relatively early stage of use by law enforcement. Among the numerous issues facing the technology is: How does a department store all that data? The Seattle PD took a novel approach earlier this year by simply dumping all of its BWC data onto YouTube in the name of transparency, though that isn’t necessarily an ideal (or even scalable) solution.

There are also issues of use requirements — that is, when, where and with whom these cameras should record interactions — and the basic technological limitations of the cameras themselves. The officers involved in the Alton Sterling encounter earlier this year reported that their body cameras “fell off” during the incident. Similarly, a scandal erupted in Chicago earlier this year when evidence came to light indicating officers had intentionally disabled their patrol cars’ dash cameras. And earlier this month, a Chicago police supervisor could be heard telling two officers to turn off their body cameras immediately after the pair fatally shot unarmed teenager Paul O’Neal.

USA-POLICE/CHICAGO

Body-camera footage of the Paul O’Neal shooting – Reuters

These are not isolated incidents. A study by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights published last Tuesday found that only a small fraction of police departments that have implemented body cameras have also created robust policies regarding their use. For example, only four jurisdictions out of the 50 surveyed have rules in place expressly permitting citizens who file complaints against an officer to see video footage of the incident. Not one of these departments fully prohibits an officer from reviewing video footage before filing an incident report, though many will revoke that right in certain cases.

In addition, half of the departments don’t make this information easily available on their websites. And when states like North Carolina pass obfuscating laws that demand a court order before the police will release body-camera footage, transparency and accountability suffer. That’s the exact opposite of what the Police Data Initiative was designed to address.

Then there are the issues endemic to the data itself. “The era of big data is full of risk,” the White House press staff wrote in a May blog post. That’s because these algorithmic systems are not inherently infallible. They’re tools built by people who rely on imperfect and incomplete data. Whether the algorithm’s designers realize it or not, there’s the chance that they can incorporate bias into the mechanism, which, if not countered, can actually reinforce the discriminatory practices that it’s built to eliminate.

Privacy, of course, is a primary issue — both for the public and the officers themselves. As Samuel Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, stated in 2013, “The camera will capture everything within its view and that will include people who are not suspects in the stop. So, will that information be stored? Will it be retained?”

What’s more, who will be in control of it and for how long? Privacy advocates have long warned that centralizing all of these data sets — which previously existed in isolation within their respective private-sector, governmental and academic databases — could shift the balance of power between those who have this data (i.e., the federal government) and the people who represent that data (the rest of us).

USA-POLICE/

Oakland PD officer Huy Nguyen wearing a body camera outside of OPD HQ – Reuters

Then there’s the issue of security. It’s not just the fear of data breaches like we’ve seen with the numerous credit card and Social Security scandals over the past few years. There are also previously unseen issues such as the Mosaic Effect wherein numerous separate sources of anonymized data are inadvertently combined to reveal a person’s identity — the big-data equivalent of the game Guess Who. These sorts of leaks could very well endanger civil protections involving housing, employment or your credit score. Remember that short-lived idea about using your Facebook friends to gauge your FICO score? It could be like that, but using every friend you’ve ever had.

Finally, these data sets are large and difficult to parse without some form of automation — much like the OPD’s body camera footage. In many cases, these algorithms could replace human experts, at least partially. But who’s to say that these systems are coming up with the correct answer?

For example, a recent Harvard study found that when searching a black individual’s name (i.e., “Trevon Jones” vs. “Chet Manley”) or that of a black fraternity, arrest record ads popped up far more often. Similarly, Carnegie Mellon University recently found that Google was more likely to show ads for higher-paying executive-level jobs to men than it was to women. It’s not like there’s a team of programmers twisting their mustaches and cackling about sticking it to the minorities and women, but unconscious biases can easily make their way into algorithms or manifest through the way the data is collected, thereby skewing the results.

That’s not ideal when dealing with advertising, but it could be downright dangerous when applied to the criminal-justice system. For example, the Wisconsin Supreme Court just found that the sentencing algorithm COMPAS — Criminal Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions — does not violate due process. Granted, the algorithm’s function was only one of a number of influencing factors in the court’s decision, but that doesn’t resolve a key issue: Neither the justices nor anyone else outside of the company knows how it actually works. That’s because the algorithm is a proprietary industry secret. How is the public supposed to maintain faith in the criminal-justice system when critical functions like sentencing recommendations are reduced to black-box functionality? This is precisely why transparency and accountability are vital to good governance.

