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TikTok Says US Ban Inevitable Without a Court Order Blocking Law

TikTok and Chinese parent ByteDance on Thursday urged a U.S. court to strike down a law they say will ban the popular short app in the United States on Jan. 19, saying the U.S. government refused to engage in any serious settlement talks after 2022. From a report: Legislation signed in April by President Joe Biden gives ByteDance until Jan. 19 of next year to divest TikTok's U.S. assets or face a ban on the app used by 170 million Americans. ByteDance says a divestiture is "not possible technologically, commercially, or legally." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will hold oral arguments on lawsuits filed by TikTok and ByteDance along with TikTok users on Sept. 16. TikTok's future in the United States may rest on the outcome of the case which could impact how the U.S. government uses its new authority to clamp down on foreign-owned apps. "This law is a radical departure from this country's tradition of championing an open Internet, and sets a dangerous precedent allowing the political branches to target a disfavored speech platform and force it to sell or be shut down," ByteDance and TikTok argue in asking the court to strike down the law.

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Meta's Customer Service is So Bad, Users Are Suing in Small Claims Court To Resolve Issues

Facebook and Instagram users are increasingly turning to small claims courts to regain access to their accounts or seek damages from Meta, amid frustrations with the company's customer support. In several cases across multiple states, Engadget reports, plaintiffs have successfully restored account access or won financial compensation. Meta often responds by contacting litigants before court dates, attempting to resolve issues out of court. The trend, popularized on social media forums, highlights ongoing customer service issues at the tech giant. Some users report significant financial losses due to inaccessible business-related accounts. While small claims court offers a more accessible legal avenue, Meta typically deploys legal resources to respond to these claims.

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London Premiere of Movie With AI-Generated Script Cancelled After Backlash

A cinema in London has cancelled the world premiere of a film with a script generated by AI after a backlash. From a report: The Prince Charles cinema, located in London's West End and which traditionally screens cult and art films, was due to host a showing of a new production called The Last Screenwriter on Sunday. However the cinema announced on social media that the screening would not go ahead. In its statement the Prince Charles said: "The feedback we received over the last 24hrs once we advertised the film has highlighted the strong concern held by many of our audience on the use of AI in place of a writer which speaks to a wider issue within the industry." Directed by Peter Luisi and starring Nicholas Pople, The Last Screenwriter is a Swiss production that describes itself as the story of "a celebrated screenwriter" who "finds his world shaken when he encounters a cutting edge AI scriptwriting system ... he soon realises AI not only matches his skills but even surpasses him in empathy and understanding of human emotions." The screenplay is credited to "ChatGPT 4.0." OpenAI launched its latest model, GPT-4o, in May. Luisi told the Daily Beast that the cinema had cancelled the screening after it received 200 complaints, but that a private screening for cast and crew would still go ahead in London.

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World's Largest Music Company Is Helping Musicians Make Their Own AI Voice Clones

Universal Music Group has partnered with AI startup SoundLabs to offer voice modeling technology to its artists. The MicDrop feature, launching this summer, will allow UMG artists to create and control their own AI voice models. The tool includes voice-to-instrument functionality and language transposition capabilities. RollingStone adds: AI voice clones have become perhaps the most well-known -- and often the most controversial -- use of artificial intelligence in the music business. Viral tracks with AI vocals have spurred legislation to protect artists' virtual likenesses and rights of publicity. Last year, an anonymous songwriter named Ghostwriter went viral with his song "Heart On My Sleeve," which featured AI-generated vocals of UMG artists Drake and The Weeknd. The song was pulled from streaming services days later following mounting pressure from the record company. Ironically, Drake got caught in a voice cloning controversy of his own a year later when he used a Tupac voice clone on his Kendrick Lamar diss track "Taylor Made Freestyle." Tupac's estate hit the rapper with a cease-and-desist in April, and the song was subsequently taken down.

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EU Delays Decision Over Scanning Encrypted Messages For CSAM

European Union officials have delayed talks over proposed legislation that could lead to messaging services having to scan photos and links to detect possible child sexual abuse material (CSAM). From a report: Were the proposal to become law, it may require the likes of WhatsApp, Messenger and Signal to scan all images that users upload -- which would essentially force them to break encryption. For the measure to pass, it would need to have the backing of at least 15 of the member states representing at least 65 percent of the bloc's entire population. However, countries including Germany, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic were expected to abstain from the vote or oppose the plan due to cybersecurity and privacy concerns, Politico reports. If EU members come to an agreement on a joint position, they'll have to hash out a final version of the law with the European Commission and European Parliament.

