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Facebook should ban campaign ads. End the lies.

14 October, by Josh Constine[ —]

Permitting falsehood in political advertising would work if we had a model democracy, but we don’t. Not only are candidates dishonest, but voters aren’t educated, and the media isn’t objective. And now, hyperlinks turn lies into donations and donations into louder lies. The checks don’t balance. What we face is a self-reinforcing disinformation dystopia.

That’s why if Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube don’t want to be the arbiters of truth in campaign ads, they should stop selling them. If they can’t be distributed safely, they shouldn’t be distributed at all.

No one wants historically untrustworthy social networks becoming the honesty police, deciding what’s factual enough to fly. But the alternative of allowing deception to run rampant is unacceptable. Until voter-elected officials can implement reasonable policies to preserve truth in campaign ads, the tech giants should go a step further and refuse to run them.

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This problem came to a head recently when Facebook formalized its policy of allowing politicians to lie in ads and refusing to send their claims to third-party fact-checkers. “We don’t believe, however, that it’s an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny” Facebook’s VP of policy Nick Clegg wrote.

The Trump campaign was already running ads with false claims about Democrats trying to repeal the Second Amendment and weeks-long scams about a “midnight deadline” for a contest to win the one-millionth MAGA hat.

Trump Ad

After the announcement, Trump’s campaign began running ads smearing potential opponent Joe Biden with widely debunked claims about his relationship with Ukraine. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter refused to remove the ad when asked by Biden.

In response to the policy, Elizabeth Warren is running ads claiming Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg endorses Trump because it’s allowing his campaign lies. She’s continued to press Facebook on the issue, asking “you can be in the disinformation-for-profit business, or you can hold yourself to some standards.”

It’s easy to imagine campaign ads escalating into an arms race of dishonesty.

Campaigns could advertise increasingly untrue and defamatory claims about each other tied to urgent calls for donations. Once all sides are complicit in the misinformation, lying loses its stigma, becomes the status quo, and ceases to have consequences. Otherwise, whichever campaign misleads more aggressively will have an edge.

“In open democracies, voters rightly believe that, as a general rule, they should be able to judge what politicians say themselves.” Facebook’s Clegg writes.

But as is emblematic of Facebook’s past mistakes, it’s putting too much idealistic faith in society. If all voters were well educated and we weren’t surrounded by hyperpartisan media from Fox News to far-left Facebook Pages, maybe this hands-off approach might work. But in reality, juicy lies spread further than boring truths, and plenty of “news” outlets are financially incentivized to share sensationalism and whatever keeps their team in power.

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Protecting the electorate should fall to legislators. But incumbents have few reasons to change the rules that got them their jobs. The FCC already has truth in advertising policies, but exempts campaign ads and a judge struck down a law mandating accuracy.

Granted, there have always been dishonest candidates, uninformed voters, and one-sided news outlets. But it’s all gotten worse. We’re in a post-truth era now where the spoils won through deceptive demagoguery are clear. Cable news and digitally native publications have turned distortion of facts into a huge business.

Most critically, targeted social network advertising combined with donation links create a perpetual misinformation machine. Politicians can target vulnerable demographics with frightening lies, then say only their financial contribution will let the candidate save them. A few clicks later and the candidate has the cash to buy more ads, amplifying more untruths and raising even more money. Without the friction of having to pick up the phone, mail a letter, or even type in a URL like TV ads request, the feedback loop is shorter and things spiral out of control.

Many countries including the UK, Ireland, and the EU ban or heavily restrict TV campaign ads. There’s plenty of precedent for policies keeping candidates’ money out of the most powerful communication mediums.

Campaign commercials on US television might need additional regulation as well. However, the lack of direct connections to donate buttons, microtargeting, and rapid variable testing weaken their potential for abuse. Individual networks can refuse ads for containing falsehoods as CNN recently did without the same backlash over bias that an entity as powerful as Facebook receives.

This is why the social networks should halt sales of political campaign ads now. They’re the one set of stakeholders with flexibility and that could make a united decision. You’ll never get all the politicians and media to be honest, or the public to understand, but just a few companies could set a policy that would protect democracy from the world’s . And they could do it without having to pick sides or make questionable decisions on a case-by-case basis. Just block them all from all candidates.