Interior of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court chambers – Daderot / Wikimedia Commons

“The problem is not the AI, it’s the humans,” Jack M. Balkin, Knight professor of constitutional law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School, told attendees at the Artificial Intelligence: Law and Policy workshop in May. “The thing that’s wrong with Skynet is that it’s imagining that there’s nobody behind the robots. It’s just robots taking over the world. That’s not how it will work.” There will always be a man behind the curtain, Balkin argues, one who can and will wield this algorithmic power to subjugate and screw over the rest of the population. It’s not the technology itself that’s the problem — it’s the person at the helm.

Balkin goes on to argue that the solution is surprisingly simple and is based on longstanding legal code. “The idea that I’ve been pushing is that we should regard people who use AI and collect large amounts of data to process for the purpose of making decisions, we should consider them as having a kind of fiduciary duty over the people [on] whom they are imposing these decisions.”

This is just one of many solutions being considered by the White House, which held four such workshops throughout the US in 2016. Broadly, the administration advocates “investing in research, broadening and diversifying technical leadership … bolstering accountability and creating standards for use within both the government and the private sector.” The administration also calls upon academia to commit to the ethical use of data and to instill those values in students and faculty.

For better or worse, body-camera footage and big-data technology are here to stay. Just like fire, automobiles and atom bombs, big data is simply a tool. It’s up to the users to decide whether it will be employed for the good of humanity or its detriment. Yes, big data could be leveraged to segregate and discriminate. It could also be used to finally bring meaningful reform our criminal-law system, deliver justice to entire cross-sections of American people — maybe even help rebuild some of the trust between the police and those they’re sworn to protect.

17
Aug

Twitter and YouTube wouldn’t delete an extremist cleric’s posts (update: gone)


Internet giants have been increasingly willing to take down extremist content, but their previous reluctance is coming back to haunt them. The UK recently convicted radical cleric Anjem Choudary (and co-defendant Mohammed Rahman) of rallying support for ISIS, and court documents have revealed that neither Twitter nor YouTube agreed to take down key content. Twitter hasn’t deleted his account, for example, despite British law enforcement’s claims that it violates Twitter policies on promoting terrorism — even after he was arrested in September 2014. It pulled Rahman’s, but not in sync with an official request.

YouTube has sometimes pulled videos, but not always. It wouldn’t yank one Choudary clip because it was “journalistic” (it was posted at a research institute), while only some of Rahman’s content went down. One of his stayed online under claims that it fostered “religious debate.”

We’ve reached out to both Twitter and YouTube for their take on the situation, although authorities mentioned in the documents that they didn’t have the authority to make either site take the extremist material down. The big question is whether or not the sites would react differently now. Google, Twitter and others have taken a more aggressive stance in fighting pro-terrorist content in recent months, even since the last Twitter takedown request in March 2016. It wouldn’t be surprising if they pulled a lot more of the offending online content in the current climate.

Update: Choudary’s Twitter account has disappeared following news reports. Also, YouTube reiterated its policies, which have it pulling pro-terrorist content unless there’s a “clear news or documentary purpose.” You can read YouTube’s full statement below.

“We have clear policies prohibiting terrorist recruitment and content intending to incite violence, and quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users. We also terminate accounts run by terrorist organisations or those that repeatedly violate our policies. We allow videos posted with a clear news or documentary purpose to remain on YouTube, applying warnings and age-restrictions as appropriate.”

Source: The Independent

17
Aug

TfL slides into your Twitter DMs with weekend travel updates


In an extension to its partnership with Twitter, Transport for London (TfL) has announced a new pilot that will send a direct message every Thursday that will warn of weekend closures and maintenance on the city’s travel routes.

On its Digital Blog, TfL notes that it chose Thursdays because that’s when travellers tend to look for weekend travel advice. Requests apparently peak at around 5pm on that day. With this in mind, the authority will send a direct message full of travel information to subscribers’ Twitter accounts, a method that is convenient but not overly intrusive.

To sign up, customers need to subscribe to @TfLTravelAlerts updates via TfL’s Twitter Alerts page. Once subscribed, users can pause alerts (if they’re not aren’t in London that weekend) or subscribe to real-time updates from all of London’s Tube and rail lines.

