Google and UC Berkeley to create movie from eclipse images

Google and UC Berkeley are creating a movie from images of the solar eclipse. The images will also be used to study the Sun’s outermost atmosphere. The “megamovie” will premiere after the eclipse hits the US on Monday. Calvin Johnson spoke to the BBC’s Dave Lee.

Video produced by Cody Godwin.

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Lele Tao: The 'online goddess' who earns $450k a year

Meet 24-year-old Lele Tao, who chats and sings to her 1 million fans, mostly young men.

China’s internet showgirls: watch more episodes

Part 2. How much of a cut should her manager get?

Part 3. Internet showgirls: A tale of unrequited love

A film for BBC Trending by

You can follow BBC Trending on Twitter @BBCtrending, and find us on Facebook. All our stories are at

Producer: Megha Mohan

Executive producer: Mukul Devichand

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Silk Road: Google search unmasked Dread Pirate Roberts

You could buy any drug imaginable, wherever you were in the world, on the Silk Road website.

Hidden on the dark web, it made millions of dollars every week. The US government had been trying to shut it down for more than two years when tax agent Gary Alford was brought in to try to trace the money which passed through the site.

In his spare time, Gary started searching Google to try to find the mysterious mastermind behind the site: Dread Pirate Roberts.

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When a man took an upskirt photograph of Gina Martin at a music festival last month, she went straight to the police. But she was amazed to discover that there is no specific law against “upskirting” in most of the UK – only in Scotland. After the police closed her case, Gina began a petition to get it reopened, and now she is lobbying for a change in the law.

Martin’s article about her experience struck a chord with many of you. We asked readers to tell us if they had been the victim of upskirting, and whether the perpetrator was punished. Here are some of your stories – names have been changed.

“I was at the bus stop”

It happened four years ago, when I was 17. It was a warm spring day and I was wearing a floral dress. I was waiting for the bus to go to college at 09:00 in the morning on a busy main road.

A man walked up to the bus stop and came and sat down next to me, and then started moving closer towards me. I was aware something wasn’t quite right, but every time I turned around he pretended to be looking out towards the road where the bus was coming from.

You don’t always have the confidence to say something, so I stood up and walked away.

But when I turned around to look at him he was holding up his mobile phone. It was a video of my bum – he had been trying to video up my dress. He was showing me, as if he was proud of it, and he was touching himself at the same time.

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My initial reaction was: “That needs to be deleted, I need to get hold of that phone.” I got angry.

I said: “Give me that now, you need to delete that.” And he ran off. I chased him but he was too fast. Then it dawned on me what had just happened – the seriousness of it, and the intrusion of my personal space. I was very upset.

A man who had been driving past in a van stopped and came over. Traffic was slow and he said he’d got a good look at the man running off. The police came and took a statement and I went home – I didn’t make it into college that day.

The police asked for the outfit that I was wearing on that day, and I went in to make a formal statement at the station. A female officer interviewed me, but I felt like it wasn’t serious enough, and that I shouldn’t be there.

When I was asked to identify the man from pictures I really struggled – none of them looked like the image I had in my head. I thought: “What if I don’t recognise him and then he does it again?”

I was told afterwards that the witness had picked a different person to me. I don’t know if he was arrested.

I still live here but I’ve never gone back to that bus stop. I found different routes to college. I’m still incredibly cautious of people when I’m on my own. People tell you not to walk home alone at night – but this happened in broad daylight, so should we just never go anywhere on our own? That’s ridiculous. But that’s how it made me feel.

I can’t believe that upskirting doesn’t fall into some sort of category like sexual harassment or sexual assault. It’s a violation of personal space – they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it just because we don’t have a law against it.

Debbie, 21

“My pupils upskirted me”

I teach in a secondary school. A few years ago I was called to a meeting together with some of my female colleagues and we were told that some pupils were being kept out of class because they had been caught using phone cameras to look up teachers’ skirts.

They’d been working as a team – one pupil would call the teacher over to ask a question, and while she was leaning over the table or otherwise engaged in answering that question somebody else would kick the phone across the floor while it was filming – then they were taking stills from the film and uploading them on the internet.

