Posts with «information technology» label

Fox News host Dan Bongino earned himself a Google Ads ban too

Days after he was permanently banned from YouTube, Dan Bongino has also lost his ability to earn revenue from Google ads. On Friday, the Bongino Report Twitter account sent out a tweet suggesting Google had revoked the pundit’s AdSense account. Later that same day, Tech Policy Press confirmed the suspension with Google. The company told the outlet Bongino’s website had violated its AdSense publisher policies.

“We have strict publisher policies in place that explicitly prohibit misleading and harmful content around the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrably false claims about our elections,” a Google spokesperson told Engadget. “When publishers persistently breach our policies we stop serving Google ads on their sites. Publishers can always appeal a decision once they have addressed any violating content.”

Bogino’s YouTube ban came down from Google after the Fox News host attempted to evade a prior suspension related to the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policy. He posted a video to one of his accounts questioning the effectiveness of masks against the coronavirus. At that point, YouTube temporarily suspended Bogino. It then permanently banned him after he attempted to post that same video to another channel, thereby violating the platform’s terms of service.

On an episode of his podcast titled “I’m Daring YouTube to Do This,” Bogino said before the initial suspension he would continue to post videos about his claims on masks until the company took action. And while it appears he actively courted Google to ban him in both instances, the loss of AdSense revenue has the potential to hurt Bongino more than losing access to YouTube. On Twitter, Claire Atkin, the co-founder of Check My Ads, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting disinformation in the digital advertising industry, said the Gateway Pundit, a website that spread COVID-19 and election misinformation, lost $1.1 million in annual revenue after Google revoked its AdSense account.

Apple brought in a record-breaking $123.9 billion in revenue, despite supply constraints

It's been a great quarter for Apple. The company just dropped its earnings report for the first quarter of 2022 (which for Apple ended December 25, 2021), and it's broken revenue records all across the board. Not only is its overall revenue at an all-time high of $123.9 billion, it's also made more money selling iPhones, Macs and wearables than ever before. This time last year, the company reported a revenue of $111 billion, which itself was a new record then. Just last quarter, too, it made all kinds of money selling Macs, even without the release of new Macbooks at that time.

Apple's revenue from iPhones of $71.6 billion this year, despite global supply constraints, is a notable jump from $65.6 billion last year. Driven by its transition to its own M1 silicon, Mac revenues also rose by more than $2 billion from the year before, hitting a record $10.9 billion. Chief financial officer Luca Maestri said on the company's earnings call that the last six quarters were "the best six quarters ever for Mac," and that M1-powered devices made up the vast majority of sales, thanks to a "record number of upgraders."

Sales of iPads made Apple $7.2 billion this year, while "Wearables, Home and Accessories" brought in $14.7 billion. That includes things like the Apple Watch, AirPods and HomePods. Both categories of products also broke revenue records. Apple's services also contributed to its overall revenue, with products like TV+ and Fitness+ raking in a total of $19.5 billion — an increase of 24 percent from last year. Maestri noted that paid subscriptions continue to grow, with recent developments in Fitness+, Arcade and Apple Music contributing to the growth.

Investors will be happy to know that Apple's board of directors have declared "a cash dividend of 22 cents per share of common stock, payable on February 10th 2022."

iOS 15.4 beta supports Face ID while wearing a mask

Just a few days after rolling out iOS 15.3, Apple has released the latest iOS developer beta. Among the new features is one that'll come in very handy for unlocking your iPhone while you're out and about in the current climate. The company is testing a way for folks to use Face ID while they're wearing a mask — without needing an Apple Watch.

"Face ID is most accurate when it’s set up for full-face recognition only," Apple explains when users set up the feature. "To use Face ID while wearing a mask, iPhone can recognize the unique features around the eye to authenticate.”

The update comes almost a year after Apple started allowing users to unlock their iPhone via Face ID while masking up. Until now, people have used an unlocked Apple Watch as a key.

Apple's looking to get rid of that requirement in the latest beta, which will surely come as music to the ears of people who are fed up with punching in their iPhone passcode at the grocery store or the gym. Avoiding using your passcode in public is a boon for privacy too.

You'll need to switch on the option manually. Under the Face ID & Passcode section of the settings, select the "Use Face ID with a mask option" to get started. The feature will still work for those who are wearing glasses, but you'll need to remove your sunglasses.