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Facebook wrote in response to Biden’s request to block the Trump ads that “Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is.”

But banning campaign ads would still leave room for open political expression that’s subject to public scrutiny. Social networks should continue to let politicians say what they want to their own followers, barring calls for violence. Tech giants can offer a degree of freedom of speech, just not freedom of reach. Whoever wants to listen can, but they shouldn’t be able to jam misinformation into the feeds of the unsuspecting.

If the tech giants want to stop short of completely banning campaign ads, they could introduce a format designed to minimize misinformation. Politicians could be allowed to simply promote themselves with a set of stock messages, but without the option to make claims about themselves or their opponents.

Campaign ads aren’t a huge revenue driver for social apps, nor are they a high-margin business nowadays. The Trump and Clinton campaigns spent only a combined $81 million on 2016 election ads, a fraction of Facebook’s $27 billion in revenue that year. $284 million was spent in total on 2018 midterm election ads versus Facebook’s $55 billion in revenue last year, says Tech For Campaigns. Zuckerberg even said that Facebook will lose money selling political ads because of all the moderators it hires to weed out election interference by foreign parties.

Surely, there would be some unfortunate repercussions from blocking campaign ads. New candidates in local to national elections would lose a tool for reducing the lead of incumbents, some of which have already benefited from years of advertising. Some campaign ads might be pushed “underground” where they’re not properly labeled, though the major spenders could be kept under watch.

If the social apps can still offer free expression through candidates’ own accounts, aren’t reliant on politicians’ cash to survive, won’t police specific lies in their promos, and would rather let the government regulate the situation, then they should respectfully decline to sell campaign advertising. Following the law isn’t enough until the laws adapt. This will be an ongoing issue through the 2020 election, and leaving the floodgates open is irresponsible.

If a game is dangerous, you don’t eliminate the referee. You stop playing until you can play safe.


SoftBank reportedly preps a package to take control of WeWork parent company

14 October, by Jonathan Shieber[ —]

SoftBank Group, the multi-billion dollar Japanese technology conglomerate and investment firm, has put together a  bid that would save WeWork parent company We Co., just weeks before the co-working real estate company’s imminent collapse, The Wall Street Journal reports.

With the collapse of the company’s planned initial public offering, We Co. is facing a cash crunch. The company was planning to raise billions of dollars in debt on the heels of its public offering to finance its continued operations.

The botched public offering already cost We Co. co-founder Adam Neumann his leadership position at the co-working rental business he co-founded roughly a decade ago. The new financing pitch that SoftBank has put together would further remove Neumann from the company’s operations and business, according to the WSJ’s reporting.

SoftBank’s pitch isn’t the only lifeline for We Co. According to the WSJ’s reporting there’s a plan in the works to raise billions of debt through a process being managed by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“WeWork has retained a major Wall Street financial institution to arrange a financing,” a spokesperson for We Co. wrote in an email. “Approximately 60 financing sources have signed confidentiality agreements and are meeting with the company’s management and its bankers over the course of this past week and this coming week.”

SoftBank already owns about one-third of the company and their bid for the business would involve billions in equity and debt.

The struggles at We Co. coupled with underperforming investments in publicly traded companies like Uber and Slack have damaged SoftBank just as the company was hoping to move forward with a second version of its ambitious Vision Fund, a $100 billion investment vehicle formed in 2017 to invest in ambitious startup companies.

The results have been lackluster. And it’s not just public companies like Slack and Uber that are dragging down the fund. Investments in direct to consumer companies like Brandless, or the robotic pizza delivery startup Zume have also failed to deliver — despite hundreds of millions in commitments from SoftBank.

SoftBank did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.


Original Content podcast: For better or for worse, ‘The Politician’ is absolutely bonkers

13 October, by Anthony Ha[ —]

We all agree: “The Politician” is a crazy show that tries to do everything at once.

After all, why settle for a fast-talking satire about a high school election; a more serious treatment of wealth, illness and emotional turmoil; or a showcase for the musical talents of “Dear Evan Hansen” star Ben Platt? Instead, why not watch a show that tries to encompass all of that and more?

Still, the hosts of the Original Content podcast found themselves split on whether they actually liked it. Jordan and Darrell admitted that they were strangely compelled by the whole thing, but they ultimately found the mixture of gaudy production design, over-the-top melodrama and serious emotion to be exhausting.