It was horrific and quite upsetting – as you can imagine we had a thousand questions, like: “Can you see anything in these pictures?” But we were not allowed to see them. I don’t think you could, because most of us wear tights, but the point is that these 13-year-old kids thought that that was an acceptable thing to do.

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The boys were kept out of school for a couple of weeks, and when they came back we were expected to carry on teaching them.

I wasn’t remotely happy with the way the school handled it. I felt like I’d been a victim of a crime, and my main problem was that I didn’t feel it had been recognised in that way, and I wasn’t dealt with in the way that a victim would be. It wasn’t taken as seriously as if someone had stolen my handbag.

For me it’s the little things – I haven’t been able to dress the same. I feel I have to put trousers on rather than a skirt. I’m paranoid about pupils with their phones or when they are asking questions – the trust is gone.

I think it affects your day-to-day job and you need to talk to pupils about that so that you’re comfortable going back into the classroom.

Olivia, 31

“I found upskirt pictures on my partner’s phone”

We were watching a film on his laptop – his phone was plugged in and when the film finished I saw hundreds of inappropriate pictures of different women.

I said: “What’s that?” And he immediately jumped over to the laptop and spun it around so I couldn’t see.

He said: “Oh it’s just some old pictures. I’ll delete them.”

I wasn’t sure how to react, especially as this was my first ever relationship. I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

But a year later, I found a lot more pictures on his phone. I could tell that they were from our local town centre and from his gym, and that he’d obviously taken them himself. I was absolutely horrified.

Eventually I got the confidence to leave him. It has caused me to have years of therapy, and I find it hard to trust my current partner.

Alice, 21

“My daughter was the victim of an upskirter “

It was about three years ago and my two daughters went to the shopping centre – they were aged 18 and 15 and it was a particularly hot day.

A man happened to notice that someone was following them and he suddenly saw the other chap go up to them and, without them noticing, take photographs up their skirt and shorts. He was very upset to see this and he called for security.

They apprehended this man and looked on his phone and realised he had taken several photographs up different women’s skirts.

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The police arrived and were very concerned because they thought that my 15-year-old daughter had had a photograph taken of her. As it turned there wasn’t a picture of her, but there was of my 18-year-old.

The difficulty was that the police couldn’t really find much that they could charge him with because she was an adult and it was in a public place. First of all they wanted to charge him with voyeurism but apparently that can only happen if you’re in your own home and someone’s taking a picture through your window. So in the end I think they charged him with something like public nuisance.

He pleaded guilty and got a fine, and my daughter got compensation. So that was it really. The police took it so seriously, but they just didn’t have anything that they could charge him with.

It’s happened to me as well. I had a photograph taken up my skirt on the Piccadilly line. I probably didn’t sit down in a particularly lady-like way. I was reading the newspaper and the woman next to me nudged me and said: “The man opposite’s just taken a photograph up your skirt.”

I was quite annoyed, so I took a photograph of him and as soon as I got to the station I gave it to the British Transport Police. They again were brilliant, they really took time and trouble to try and trace that man, but unfortunately they couldn’t.

The police do take this seriously but the laws haven’t yet caught up with technology.

Amanda, 55

As told to Vibeke Venema

Join the conversation – find us on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

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Australia blocks another 59 popular pirate sites

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340 domains relating to pirate sites will soon be blocked in Australia

Australia’s federal court has ordered internet service providers (ISPs) to block dozens of popular pirate sites.

The crackdown prevents users from accessing 59 illegal torrent and streaming sites including Demonoid, EZTV, YTS, RARBG, 1337x and Putlocker.

A total of 160 domains have been blocked in two orders, including alternative routes to the Pirate Bay.

The blockades were requested by film studio Village Roadshow and Australian broadcaster Foxtel.

Many pirate websites are already banned in Australia, with the two new court cases bringing the total number of domains blocked in the country to 340.

The country has wrestled with curbing citizens’ illegal downloading habits for some time.

In 2014, Attorney General George Brandis told reporters that Australia was the “worst nation for piracy on the planet“.

Individuals caught offering pirated material can face fines of up to A$117,000 (£72,000) – up to five times more for corporations – and may also receive a prison sentence, according to the Australian government website.