Other features in the beta include the option to add notes to iCloud Keychain passwords and the ability to copy text from objects using the camera while in the Notes and Reminders apps. Also new is support for adaptive triggers on the PS5 DualSense controller, EU Digital COVID Certificate-compatible vaccination records in Wallet, an Apple Card widget and, perhaps most importantly for many, dozens more emoji.

As for the iPadOS 15.4, there's brightness control for the keyboard and (as part of the macOS Monterey 12.3 beta) something many Mac and iPad users have been waiting for: Universal Control. That feature allows people to control multiple Macs and iPads with a single mouse and keyboard. In December, Apple delayed the feature until the spring. It's not yet clear when Apple plans to release the final versions of the latest software more broadly.

The Organelle S is a more affordable take on Critter & Guitari's distinctive music computer

Since 2016, Critter and Guitari's Organelle line has been one of the most unique ways to create music. What looks like a simple keyboard is actually a computer powered by a Raspberry Pi module and Pure Data, a visual programming language primarily intended for creating and manipulating audio. It’s a setup that gives the Organelle – and its 2019 successor, the Organelle M – the ability to function as synth, drum machine, effects unit and more. However, all of that versatility comes at a cost; buying the Organelle M new from Critter and Guitari will set you back $595 before tax.

Enter the Organelle S. At $495, it’s $100 less expensive than the Organelle M. It doesn’t include the built-in speaker or battery compartment found on its sibling. Outside of those two features, however, the Organelle S includes the same processor as the Organelle M. Despite its smaller size, it also comes with distinctive maple-wood keys of its predecessors. In a way, it’s a more powerful version of the original Organelle that comes with a faster processor, more RAM, MIDI connectivity and a microphone for recording.

You can buy the Organelle S starting today from Critter and Guitari’s website.

Apple will reportedly allow iPhones to accept contactless payments

Small businesses might soon be able to accept payments using their iPhones without the need for extra hardware. According to Bloomberg, Apple could start rolling out the feature through a software update in the next few months, perhaps with the final version of iOS 15.4 that's coming out this spring. Apple has reportedly been working on the service since 2020, when it purchased a Canadian startup called Mobeewave known for developing a technology that turns a phone into a payment portal.

Mobeewave's technology only needs an app and the phone's NFC to work, unlike services like Square that require the use of an external hardware. The user simply has to type in the amount they want to charge, and their customer only needs to tap their credit card onto the back of the device. Apple declined Bloomberg's invitation to comment, so it's unclear if that's how its built-in iPhone feature will work, as well. 

In addition, Bloomberg's sources couldn't say whether the feature will be rolled out as part of Apple Pay. The team developing the feature, however, has reportedly been working with the tech giant's payments division since Apple purchased Mobeewave. Whether Apple is launching the service with an existing payment network is also unknown at this point. 

Before its acquisition, Mobeewave teamed up with Samsung to turn its phones into contactless payment terminals. They piloted the feature in Canada and even gave the company's point-of-sale service, dubbed Samsung POS, a wide release in the country. 

Apple rolls out iOS 15.3 and macOS 12.2 to fix a major Safari exploit

It's a big day for security updates in Apple-land. The company has rolled out software fixes for just about all of its platforms, including iOS 15.3 and macOS 12.2, 9to5Mac reports. Notably, they fix the Safari vulnerability that could potentially leak your browser history, as well as your Google account information. WatchOS 8.4 and tvOS 15.2, meanwhile, add some performance improvements. And even though the company isn't paying as much attention to its smart speakers these days, it launched HomePod 15.3, which adds Siri support for up to six users speaking English in India, or Italian in Italy. (That's a feature Apple started offering in the US back in 2019.)

While we normally wouldn't stress minor software updates much, iOS and macOS users should deal with that Safari vulnerability as soon as they can. Sure, there aren't any major threats taking advantage of that now, but who knows what malware could pop up in the next month or two. 

Android apps come to Windows 11 in 'preview' next month

You won't have to run an unpolished beta to try Android apps on Windows 11. Microsoft's Panos Panay has teased the release of a Windows 11 public preview in February that will bring Android apps to the Microsoft Store. The company didn't say how many apps would be available in this test, but they'll be titles you would find in the Amazon Appstore.

The preview should still be helpful if you're content to stick to Windows apps. You can expect taskbar upgrades that include call mute controls, simpler window sharing and weather. Microsoft has redesigned the Media Player and Notepad apps, too.