Anthony, meanwhile, couldn’t defend the show’s treatment of weighty subjects like suicide, but he was still delighted by the rapid-fire dialogue and “The Politician”‘s apparent determination to entertain at all costs.

This is Ryan Murphy’s first production for Netflix — and since the “Glee” and “American Horror Story” creator signed a $300 million deal with the streaming service last year, the show is attracting extra scrutiny.

In this case, Murphy created the series with his “Glee” co-creators Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. Platt stars as Payton Hobart, the titular politician, with each season focusing on a different election in Payton’s career, starting with his run for high school president.

The show mines the gap between the grandness of Payton’s ambition and the triviality of the election for laughs, but that contrast also makes it hard to take Payton seriously at all. And while Jordan and Darrell admire the incredible cast (which also includes Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow and Bette Midler), they had a particularly hard time with the season finale, which they argue was little more than a trailer for season two.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:37 Disrupt recap
9:30 “The Politician” review (mild spoilers)
31:14 “The Politician” spoiler discussion


Fortnite is just a black hole right now

13 October, by Megan Rose Dickey[ —]

Fortnite just blew up its entire map and all that’s left is a black hole.

Some are speculating that this is simply a teaser for a new Fortnite map, but it’s unclear when that new map will arrive. On Epic Games’ status page, it says Fortnite is currently experiencing a minor service outage, noting “anomaly detected.”

As Kotaku reports, players this morning were only able to access a team fight mode called “The End.” That led to a massive explosion that resulted in a black hole.

Fortnite’s website is currently just a Twitch stream featuring a black hole.


Kik says it’s ‘here to stay,’ following shutdown reports

13 October, by Brian Heater[ —]

It’s been a rough run for Kik of late. The once mighty messaging service announced in late September that it would be shutting down its app. CEO Ted Livingston noted in a blog post that the startup would be trimming its headcount from over 100 people to “an elite 19 person team,” following a protracted 18 month battle with the SEC.

Today the service noted on Twitter, however, “Great news: Kik is here to stay!!!! AND there’s some really exciting plans for making the app even better. More details coming soon. Stay tuned.”

The news follows an October 7 tweet from Livingston that noted, “Some exciting news: we may have found a home for Kik! We just signed an LOI [letter of intent] with a great company. They want to buy the app, continue growing it for our millions of users, and take the Kin integration to the next level. Not a done deal yet, but could be a great win win. More soon.”

Along with the previously noted shutdown of Kik Messenger, the executive added that the far leaner team would be shifting its focus to its cryptocurrency, Kin. “[N]o matter what happens to Kik, Kin is here to stay,” Livingston said of the two-year-old currency at the time. “Kin operates on an open, decentralized infrastructure run by a dozen independent companies. Kin is a currency used by millions of people in dozens of independent apps.”

Kin was the subject of an SEC lawsuit earlier this year, following its $100 million ICO raise. “The SEC charges that Kik sold the tokens to U.S. investors without registering their offer and sale as required by the U.S. securities laws,” the commission wrote in June.

What the future ultimately looks like for Kik is still very unclear following the fairly cryptic tweet. We’ve reached out to the company for comment.


Samsung’s Galaxy Fold concierge service is live in the US for those who need it

13 October, by Brian Heater[ —]

Part of Samsung’s reboot of the Galaxy Fold was the announcement of a Premiere Service. Along with a reinforced version of the phone and a lot more warning labels, the company announced that it would also be a 24/7 care service…just in case something happened with the device.

I had some issues with my in just over a day, after not running into any trouble with the original version of the phone. Given how gingerly the company insists users act with the device, my issue doesn’t appear to be particularly widespread — good news for Samsung on that front. Even so, this sort of things feels pretty necessary for a $2,000 (and up) phone that is effectively in mass beta testing.

close fold

Two weeks after making the device available in the States, Premier Service has gone live. Sammobile noted the addition of Fold Concierge via a new software update, bringing with it support via phone or video chat. The list of potentially helpful features ranges from on-boarding with the device to a $149, same-day screen replacement service. That can be accommodated in person at a number of locations.