Via: TfL Blog

Source: TfL Travel Alerts

17
Aug

FreedomPop offers unlimited WhatsApp chats in over 30 countries


Don’t want to pay a fortune for mobile service, but can’t stand the thought of being unable to message your friends? FreedomPop thinks it can help. The sometimes-free carrier has launched an offer that gives you free, unlimited WhatsApp messaging in over 30 countries, including the US. And yes, that includes when you travel — it should be that much easier to let the folks back home know how you’re doing. In a chat with VentureBeat, the company says that there’s “really no reason” you need to pay for voice or text in the modern era. This is just taking a logical step, he argues albeit an odd one when WhatsApp isn’t nearly as popular in the US as it is elsewhere.

This kind of offer isn’t new elsewhere in the world. Nextel Brazil has offered free WhatsApp use, for example. It’s new in the US, however, and may draw some criticism from critics who believe these exceptions (known as zero rating) violate the spirit of net neutrality. It certainly has a financial incentive to give away WhatsApp access. Getting to use just one app could entice you to upgrade from the free basic plan (which stops at 200MB of US data, 100 minutes and 100 texts) to get the full internet on your phone. For now, though, it’s at least a useful tool for travelers and cost-cutters.

Via: VentureBeat, Digital Trends

Source: FreedomPop

17
Aug

Google for Education gets a host of updates as the school year starts


Google’s Chromebook has been particularly successful in the education market — and that’s helped drive its broader software platform, Google for Education. It’s similar to the business offerings Google offers, with access to Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Slides and so on, but it also adds the specialized Google Classroom tool that helps students and teachers stay in sync. With the school year about to kick off again, Google has a handful of updates ready for its education products that are rolling out today.

The first new tool for the Google Classroom app is meant to help parents stay up to date on what their kids are working on. Teachers can set up a daily or weekly summary of what the class is doing and it’ll be sent to parents automatically. It’s meant to keep parents more informed and thus more engaged with what their kids are working on, and this feature sounds like it’ll take a minimal amount of effort to make that happen.

Another addition to Google Classroom puts another nail in the coffin of the venerable whiteboard. The Classroom mobile app now supports the ability to annotate documents, for both students and teachers. Students can now sketch out things like math problems or create visuals to accompany assignments right on their devices, while teachers can go through and mark up homework like they used to do with the dreaded red marker. Teachers can also highlight passages in text assignments they send out or in digital books, as well. It sounds like a way to make digital assignments feel more like classic pen and paper work, and there’s a lot of instances where that makes sense.

Other updates to Classroom include new organization features that let you tag specific posts and then search by those tags; you can also preview documents, PDFs, images and video right in the app. Google Forms, the company’s survey / questionnaire tool, also got a pretty significant update. It now supports images, so you can include a picture along with a question or use multiple pictures as answers to multiple-choice questions. And Google for Education users can finally get their hands on Inbox, the company’s continually-updating vision for how it can handle email in different (and often smarter) ways.

Lastly, Google’s adding a number of new “expeditions” — the company’s idea of virtual reality field trips. And if you’re not a student, fear not: Expeditions are available for anyone. You just need an Android device (iOS support is “coming soon”), and you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more if you pair your phone with Google Cardboard.

17
Aug

EE’s Max handset plans include free EU roaming and BT Sport


EE hasn’t done a great deal to mix up its tariff options this year, and you know what that means. Correct… we’ve got a complicated new pricing structure to chew through. The carrier has revamped its pay-monthly handset plans specifically, splitting them into three tiers separated mainly by maximum data allowance and value-added perks. While the table above gives you a pretty comprehensive overview of the new status quo, let’s break down the key differences briefly.

Not to be confused with Three’s new Essential plans, EE’s tariffs of identical name are for the least demanding of customers. They’re the only ones to feature minute allowances, offer 4G speeds of up to 20 Mbps with data caps of 300MB to 2GB, and include 6 months of free BT Sport app access. An Essential contract can be had for as little as £17 per month, but prices for all the plans will vary depending on what mobile they’re paired with, and remember they don’t take into account the upfront payments some devices require.

Starting at £21 per month, 4GEE plans increase mobile download speeds to a maximum of 60 Mbps, with 6 months of BT Sport thrown in there too. Data allowances range from 1GB all the way up to 20GB and each tariff also offers unlimited minutes, texts and 500MB of data for use anywhere within the EU.

