Posts with «singapore international news» label

Spotify's new AI 'DJ' expands to 50 countries

The beta version of Spotify’s AI-enhanced DJ feature is coming to 50 new countries, after soft-launching in the US and Canada back in February. In recent months, it’s rolled out in the UK and Ireland, but now the robotic Wolfman Jack is headed to more countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, in addition to Australia and New Zealand.

There’s a caveat, but it depends on some initial understanding of what this tool actually does. The Spotify DJ is available to premium subscription members and provides algorithmic recommendations of what to listen to, just like any music streaming app. However, these recommendations are accompanied by AI-generated DJ commentary on what you’re listening to. So what’s the rub? The DJ, based on Spotify’s Xavier Jernigan, only speaks English, no matter where you live. This is not a big deal for Australia and New Zealand, but an annoying constraint for listeners in Ghana, Singapore and most other parts of the world. A Spotify spokesperson told Engadget that the company has “no more news to share on new languages at this time.”

Despite the language limitation, it’s still a nifty toolset. It combines OpenAI’s proprietary large language model (LLM) technology, which powers ChatGPT, with Sonantic’s AI voice generation platform. Spotify bought Sonantic last year, largely due to its focus on generating realistic speech. In addition to the AI-enhanced speech, the platform also gives for written information as to why a particular song was chosen.

This tool is available today for Spotify Premium users across the world, but this is a beta, so expect changes and improvements in the short-term and long-term future. Spotify says that it is “continuing to iterate and innovate the experience.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google will pull news links in Canada in response to new law

Meta isn't the only internet heavyweight removing news content in response to Canada's newly enacted Bill C-18 (aka the Online News Act), which requires that tech companies negotiate compensation with publishers for linked material. Google now says it will pull links to Canadian news stories from its search, News and Discover services in the country. It will also stop operating its News Showcase in Canada when C-18 takes effect in six months.

Google's government affairs VP Cris Turner claims C-18 remains "unworkable legislation," and that Canada's soon-to-be law is unduly harsh. The European Union allows free use of links and short extracts, for example, while the Czech Republic's stricter interpretation of the EU still allowed headlines and links. In Australia, where the law requires that some online services pay for news, Google has negotiated deals that keep its news features available and avoid falling under the law's requirements.

The company maintains that it believes a "vibrant journalism industry" is crucial, and has floated policy ideas it believes will help. These include consultation with experts, investing in newsroom progress and support for conventional news outlets as they transition to digital. The approach dictated by C-18 purportedly leads to "uncertainty" for product strategy and "uncapped" financial penalties.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Russia blocks access to Google News after Wagner Group forces threaten to topple military

Russian internet service providers have cut off access to Google News after President Vladamir Putin accused Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner paramilitary group, of “organizing an armed rebellion.” According to internet monitor NetBlocks (via The New York Times), at least five Russian telecoms, including Rostelecom, U-LAN and Telplusl, are blocking web users inside the country from accessing the news aggregator. Google did not immediately respond to Engadget’s comment request.

⚠️ Confirmed: Metrics show that the Google News aggregator platform has become unavailable for many users in #Russia; the incident comes amid heightened tensions between the Wagner paramilitary group and Moscow

— NetBlocks (@netblocks) June 23, 2023

On late Friday, Wagner Group mercenaries crossed the border from Ukraine into Rostov-on-Don, located 20 miles from the Sea of Azov, and appeared to take the city, which is home to Russia’s southern military headquarters, without much resistance from the regular army. As of Saturday, BBC News is reporting Wagner forces are moving north toward Moscow. Prigozhin has vowed to topple Russia’s Defense Ministry in response to a missile attack he claims the regular army carried out against Wagner personnel stationed in Ukraine. In addition to being the founder of the Wagner Group, Prigozhin is the funder and creator of the Internet Research Agency, the troll farm behind Russia’s 2016 US election interference campaign.