You may want to hurry if you're still uncertain about upgrading to the new OS, though. Microsoft has warned the free Windows 11 upgrade rollout is "entering its final phase" sooner than the originally planned mid-2022 target. While that hints uptake has been strong, it also suggests you might have to pay for the upgrade if you don't decide relatively soon.

Android app support was one of the headlining features for Windows 11 at its reveal event, but is only reaching mainstream users several months after the new Windows version's launch. Nonetheless, it might be an important addition for both Microsoft and users. This will help if you'd like to use common Android apps on your PC, of course, but it could also spark interest in both touchscreen Windows 11 PCs and the Microsoft Store.

Twitter reports record number of takedown requests from governments

Twitter has received the highest number of content removal demands from governments around the world from January to June 2021, the website has revealed in its latest transparency report. To be precise, it received 43,387 legal demands that involve 196,878 accounts. Twitter says those numbers represent the largest increase in content removal requests and accounts reported within a six-month reporting period from the time it started publishing transparency reports in 2012.

One factor that contributed to the spike in accounts reported is the legal demands submitted by Indonesia's Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The agency flagged 102,363 accounts for posting sexual services and illegal adult content, and Twitter took action on 18,570 of them. Twitter also saw an increase in accounts withheld from the public due to content that allegedly violated Russia's laws against inciting suicide. 

Last year, Russian News Agency Tass reported that the country's internet authorities threatened to block Twitter if it doesn't remove "suicide incitement aimed at minors, child pornography, as well as information about the use of drugs" on its website. The authorities also slowed down Twitter's loading speeds for desktop and mobile.

A total of 95 percent of the total global volume of legal demands came from five countries in particular, with Japan remaining as the top requester. Japan is responsible for 43 percent of the legal demands Twitter received, with most of them being about narcotics and drug-related posts, obscenity and financial-related crimes. The other four countries are Russia, Turkey, India and South Korea, in that order.

Based on Twitter's report, there's an upward trend in the number of legal demands Twitter gets, with a huge spike happening in the first half of 2020. It remains to be seen whether those numbers will keep on rising, but Twitter's VP of global public policy Sinead McSweeney expressed her concerns in a statement: "We're facing unprecedented challenges as governments around the world increasingly attempt to intervene and remove content. This threat to privacy and freedom of expression is a deeply worrying trend that requires our full attention."

'Call of Duty: Warzone' studio will try to unionize without Activision Blizzard's blessing

Activision Blizzard had until 6PM ET on January 25th to voluntarily recognize Game Workers Alliance, a group of Raven Software employees that recently gathered the votes to unionize, backed by Communications Workers of America. That deadline passed without recognition from Activision Blizzard, and Raven employees will now move forward with plans to file for a union election through the National Labor Relations Board.

"At Activision Blizzard, we deeply respect the rights of all employees to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said. "We carefully reviewed and considered the CWA initial request last week and tried to find a mutually acceptable solution with the CWA that would have led to an expedited election process. Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement."

In a series of tweets, GWA confirmed its plans to file with the NLRB. 

"This was an opportunity for Activision Blizzard to show a real commitment setting new and improved standards for workers," one tweet read. "Instead, Activision Blizzard has chosen to make a rushed restructuring announcement to try and hinder our right to organize."

Events have been unfolding quickly here, so let's break it down by day:

  • January 21st: More than 30 quality assurance testers at Raven Software announced they'd gathered enough signatures to unionize, a move that would make Game Workers Alliance the first union at a large-scale North American video game studio. Raven is owned by Activision Blizzard and focuses on supporting Call of Duty: Warzone, so this is about as AAA as it gets. Union signatories asked Activision Blizzard leadership to voluntarily recognize GWA by January 25th.

  • January 22nd: Raven workers ended a weekslong strike against Activision Blizzard, awaiting union recognition from executives. The strike began on December 6th, in response to layoffs of 12 QA testers at Raven — all of whom had signed their names to the unionization effort, according to The Washington Post.

  • January 24th: Raven head Brian Raffel sent an email to employees announcing "organizational change" that would dissolve QA as a team and transfer those workers to various departments across the studio. This is known as "embedding" and it's not uncommon at AAA studios. Raffel said embedding was the next logical step in a process that began "several months ago."

"As we look ahead at the ongoing expansion of Call of Duty: Warzone, it’s more important than ever that we foster tighter integration and coordination across the studio – embedding will allow for this," Raffel wrote. 