The carrier’s 4GEE Max plans are geared more towards power users. Available from £26 per month, these offer EE’s “fastest 4G speeds” and data allowances of 3GB up to 40GB. BT Sport access is guaranteed throughout the entire length of the contract, and these also benefit from what EE is calling “roam like home.” Similar to Three’s Feel at Home perk (which is expanding to cover most of Europe next month), it lets customers use their standard minute, text and data allowances across the EU at no extra cost (a 15GB fair use policy applies, though). Roaming charges are being scrapped across the EU entirely next June, mind, so it’ll only add value until then.

Source: EE

17
Aug

Kanye West, incest and Twitter’s First Amendment conundrum


NSFW Warning: This story may contain links to and descriptions or images of explicit sexual acts.

On Nov. 11th, 2014, Kim Kardashian’s ass broke the internet. Her iconic posterior, photographed by Jean-Paul Goude, graced the cover of Paper magazine and became an instant meme. Like a pillow-y flesh bomb, Kardashian’s butt exploded into a firestorm of praise and disgust. The New York Times warned of the perils of a massive ass, while social networks and daytime talk shows teemed with hot takes about the young mother’s butt.

In the wake of Kim’s ass-plosion, a strange revelation emerged about millennial online behavior.

Kardashian supporter Lorde responded to the image on Twitter with a simple “Mom,” causing gossip hounds to speculate that she was questioning Kim’s parenting skills. Lorde responded as follows:

“Omg haha ok so. time to explain this. i retweeted kim’s amazing cover and wrote ‘MOM’, which among the youthz is a compliment; it basically jokingly means “adopt me/be my second mom/i think of you as a mother figure you are so epic”

An article by Kristin Harris for BuzzFeed further demystified the phenomenon, saying that the familial term of endearment was widely used by young fans to show appreciation for celebrity role models who “give them life.” Where there’s a “Mom” there’s often a “Dad,” and, naturally the internet has chosen Kardashian’s husband, Kanye West, as its adopted father.

But a cursory look at West’s Twitter timeline shows playing house isn’t always that innocent. For the internet’s #1 Dad, things often take a turn for the incestuous. The seemingly benign “Dad” has morphed into “Daddy,” which has given way to the sexual (fuck me, Dad) and masochistic (fuck me up, Dad). These cries for paternal affection and their various permutations are amplified sometimes hundreds of times over in the forms of likes and RTs.

On July 11th, West tweeted a picture of his wife on the cover of Forbes with the caption “I am very proud of my wife for her Forbes cover story.” That otherwise innocent post pulled in at least 10-plus replies referring to Kanye as “Dad” or “Daddy,” one “Papa love me,” a “Fist me daddy,” a handful of uncensored slides from Kardashian’s sex tape and at least one person who found this whole “daddy” thing a little perplexing. Whether it’s a post about a new pair of Yeezys or Tidal’s beef with Apple, no tweet is safe from the daddy chasers.

@kanyewest fist me daddy

— Nicky G (@nickgobora) July 12, 2016

@kanyewest why is it that only weird white kids call you Dad?

— NicK HouIE (@BasicPatterns) July 12, 2016

Yes, a small but noticeable group of Twitter users are using the social-media platform to express their desire for a celebrity father figure, one who will use them and abuse them. The phenomenon isn’t isolated to Kanye, either. Former One Direction-er Zayn Malik, Justin Bieber and a host of other childless celebrities have inspired the same sort of incestuous outbursts. In short, Twitter has daddy issues.

Twitter’s hopeful sugar babies aren’t bots as you might expect. They’re real people, superfans, meme addicts, professional trolls. Their timelines are packed with sometimes culturally insensitive memes, pics of their favorite rappers, the occasional dick pick or ass shot and retweets upon retweets. They are the same millennials who turned one boy’s white Vans into a cultural phenomenon.

This public display of familial lust is so much more than a simple Twitter meme, though. It’s a perfect representation of the social network’s weird relationship with First Amendment freedoms.

On the one hand, Daddy Issues Twitter represents the best of the social network’s approach to First Amendment protection, with its seemingly harmless, but no less sexually explicit fanfare. On the other, it’s a mild reminder of the harassment brought on by upholding the principles of free speech. Given the digital equivalent of catcalling your best friend’s dad isn’t exactly the sort of harassment that’s landed Twitter in hot water, but unwanted sexual advances are unwanted sexual advances.