It’s a pretty unique offer from a big consumer electronics company — though the Fold is nothing if not unique, I suppose. I’ve got a fuller write up of my impressions of the handset here. The TLDR version is the I can’t recommend the purchase of what is very much a first generation device that’s double the price of a standard flagship. If you’re so inclined, however, Samsung’s got a hotline for you.


Week in Review: The ‘smart home’ is still so, so stupid

13 October, by Lucas Matney[ —]

Hey everyone. Thank you for welcoming me into you inbox yet again.

Last week was a short one, but I talked about the merger of a couple of the worst adtech companies in the world.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox here, and follow my tweets here.

I would also like to take the time to say screw you to Apple for shipping such an awful keyboard that made typing this newsletter so damn difficult…. God! Now, onto the news.


The big story

One thing I rarely cover these days is the smart home, this, despite my apartment hosting two HomePods, two Echos, three Google Home devices and a Facebook Portal+.

I’m dying for this stuff to be useful and fun, and, instead, after a few years of playing with the stuff, I just have a handful of commands that I shout out every so often. All of my digital friends can turn on my lights, turn on my TV, play music, tell me the time and weather and a few other things that probably weren’t worth the thousands of dollars it took to bring them and their accompanying IoT gadgets into my home.

In short, I’m an idiot. On Tuesday, Google will again show off its Pixel 4 smartphone but also its latest visions for the Google Home/Nest line.

I’ve witnessed a few improvements since the first Google Home was announced nearly 3 years ago. After several hardware iterations from Google, Amazon and Facebook, these devices have gotten better looks, better sound and better voices — occasionally courtesy of celebrity partnerships. These devices are growing more capable in distinguishing user voices and offering feedback based on their individual data.

At the same time, home virtual assistants still feel awfully alien and firmly stuck in the 1.0 era.

The Google Home still feels like a flip phone with its basic set of stock apps. Third-party integrations are sparse and largely useless. Plenty of things are “possible” through smart home integrations, but every added set of rails turns the device into a Swiss army knife, rather than a “new computing platform.” Google has seemingly had to reorganize some of its devices around IoT with its Nest renaming just to give them a more cohesive mission.

This is partially an AI problem, but it seems like that element is overplayed when considering long-term potential. Saying a device should “just know” what to say is hardly a suggestion and there isn’t enough context in the world for a virtual assistant to annoy me less with unheeded guidance or advice. There’s just such a narrow runway for success in using these devices as predictive engines, something that severely impedes their potential as commerce or ad platforms. Even adding a screen has failed to help this along.

This isn’t a shot at Google any more than it is against Amazon, Facebook and Apple. The only reason I give Google shit here is because I generally like their products the most. The Home boasts by far the most intelligent assistant in my experience; I am still shocked by some of the answers it can pull out of its hat that are leaps and bounds past my HomePod’s Siri capabilities.

But that still isn’t enough.

I want to be bullish on these devices and voice interfaces as a platform, but they are so painfully unimpressive after several years even as natural language processing has made impressive advances. They are great to demo and are fun to play with but I can’t help but wonder whether this is just an endless march towards further marginal utility, not “the future.”

I will be watching to see what Google releases, my colleague Brian has summed up some of his expectations for the Pixel event.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
lucas@techcrunch.com

On to the rest of the week’s news.

HKMaplive

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Apple pulls HKMap from App Store
    Apple has found itself smack dab in the middle of a PR crisis that’s pissing off pretty much everybody. Apple’s app store approval, rejection, approval and seemingly final rejection of HKMap has been quite the saga.
  • Playstation 5 is coming Holiday 2020
    Sony has been teasing little dribbles of its next-generation console, but we at least have some idea of when its coming as well as a few of its distinguishing features.
  • The Catalina wine mixer
    This release seems to be pretty meh overall, but there are some decent additions like Sidecar, which my colleague Brian Heater is still psyched about in his full review of the new OS update.

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(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. Facebook is very chill with advertising political lies:
    [Facebook sure does love free $peech]
  2. Apple has long complied with local governments, but it couldn’t seem to make up its mind on this one:
    [Apple pulls HKMap from App Store the day after Chinese state media criticized its ‘unwise and reckless decision’ to approve it]

What to expect from Google’s hardware event

Sign up for more newsletters in your inbox (including this one) here.