Putin, framing Prigozhin’s rebellion as a “deadly threat” to Russian statehood, has promised harsh consequences for any who join the paramilitary group. “Everyone who deliberately embarked on the path of betrayal, who prepared an armed rebellion, chose the path of blackmail and terrorist methods — they will suffer inevitable punishment,” he said Saturday, according to The Washington Post.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, many Western tech firms either pulled out of the country or saw their services blocked by telecom regulator Roskomnadzor. Facebook and Twitter are among the platforms that have either been partly or fully blocked within the country since March of last year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Portugal considers banning Huawei from national 5G networks

Portugal could become the latest country to effectively ban Huawei and other Chinese firms from participating in its 5G buildouts. As reported by Bloomberg, the government of Portugal this week recommended barring local carriers from sourcing 5G equipment from suppliers based outside of the European Union or from countries that aren’t part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED).

In a statement Portugal’s Higher Council for Cybersecurity shared on Thursday, the government said firms outside those jurisdictions pose a “high risk” to the security of the country’s wireless networks. The document didn’t call out Huawei specifically, but as China isn’t a member of NATO, the OCED or the EU, the company, alongside other Chinese suppliers like ZTE, would effectively be excluded from participating in Portugal’s 5G networks should the country’s cabinet approve the security council’s recommendation.

“Huawei has no prior knowledge of, and hasn’t been consulted about, this matter,” a Huawei spokesperson told the Financial Times. “Over the past two decades, Huawei has worked with Portuguese carriers to build out wireless networks and provide quality services that connect millions of people. We will continue to comply with all applicable laws and regulations, and serve Portuguese customers and partners who rely on our products and services.”

Banning Chinese companies from participating in its 5G networks would be an abrupt turnaround for Portugal, which has enjoyed close relations with the East Asian superpower for years. As the Financial Times notes, Portugal has been one of the biggest per capita recipients of Chinese investment in recent years. Altice Portugal, the country’s largest wireless carrier, signed a deal in 2018 to use Huawei equipment for part of its 5G rollout. If Portugal moves forward with a ban, it would join Canada and a handful of other European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, that have recently barred the company from participating in their 5G networks.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Beijing bans Chinese companies from using Micron chips in critical infrastructure

China’s cybersecurity regulator has banned Chinese firms from buying chips from US memory manufacturer Micron Technology. Per Reuters, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said Sunday it found that the company’s products pose “significant security risks” to critical Chinese information infrastructure, including state-owned banks and telecom operators. The ban comes after China announced a review of Micron imports in late March in a move that was seen at the time as retaliation for sanctions Washington has imposed on Chinese chipmakers in recent years.

Idaho-based Micron is the largest memory manufacturer in the US. The Chinese market accounts for about 10 percent of the firm’s annual revenue, though the majority of companies importing Micron products into China are manufacturers making devices for sale in other parts of the world. According to The Wall Street Journal, the CAC’s ban does not apply to non-Chinese firms in China. “We are evaluating the conclusion and assessing our next steps,” Micron told the outlet. “We look forward to continuing to engage in discussions with Chinese authorities.” The CAC did not say what Micron products would be affected by the ban, nor did it share details on what security concerns it had with the company's chips.

The ban is the latest development in an escalating feud over semiconductor technology between the US and China. In recent months, the Biden administration has moved to restrict its rival's access to advanced chipmaking equipment. In January, US, Dutch and Japanese officials agreed to tighten export controls on lithography machines from ASL, Nikon and Tokyo Electron. As The Journal notes, China has been trying to find ways to hit back at the US. Micron was an easy target given that most Chinese companies can turn to suppliers like South Korea’s SK Hynix to make up for any shortfall left by a ban.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Japan joins US-led effort to restrict China's access to chipmaking equipment

Japan is officially moving forward with restrictions aimed at limiting China’s access to advanced chipmaking machinery. As CNN reports, the country announced Friday it would tighten export controls on 23 types of semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Once the new rules take effect in July, companies like Nikon and Tokyo Electron will need to obtain approval from Japan’s trade ministry if they want to sell their tools in some 160 territories across the world. A Japanese government spokesperson told CNN the restrictions aren’t designed to target a specific nation. However, Japan’s east asian rival is among the nations on the restricted list.