As in the real world, freedom of speech on Twitter means taking the good with the bad. The same principles that allow users to tweet their most bizarre incest fantasies are the same ones that have led to wide-scale, unchecked harassment.

Charlie Warzel’s recent piece on Twitter’s harassment problem posited that the company’s dedication to free speech at all costs has turned it into an often-dangerous place for minorities. It’s also made it the home of frank depictions and discussions of sex. While Instagram and Facebook openly censor certain words, subjects and images, Twitter’s laissez-faire approach to policing expression has made it the anything-goes social network.

While Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, explicitly forbid nudity and sexually explicit content, Twitter prohibits “pornographic or excessively violent media in your profile image or header image” as well as “intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject’s consent.” It also allows users to mark their content as “sensitive media,” requiring other users to consent before seeing those posts.

The combination of lax standards and lax moderation has allowed pornography to proliferate, unchecked. Daddy Issues Twitter users also occasionally post nude selfies to show support for their fantasy father figures. In researching this piece, I repeatedly had to shut my laptop to avoid my officemates getting an eyeful of dick. I cherish moments like these because they remind me that Twitter is at its best a forum for free expression, a home for uncensored celebrity nudes, a haven for the sexually deviant.

Despite warnings of a great “porn purge,” Twitter continues to be an open, though often hostile, forum for porn stars, escorts, exhibitionists, free thinkers and, of course, millennials with daddy issues who dare to bare it all in a public forum.

In the wake of high-profile harassment cases like that of Leslie Jones and Anita Saarkisean, Twitter finds itself in a peculiar position. How does it protect its users from abuse, hate speech, even death threats, while upholding its reputation as a champion of free speech and, thus, frank sexual expression? One man’s quest for a father figure may be another man’s sexual harassment suit in the making. A seemingly harmless dick pic can, through another’s eyes, look like a sign of sexual aggression.

Where do you draw the line when it comes to censorship? In response to Warzel’s BuzzFeed article, Twitter said: “We are going to continue our work on making Twitter a safer place. There is a lot of work to do but please know we are committed, focused and will have updates to share soon.”

As that work gets underway, Twitter will have to make hard decisions about complex issues surrounding speech and expression. The Wild West days of explicit content may soon come to an end as a result, but all is not lost for the fantasy-father fuckers of Daddy Issues Twitter. I hear Tumblr has a booming incest fanfic community.

17
Aug

Instagram adds event video channels to the ‘Explore’ feed


Instagram wants you to know it’s more than just photos; it’s about videos too. That’s why the app has been investing quite a bit in surfacing them more in its Explore tab. Earlier this year, it added a video channel for easier to find clips and further sorted them into 23 different categories, such as dogs, comedy and travel. Now Instagram has added yet another way to find interesting videos: through events.

Starting today, the Explore tab will have an events video channel that showcases the latest and greatest footage from events around the world. That could include concerts, sporting events, theater performances and more. So you could theoretically look for clips taken during festivals like Lollapalooza, or a concert in another city, and watch them right on Instagram.

The feature will only be available in the US to start. Like the rest of Explore, the videos you see in the tab will be personalized for your particular tastes, so it’ll float what it thinks are clips of of your favorite events to the top.

17
Aug

Microsoft says this might be the last console generation


Earlier today I sat down with Aaron Greenberg, Microsoft’s Head of Xbox Games Marketing, to talk about Xbox One, Project Scorpio and the future of console gaming. Here are Greenberg’s thoughts on three key topics.

On Project Scorpio-exclusive titles

At E3, Xbox head Phil Spencer said that all games and accessories will support all versions of the Xbox One, including Project Scorpio. I said at the time that this statement was not true, because only Project Scorpio will support a VR headset (an accessory), and there will definitely be VR-only games that only work with Project Scorpio. Greenberg shed some light on this, saying that the main reasoning behind Spencer making this point is that everything that works on Xbox One will work on Project Scorpio, rather than the other way around.

He added that while Microsoft is “not going to have console-exclusive games for Project Scorpio,” it doesn’t “think of [high-fidelity VR] as console gaming, and “VR experiences those will be new things that you will get on Project Scorpio.”

Here’s the full question and answer:

Q: Phil Spencer said that all accessories and all games work across all versions of the Xbox One. But he also said Project Scorpio is specifically the only Xbox that’s powerful enough to run VR. I don’t quite understand how those two statements can coexist.