AI-based firefighter safety startup Prometeo wins IBM Call for Code Challenge

13 October, by Brian Heater[ —]

During an event at the United Nations Delegates Dining Room in New York City, IBM unveiled the winners to its annual  Call for Code Global Challenge. The competition, which is targeted at computing solutions for global problems, crowned five winners, ranging from first responders to health care info.

Prometeo took the top price for its Watson-based AI solution targeted at firefighters. The team, which is lead by a 33-year firefighting veteran, has developed a tool designed to monitor health and safety in the industry, both long term and in real-time. The Spanish startup developed a smartphone-sized device that straps onto the wearer’s arm to gauge things like temperature, smoke and humidity.

“If the color signal is green, the health of the firefighter is okay,” cofounder Salomé Valero explains on IBM’s site. “But if the color signal is yellow or red, the command center must do something. They must take immediate action in order to rescue or remove the firefighter from the fire.”

The team is working to roll out the device for testing in Spain, but is currently seeking funding for the project. The $200,000 prize from IBM ought to help out a bit.

The second place price went to India/China/US-based Sparrow, which has developed a platform for addressing physical and psychological health during natural disasters. U.C.L.A. team, Rove scored third place with a similar concept.

Call for Code is a five year program that aims to hand out $30 million for teams addressing widespread societal issues.


Why each Libra member’s mutiny hurts Facebook

13 October, by Josh Constine[ —]

There’s a strategic cost to the defection of Visa, Stripe, eBay, and more from the Facebook -led cryptocurrency Libra Association . They’re not just names dropping off a list. Each potentially made Libra more useful, ubiquitous, or reputable. Now they could become obstacles to the token’s launch or growth.

Fearing regulators’ inquiries not just into their Libra involvement but the rest of their businesses, these companies are pulling out at least for now. None had made precise commitments to integrating Libra into their products, and they’ve said they could still get involved later. But their exit clouds the project’s future and leaves Facebook to absorb more of the blowback.

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Here’s what each of the departing Libra Association members brought to the table and how they could spawn new challenges for the cryptocurrency:

Visa

With one of most widely-accepted payment methods, Visa could have helped make Libra universally spendable. It’s also one of the most prestigious names in finance, lending deep credibility to the project. Visa’s departure leaves Libra looking more like tech companies barging into payments, conjuring fears of their move fast, break things approach that could cause financial ruin if Libra runs into problems. It also could leave Libra with a much weaker presence in brick-and-mortar shops. No one will want to own a cryptocurrency that doesn’t appreciate in value and can’t be easily spent.

MasterCard

The involvement of MasterCard alongside Visa made Libra look like the incumbents adapting to modern technologies. This made it less threatening, and gave cryptocurrency an air of inevitability. MasterCard would have also brought an even wider network of locations where Libra could one day be used for payment. Now MasterCard and Visa might actively work against Libra to prevent their payment methods being made obsolete by Libra and its elimination of transaction fees through the blockchain. Two of Libras biggest allies could become its biggest foes.

PayPal

Facebook has repeatedly told regulators that its Calibra app plus integrations into Messenger and WhatsApp would not be the only Libra wallets, pointing to PayPal . Facebook’s head of Libra David Marcus told Congress when asked about the social network’s outsized power to exploit Libra through its own Calibra wallet that “you have companies like PayPal and others that will, of course, collaborate, but [also] compete with us”. Now Facebook won’t have a scaled payment method it doesn’t own to point to as a likely alternative for people who don’t want to trust Facebook’s Calibra, Messenger, or WhatsApp to be their Libra wallet. The Libra Association also loses PayPal’s enormous network of online merchants that accept it, plus the inroad to integration into its peer-to-peer payback app Venmo. PayPal convinced the mainstream public to trust online payments — the exact kind of trust Facebook desperately needs. The fact that Marcus was also the former president of PayPal but couldn’t keep it in the association raises concerns about the group’s coalition-building prowess.

Stripe

Stripe’s enormous popularity with ecommerce vendors made it a valuable Libra Association member. Together with PayPal, Stripe facilitates a huge portion of online transactions outside of China. Its ease of integration made it a top pick for developers Facebook surely hoped would build atop Libra. Stripe’s exit destroys a critical bridge to the fintech startup ecosystem that could have helped institutionalize Libra. Now the association will have to work on engineering payment widgets from scratch without Stripe’s assistance, which could slow adoption if it ever launches.