“We will fulfill our responsibilities in the international community as a technology-owning country and contribute to maintaining international peace and security,” Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s minister of economy, trade and industry, told reporters.

The restrictions follow the US and Netherlands enacting similar export controls. At the start of the year, the three countries reportedly reached an agreement to limit China’s access to western-made lithography machines. In March, the Netherlands made good on the deal, announcing it would restrict overseas sales of semiconductor technology in the interest of its national security. Those restrictions will affect ASML. As of last year, the Dutch firm was the only company in the world producing the extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) machines chipmakers need to make the 5nm and 3nm semiconductors that power the latest phones and computers.

China has homegrown firms capable of making up some of the shortfall the country’s tech industry will experience from the lack of access to western-made lithography equipment. However, it may take some time before those companies match the capacity of their American, Japanese and European rivals. According to research from Reuters, Shanghai Micro Electronics Equipment (SMEE), China’s only producer of lithography equipment, makes machines capable of printing 90nm node semiconductors. More promising is the work of SMIC, the country’s leading semiconductor manufacturer. Last summer, it began volume production of 14nm chips and began making 7nm chips without access to foreign-made equipment.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Canada is reportedly banning TikTok from government-issued devices

Canada is reportedly the latest jurisdiction to ban TikTok from government-issued devices. The US federal government, multiple states and the European Union have previously prohibited their workers from using the app on official devices.

According to a note sent to Global Affairs Canada employees that was obtained by the National Post, TikTok "will be automatically removed and blocked from use on all government-issued mobile devices." The report suggests that the government will announce the policy, which is expected to be effective March 1st, on Tuesday. Engadget has contacted TikTok and the Canadian government for comment.

"A review of the mobile application’s behavior in relation to the Policy on Service and Digital found that TikTok’s data collection methods may leave users vulnerable to cyber attacks," the note purportedly reads. It may be the case that, similar to their counterparts in the US and EU, officials are concerned about the Chinese government gaining access to the data TikTok holds on Canadian citizens and residents. TikTok parent ByteDance is located in China, which has laws that force companies to share data with authorities when requested.

ByteDance has refuted suggestions that the Chinese government can access such data. It has claimed that Canadian user data is stored in the US and Singapore. However, it said that former employees in China and the US accessed data on American journalists, seemingly in an attempt to detect the sources of leaks from the company.

Canada’s Communications Security Establishment warned earlier this month that “adversary states can influence their domestic vendors to compromise products to advance their national interest, counter to Canadian clients’ interests and the interests of Canada,” but the report didn't explicitly mention TikTok or China. The Canadian government, meanwhile, is facing scrutiny over possible Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, as the National Post notes.

North Korean hackers targeted nearly 1,000 South Korean foreign policy experts

South Korean authorities believe North Korean hackers, working for the government, have targeted at least 892 foreign policy experts in the country. The efforts focused on members of think tanks and academics, dating back to April. The attacks began with spear phishing emails, often claiming to be from figures in South Koreas political system. These usually included either links to fake sites or viruses as attachments. The ploy, while not particularly sophisticated, was enough to fool at least a handful of victims.

The result was that several prominent experts had their personal data stolen, email lists compromised (exposing more people to the hackers), and 13 companies (primarily online retailers) were victims of ransomware. Although police believe only 49 recipients actually handed credentials over to the fakes sites and only two companies paid the 2.5 million won ($1,980) ransom, it's difficult to judge the full scale of the fallout.

It's unclear what non-financial resources the North Korean hackers may have gained from this latest campaign. But it's certain this will not be the last cyber attack on its souther neighbor. The county has previously targeted security researchers to discover unpatched vulnerabilities, and even used the tragedy on Halloween in Itaewon as a tool to target South Korean citizens. 