The timing of the announcement and the focus on QA testers has concerned activist groups, union signatories at Raven and Activision Blizzard employees who have been fighting for cultural change at the studio since last year. Activision Blizzard is the subject of a lawsuit and multiple investigations into allegations of systemic gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and employees have walked out multiple times, calling for longstanding CEO Bobby Kotick to resign.

It's unclear how the restructuring at Raven will impact the union going forward, but the worry is that this move will impede members' ability to coordinate with each other. CWA said on Twitter that the announcement was "nothing more than a tactic to thwart Raven QA workers who are exercising their right to organize."

The CWA thread continued, "When Management uses meaningless buzzwords like ‘alignment,' ‘synergy,’ and ‘reorganization,’ they are sending a message to workers: ‘we make all the decisions, we have all the power.’"

An Activision Publishing spokesperson provided the following response to questions about the timing of the reorganization: 

“This is the next step in a process that has been carefully considered and in the works for some time, and this structure brings Raven into alignment with the best practices of other prominent Activision studios. It is also a milestone in our broader plan to integrate QA more into the development process as our teams strive to deliver best in class coordination in real-time, live service operations.”

All of which brings us to today. Activision Blizzard employees have a supermajority of votes in favor of unionizing, and they're bringing their case to the NLRB. This can be a protracted process, and the longer it takes, the more leverage Activision Blizzard leadership will have.

Cornell professor of labor and employment law Risa Lieberwitz told The Washington Post that the structural changes shouldn't interrupt the unionization process, but added that the timing "raises the question of whether [Activision Blizzard] are retaliating against the QA employees because of their union activities."

The full statement from an Activision Blizzard spokesperson about the failed unionization talks with CWA follows:

At Activision Blizzard, we deeply respect the rights of all employees to make their own decisions about whether or not to join a union. We carefully reviewed and considered the CWA initial request last week and tried to find a mutually acceptable solution with the CWA that would have led to an expedited election process. Unfortunately, the parties could not reach an agreement.

We expect that the union will be moving forward with the filing of a petition to the NLRB for an election. If filed, the company will respond formally to that petition promptly. The most important thing to the company is that each eligible employee has the opportunity to have their voice heard and their individual vote counted, and we think all employees at Raven should have a say in this decision.

Across the company, we believe that a direct relationship between managers and team members allows us to quickly respond and deliver the strongest results and opportunities for employees. As a result of these direct relationships, we’ve made a number of changes over the past couple years including raising minimum compensation for Raven QA employees by 41%, extending paid time off, expanding access to medical benefits for employees and their significant others, and transitioning more than 60% of temporary Raven QA staff into full-time employees. We look forward to continuing a direct dialogue with our team and working together to make our workplace better.

Microsoft last week announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, a deal that's poised to change the video game landscape completely. One day after that news dropped, Activision said in an SEC filing that there were no unionization efforts underway at the studio, though it had previously warned Raven employees to "consider the consequences” of signing union cards.

Microsoft's profits jump by 21 percent thanks to Office and the cloud

Microsoft's overall business is still going strong, even though it's not seeing the shockingly huge profit growth it saw last year. In its Q2 earnings report today, company reported revenue of $51.7 billion (up 20 percent from last year) with profits of $18.8 billion (up 21 percent). As usual, Microsoft has its unstoppable cloud business to thank, as well as a decent showing from its PC group, Office and other business products. Its Intelligent Cloud business grew by 26 percent, reaching $18.3 billion, while its Productivity and Business group saw revenues increase by 19 percent to reach $15.9 billion.

There weren't any true major weak links this quarter — even Surface revenue, which Microsoft previously expected to dip a bit, grew by 8 percent thanks to strong Surface Laptop sales. Windows OEM revenues also increased by 25 percent, not a huge surprise since the overall PC industry is still going strong. Where the PC business goes, Microsoft's revenues will follow, after all. When it comes to Office, the company says its consumer revenue increased by 15 percent, and that it has reached 56.4 million Microsoft 365 subscribers.

While Microsoft's earnings reports have basically looked the same over the last few years — Cloud good! Revenues grow! — the company's numbers will look a bit different once it finalizes its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard in 2023. At the very least, we'll get to see how much the new Microsoft Gaming division actually helps (or hurts) Microsoft's overall business.