There’s a clear reason all these payment processors bailed. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wrote a letter to Visa, MasterCard, and Stripe’s CEOs this week explaining that “If you take this on, you can expect a high level of scrutiny from regulators not only on Libra-related activities, but on all payment activities.”

eBay

As one of the longest standing ecommerce companies, eBay bolstered beliefs that Libra could be used to power transactions between untrusted strangers without a costly middleman. It might have also put Libra into practice on one of the top western online marketplaces outside of Amazon. Without destinations like eBay onboard, average netizens will have fewer opportunities to be exposed to Libra’s potential to eliminate transaction fees.

Mercado Pago

One of the lesser-known Libra Association members, Mercado Pago helps merchants receive payments via email or in installments. The idea of connecting financially underserved populations has been core to Facebook’s pitch for why Libra should exist. The Libra Association has been light on the details of how exactly it serves this demographic, relying on the inclusion of partners like Mercado Pago to help it figure this out later. Mercado Pago’s departure leaves Libra looking more like a financial power grab rather than a tool to assist the disadvantaged.

Who’s Left?

On Monday, the remaining Libra Association members will meet to finalize the initial member list, elect a board, and create a charter to govern the project. This forced the hands of the companies above, who had their last chance to depart this week before being pulled deeper into Libra.

Facebook Currency Hearing

UNITED STATES – JULY 16: David Marcus, head of Facebook’s Calibra digital wallet service, prepares to testify during the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on “Examining Facebook’s Proposed Digital Currency and Data Privacy Considerations” on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Who’s left includes venture capital firms, ride sharing companies, non-profits, and cryptocurrency companies. They are less tied up with the status quo of payment processing, and therefore had less to lose. The blockchain-specific companies were likely hoping to piggyback on financial giants like Visa to get Libra approved and create more legitimacy for their industry as a whole.

These partners could help fund an ecosystem of Libra developers, create daily use cases, spread the system in the developing world, and push for alliances between Libra and cryptocurrency players. Facebook will need to fight to keep them aboard if it wants to avoid Libra looking like a unilateral disruption of the economy.

For Libra to actually launch, Facebook needs to make serious concessions and divert from its initial vision. Otherwise if it continues to butt heads with regulators, more members could flee. One option floated by Libra Association member Andreessen Horowitz’s a16z Crypto partner Chris Dixon was for Libra to be denominated in US dollars instead of a basket of international currencies. That might lessen fears that Libra intends to compete directly with the dollar.

It’s become apparent that Facebook will not get its ideal cryptocurrency out the door. This is the brand tax of 100 scandals coming back to bite it. Now the best it can hope for is to get even a watered-down version launched, prove it can actually help the underbanked, and then hope to convince regulators it’s well-intentioned.


Google’s Pixel 4 briefly went up for preorder on Best Buy Canada

12 October, by Brian Heater[ —]

The Pixel 4 is set to be unveiled at an event on Tuesday. This much we know for sure. We know a bunch more, too, (as outlined in this rumor roundup from yesterday), thanks to both official reveals and unofficial leaks. How much of this was planned is hard to say, but Google seemingly doesn’t mind building up the hype cycle.

Earlier today, Best Buy Canada made what may well be the most egregious reveal today (granted, there are three more days left to leak). The big box store posted up a preorder page for the upcoming smartphone. As expected, the listing was taken down, but not before 9to5Google managed to snap some screen shots.

From the looks of things, the rumors are pretty spot on. The device will come in both standard and XL versions, at 5.7 and 6.3 inches, respectively. Both models sport a Snapdradon 855, 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, along with a new Face Unlock feature. There are dual camera on each, per the listing — 12 and 16 megapixels — in the iPhone 11-esque square configuration.

pixel 4 specs leak

There’s a single front-facing 8 megapixel camera on each, and a 2,800 and 3,700mAh battery on the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. Other highlights including the expected addition of “Quick Gestures,” which use use a wave of the hand to interact with the device — similar to features we’ve seen on other handsets before.

Conspicuously missing from the preorder, however, is the expected “Oh So Orange” color. Could be a preorder thing or maybe Best Buy Canadian customers will have to settle for Just Black and Clearly White. Maybe the company is saving some surprises for Tuesday’s event. Maybe.


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