Greenberg: “The idea was first, how can we innovate with hardware without sacrificing compatibility. Generally when you bring a new iteration of console hardware you lose compatibility with their games and accessories. So we’re saying, if you bought games and accessories for your Xbox One, or you buy an Xbox One S, those games and those accessories are going to work on Project Scorpio. When you think about backwards compatibility and our games lineup, we want gamers to know that when they’re ready to upgrade to Scorpio that content will go with them. That’s our promise and commitment around compatibility.

The next thing was ‘are you going to make games exclusively to Project Scorpio?’ And we said we’re not going to have console-exclusive games for Project Scorpio. It’s one ecosystem, whether you have an Xbox One S or Project Scorpio we don’t want anyone to be left behind, Now, with the power and capabilities we have we’ll be able to do high-fidelity VR. Now that space, we don’t think of that as console gaming ,we think of that as high-fidelity VR, and so with the VR experiences those will be new things that you will get on Project Scorpio.”

On the end of console generations

“The future of Xbox looks a lot like PC gaming.” That’s what Engadget editor Nathan Ingraham wrote after speaking with Phil Spencer earlier this year. Spencer spoke about wanting to see a steady stream of hardware innovation rather than seven-year gaps between consoles, citing the smartphone market as inspiration. Greenberg went one step further. In his opinion, this is the last console generation. “We think the future is without console generations,” he continued, explaining that Project Scorpio was a “big bet” that gamers will embrace that notion.

Q: The Xbox platform has moved forward to have such regular updates and new features coming all the time. It kind of seems like hardware is going the same way. There was a very short gap between the Xbox One and the Xbox One S, and we’re probably talking an even shorter gap before Project Scorpio. Do you see a future of console upgrades continually happening? Is this the last console generation?

Greenberg: “I think it is … For us, we think the future is without console generations, we think that the ability to build a library, a community, to be able to iterate with the hardware, we’re making a pretty big bet on that with Project Scorpio. We’re basically saying ‘this isn’t a new generation, everything you have continues forward and it works.’ We think of this as a family of devices.

But we’ll see, we’re going to learn from this, we’re going to see how that goes. So far I’d say based on the reaction there appears to be a lot of demand and interest around Project Scorpio, and we think it’s going to be a pretty big success. If the games and the content deliver, which I think they will do, I think it will change the way we think about the future of console gaming.”

On closing the gap between PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

Sony is “winning” this console generation, at least in sales. Microsoft hasn’t released any data in an age, but Sony passed 40 million sold months back while current estimates put Xbox One at around the 22 million mark. I asked Greenberg how Microsoft fixed that, and if it’s actually trying. He said that console sales were “really healthy,” and that more people were using Xbox One now than last year. A large focus for the company is in bringing the games to a bigger audience through Xbox Play Anywhere (a feature that lets you buy a game once and play on Xbox and PC), rather than just trying to sell new consoles.

Q: I was in [a company’s] briefing last week and they said by the end of the year you’d sell 29 million Xbox Ones versus 52 million PlayStation 4s. Obviously those are estimates, but the gap is there. How do you close that gap, and how focused are you on closing it versus just trying to make the 29 million Xbox gamers you do have happy?

Greenberg: “We’re focused on a few things. I’d say first we’re focused on growing the userbase of our games, bringing our games to as many gamers as possible, that’s why you see a lot of our big franchises on Windows 10. That allows more gamers than ever before to play titles like Gears of War, Forza Horizon, etc. From a console ecosystem standpoint, we’re seeing really healthy console sales really healthy engagement. Year-over-year for the month of July we saw Xbox One usage up 18 percent, so also really healthy.

Sony’s had a lot of success as well. I think what you’re seeing is that the console market is really healthy, console sales are doing really well in general, software sales are strong. It’s been a good industry for both of us, and we’re innovating in different ways. We’re innovating in a way where we know a lot of gamers are multi-device gamers, they don’t just buy one system, and so we want to be able to have the same types of experiences on Xbox Live, the same games, the same friends, both in the living room on their console or at work, on vacation or at school on their PC. You should be able to stay connected, and play the same games through things like Play Anywhere. That’s really been where we’ve been focused on.”

We’re live all week from Cologne, Germany for Gamescom 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

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