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Anthropic Launches Claude 3.5 Sonnet, Says New Model Outperforms GPT-4 Omni

Anthropic launched Claude 3.5 Sonnet on Thursday, claiming it outperforms previous models and OpenAI's GPT-4 Omni. The AI startup also introduced Artifacts, a workspace for users to edit AI-generated projects. This release, part of the Claude 3.5 family, follows three months after Claude 3. Claude 3.5 Sonnet is available for free on and the Claude iOS app, while Claude Pro and Team plan subscribers can access it with significantly higher rate limits. Anthropic plans to launch 3.5 versions of Haiku and Opus later this year, exploring features like web search and memory for future releases. Anthropic also introduced Artifacts on, a new feature that expands how users can interact with Claude. When a user asks Claude to generate content like code snippets, text documents, or website designs, these Artifacts appear in a dedicated window alongside their conversation. This creates a dynamic workspace where they can see, edit, and build upon Claude's creations in real-time, seamlessly integrating AI-generated content into their projects and workflows, the startup said.

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YouTube Is Cracking Down on Cheap Premium Plans Bought With a VPN

An anonymous reader shares a report: YouTube Premium subscribers who use VPNs are reporting that their plans are being automatically canceled by the Google-owned company, according to multiple subscribers who have posted screenshots and descriptions of the issue on Reddit. A Google support representative confirmed to PCMag that YouTube has started a crackdown. "YouTube has initiated the cancellation of premium memberships for accounts identified as having falsified signup country information," the Google support agent said via chat message. "Due to violating YouTube's Paid Terms of Service, these users will receive an email and an in-app notification informing them of the cancellation."

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Biden To Ban US Sales of Kaspersky Software Over Ties To Russia

The Biden administration on Thursday will announce plans to bar the sale of Kaspersky Lab's antivirus software in the United States, citing the firm's large U.S. customers including critical infrastructure providers and state and local governments, according to Reuters. From the report: The company's close ties to the Russian government were found to pose a critical risk, the person said, adding that the software's privileged access to a computer's systems could allow it to steal sensitive information from American computers, install malware or withhold critical updates. The sweeping new rule, using broad powers created by the Trump administration, will be coupled with another move to add the company to a trade restriction list, according to two other people familiar with the matter, dealing a blow to the firm's reputation that could hammer its overseas sales. The plan to add the cybersecurity company to the entity list, which effectively bars a company's U.S. suppliers from selling to it, and the timing and details of the software sales curb, have not been previously reported. Previously, Kaspersky has said that it is a privately managed company with no ties to the Russian government. The moves show the administration is trying to stamp out any risks of Russian cyberattacks stemming from Kaspersky software and keep squeezing Moscow as its war effort in Ukraine has regained momentum and as the United States has run low on fresh sanctions it can impose on Russia.

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Perplexity AI Faces Scrutiny Over Web Scraping and Chatbot Accuracy

Perplexity AI, a billion-dollar "AI" search startup, has come under scrutiny for its data collection practices and accuracy of its chatbot responses. Despite claiming to respect website operators' wishes, Perplexity appears to scrape content from sites that have blocked its crawler, using an undisclosed IP address, a Wired investigation found. The chatbot also generates summaries that closely paraphrase original reporting with minimal attribution. Furthermore, its AI often "hallucinates," inventing false information when unable to access articles directly. Perplexity's CEO, Aravind Srinivas, maintains the company is not acting unethically.

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Heat Waves Grip 3 Continents as Climate Change Warms Earth

An anonymous reader shares a report: Punishing heat waves gripped three continents on Tuesday, breaking records in cities around the Northern Hemisphere less than two weeks after the Earth recorded what scientists said were likely its hottest days in modern history. Firefighters in Greece scrambled to put out wildfires, as parched conditions raised the risk of more blazes throughout Europe. Beijing logged another day of 95-degree heat, and people in Hangzhou, another Chinese city, compared the choking conditions to a sauna. From the Middle East to the American Southwest, delivery drivers, airport workers and construction crews labored under blistering skies. Those who could stay indoors did. The temperatures, afflicting so much of the world all at once, were a withering reminder that climate change is a global crisis, driven by human-made forces: the emissions of heat-trapping gases, mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels. John Kerry, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, sought to coordinate some of the global response with the Chinese premier in Beijing, as a heat wave clutched a huge swath of China. "The world really is looking to us for that leadership, particularly on the climate issue," Mr. Kerry told Chinese officials. "Climate, as you know, is a global issue, not a bilateral issue. It's a threat to all of humankind." The planet has warmed about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century and will continue to grow hotter until humans essentially stop burning coal, oil and gas, scientists say. The warmer temperatures contribute to extreme weather events and help make periods of extreme heat more frequent, longer and more intense. Also affecting this year's conditions is the return of El Nino, a cyclical weather pattern that, depending on the sea surface temperature and the pressure of the air above it, can originate in the Pacific and have wide-ranging effects on weather around the world.