Cyber warfare has been a major focus of North Korea for years, even as it seeks to deter foreign militaries with more traditional methods, like building nuclear weapons. It has also been a major source of revenue for the country which is in perpetual financial crisis and largely cut off from the world's markets. It's estimated that North Korean hackers have stolen $1.72 billion worth of cryptocurrency since 2017. And it doesn't appear that it's letting the recent crypto crash scare it off, as the recent ransoms were also paid in BitCoin.

Though the hackers covered their tracks reasonably well, the targets, tactics and IP addresses have led police to believe this is the same group that hacked the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power in 2014. They also believe that the hackers will not cease their activity just because their efforts have been discovered. Authorities have urged people, especially those who work in sensitive areas like technology and government, to step up their security measures and be extra vigilant against fishing and human engineering attacks.

Apple reportedly tells suppliers to avoid 'Made in Taiwan' labels on shipments to China

Apple has reportedly warned Taiwanese suppliers to ensure shipments to China comply with a longstanding labeling regulation following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taipei. According to Nikkei (via The Guardian), the company recently told manufacturers on the island that parts bound for the mainland must list “Chinese Taipei” or “Taiwan, China” as their source. 

That’s in line with a policy China has had in place for years but only began enforcing after tensions with the US flared up following Pelosi’s visit last week. Under the policy, officials can delay and even reject shipments that say “Made in Taiwan.” The self-governing island has its own set of labeling rules. Shipments must list “Taiwan” or “Republic of China” as the point of origin.

Apple did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment. The tech giant and many other American companies have a complicated relationship with China. If the report is accurate, it wouldn’t be the first time Apple has sought to appease the Chinese Communist Party. In 2019, the company removed the Taiwan flag emoji from iOS in Hong Kong amid the pro-democracy protests that occurred in the city that year. 

In this instance, Apple may have felt it had no choice but to comply with China’s policy on Taiwanese shipments. In April, Tim Cook said semiconductor shortages significantly impacted the company’s iPad business. Ahead of its iPhone 14 launch later this year, additional delays due to a customs dispute would likely be disastrous for Apple.

Taiwan's presidential website hit by cyberattack ahead of Nancy Pelosi's visit

As more than 300,000 people anxiously watched the flight path of SPAR19, the US Air Force plane carrying Nancy Pelosi on her tour of Asia, Taiwan’s presidential website went down to an apparent cyberattack, reports Reuters. In a Facebook post spotted by Gizmodo, Taiwanese presidential spokesperson Chang Tun-Han said a distributed denial-of-service attack took down the website early Tuesday evening.

According to Tun-Han, the attack originated outside of Taiwan and saw the website bombarded with more than 200 times the amount of traffic it normally sees. They claim the website was back to normal operation “within 20 minutes.” However, when Engadget went to visit, there was only a single line to be seen stating, “OK.”

Our delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy.

Our discussions with Taiwan leadership reaffirm our support for our partner & promote our shared interests, including advancing a free & open Indo-Pacific region.

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 2, 2022

Pelosi’s plane landed in Taiwan late Tuesday evening Taipei Standard Time, reports The Associated Press. According to local news outlets, she is expected to stay the night. As Speaker of the House, Pelosi is the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years. Ahead of Tuesday’s visit, China warned there would be “resolute and strong measures” if Pelosi went ahead with the trip.

“There is but one China in the world, Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory, and the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday. “The one-China principle is a universal consensus of the international community and a basic norm in international relations.”

The US maintains a so-called policy of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to Taiwan. In 1972, former President Richard Nixon visited mainland China. During Nixon’s visit, the US agreed “that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China.” China views visits by foreign government officials to Taiwan as recognition of its sovereignty – though members of Congress have routinely traveled to the self-governing island over the years.

“America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy,” Pelosi said on Twitter. “Our visit is one of several Congressional delegations to Taiwan – and it in no way contradicts longstanding United States policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, US-China Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances.”