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Microplastics Discovered In Human Penises For the First Time

An anonymous reader writes: Scientists have found microplastics in human penises for the first time, as concerns over the tiny particles' proliferation and potential health effects mount. Seven different kinds of microplastics were found in four out of five samples of penis tissue taken from five different men as part of a study published in IJIR: Your Sexual Medicine Journal on Wednesday. Microplastics are polymer fragments that can range from less than 0.2 inch (5 millimeters) down to 1/25,000th of an inch (1 micrometer). Anything smaller is a nanoplastic that must be measured in billionths of a meter. They form when larger plastics break down, either by chemically degrading or physically wearing down into smaller pieces. Some minuscule particles can invade individual cells and tissues in major organs, experts say, and evidence is mounting that they are increasingly present in our bodies. Study lead author Ranjith Ramasamy, an expert in reproductive urology who conducted the research while working at the University of Miami, told CNN that he used a previous study that found evidence of microplastics in the human heart as a basis for his research. Ramasamy said he wasn't surprised to find microplastics in the penis, as it is a "very vascular organ," like the heart.

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Pornhub To Block Five More States Over Age Verification Laws

Pornhub plans to block access to its website in Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, and Nebraska in response to age verification laws designed to prevent children from accessing adult websites. From a report: The website has now cut off access in more than half a dozen states in protest of similar age verification laws that have quickly spread across conservative-leaning US states. Indiana, Idaho, and Kansas will lose access on June 27th, according to alerts on Pornhub's website that were seen by local news sources and Reddit users; Kentucky will lose access on July 10th, according to Kentucky Public Radio.

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FedEx's Secretive Police Force Is Helping Cops Build An AI Car Surveillance Network

Twenty years ago, FedEx established its own police force. Now it's working with local police to build out an AI car surveillance network. From a report: Forbes has learned the shipping and business services company is using AI tools made by Flock Safety, a $4 billion car surveillance startup, to monitor its distribution and cargo facilities across the United States. As part of the deal, FedEx is providing its Flock video surveillance feeds to law enforcement, an arrangement that Flock has with at least five multi-billion dollar private companies. But publicly available documents reveal that some local police departments are also sharing their Flock feeds with FedEx -- a rare instance of a private company availing itself of a police surveillance apparatus. To civil rights activists, such close collaboration has the potential to dramatically expand Flock's car surveillance network, which already spans 4,000 cities across over 40 states and some 40,000 cameras that track vehicles by license plate, make, model, color and other identifying characteristics, like dents or bumper stickers. Lisa Femia, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said because private entities aren't subject to the same transparency laws as police, this sort of arrangement could "[leave] the public in the dark, while at the same time expanding a sort of mass surveillance network."

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Plan for New Accounting Rules on Software Costs Moves Forward

U.S. companies may need to report cash amounts tied to their software expenditures, more of which would be moved off corporate balance sheets under a forthcoming proposal to update decades-old accounting rules. From a report: The Financial Accounting Standards Board voted Tuesday, 7-0, to propose requiring companies to report cash amounts tied to their software costs and help them determine when to expense or capitalize costs. The proposal is a scaled-back version of rule-making around these expenses. The standard setter wants to require U.S. public and private companies to provide a line item in their cash-flow statement to account for cash spending on software. Rules around software costs have gone largely unchanged since the 1980s and 1990s. The proposal would cover use of software ranging from enterprise resource planning systems to hosting services and mobile banking applications, meaning it applies to almost every company. It would exclude development of software licensed to customers. Under the plan, companies would no longer have to evaluate the stage of their software project to determine whether to expense the costs on the income statement or to capitalize, or delay fully recognizing them, on the balance sheet. Companies are now required to expense their software costs as incurred on the income statement during the initial planning and post-implementation stages. When building the programs or applications, companies have to capitalize eligible costs. These current requirements involve significant judgment for companies, creating higher compliance costs. Instead, companies would only have to determine when to begin capitalizing software costs based on executives' signoff for a project and the likelihood that the project will be completed and the software will carry out its intended use.

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EU Chat Control Law Proposes Scanning Your Messages - Even Encrypted Ones

The European Union is getting closer to passing new rules that would mandate the bulk scanning of digital messages -- including encrypted ones. On Thursday, EU governments will adopt a position on the proposed legislation, which is aimed at detecting child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The vote will determine whether the proposal has enough support to move forward in the EU's law-making process. From a report: The law, first introduced in 2022, would implement an "upload moderation" system that scans all your digital messages, including shared images, videos, and links. Each service required to install this "vetted" monitoring technology must also ask permission to scan your messages. If you don't agree, you won't be able to share images or URLs. As if this doesn't seem wild enough, the proposed legislation appears to endorse and reject end-to-end encryption at the same time. At first, it highlights how end-to-end encryption "is a necessary means of protecting fundamental rights" but then goes on to say that encrypted messaging services could "inadvertently become secure zones where child sexual abuse material can be shared or disseminated."

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