In 2016, the Hollywood studio behind the US film Dallas Buyers Club announced that it would not pursue a piracy case it launched against Australians accused of illegally downloading the film.

The studio said at the time that it had identified 4,726 unique IP addresses from which the film had been shared online using BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file-sharing network.

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Chinese 'cyber-court' launched for online cases

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The digital court has heard its first case – online

China has launched a digital “cyber-court” to help deal with a rise in the number of internet-related claims, according to state media.

The Hangzhou Internet Court opened on Friday and heard its first case – a copyright infringement dispute between an online writer and a web company.

Legal agents in Hangzhou and Beijing accessed the court via their computers and the trial lasted 20 minutes.

The court’s focus will be civil cases, including online shopping disputes.

Judges were sworn in and the first case was presented on a large screen in the courtroom.

‘Saves time’

Defendants and plaintiffs appear before the judge not in person, but via video-chat.

“The internet court breaks geographic boundaries and greatly saves time in traditional hearings,” said Wang Jiangqiao, the court’s vice-president, via state media.

In 2016, China began streaming some trials in more traditional courtrooms online in an apparent effort to boost the transparency of the legal system.

Some questioned the move, however.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to broadcast trials online because many people involved in these cases probably don’t want the public to share their personal information,” human rights lawyer Liang Xiaojun told the BBC at the time.

In some other countries, online portals to allow people to resolve legal disputes in cyber-space already exist.

Canada’s Civil Resolution Tribunal starting accepting claims for $5,000 (£3,000) or less in British Columbia in June.

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Reddit launches its own video hosting platform

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Users in some pre-approved Reddit communities can now upload videos directly to the website

News and community website Reddit has launched a new video player that allows users to directly upload videos.

The player has so far been tested in more than 200 of the site’s community groups, known as subreddits.

With 48 million annual visitors, Reddit is the eighth most visited website in the world, according to statistics from Amazon-owned Alexa.

Posters have been able to share images and gifs, as well as text and links, since 2016.

“Prior to this launch, content creators had to go through a time-consuming, circuitous process to post videos, using third-party hosting platforms, copying URLs, and sharing them as link posts,” said the firm in a blog.

“This inhibited many users, especially those who capture videos on their phones and want to share them quickly with their favourite subreddits.”

The new system “streamlined” the process, it added.

In an interview with tech news website The Verge, Reddit product manager Emon Motamedi said it also kept people on the platform, rather than clicking links to videos posted on other sites and then coming back to comment.

Ad revenue

The potential for ad revenue if Reddit starts incorporating ads around user content is significant, Lauren Foye, senior analyst at Juniper Research, told the BBC.

“By hosting their own content, they can start adding ads on top of it and monetising the content,” she added.

However, the site has yet to confirm specifically that this is what it will do.

“Video is classed as a more premium content type,” added Charlotte Palfrey, senior analyst with Ovum.

“They can charge more for advertising alongside it because it’s more engaging. I would anticipate that we’ll see a launch of pre-roll and mid-roll adverts in the future to fully exploit this new content.”

Early Reddit video posts include a golfer seeking tips on his swing, a man asking for advice on his next haircut, and cute videos of pets.

Policing issues

However, enabling video uploads may mean the platform will have to deal with the same policing problems faced by other social networks including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“It is going to be a headache for moderators, but moderators can opt out of having video on their boards,” said Charlotte Palfrey.

“Moderators will have to be careful to avoid copyright infringement and content not suitable for a family audience.”

The feature will only be available in certain communities and will not be rolled out across the entire site, the firm said.

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Chinese media 'racist' video on India clash sparks anger

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The video features a Chinese actor in costume mimicking an Indian accent

Chinese state media have released a propaganda video that lambasts India over a border dispute, sparking accusations of racism.

The English-language clip, accusing India of committing “sins”, features a Chinese actor in a Sikh turban, speaking in a mock Indian accent.

Xinhua published the clip on Wednesday from a chat show discussing a border stand-off between the two countries.

It has been met with both bewilderment and anger in India, and amongst Sikhs.

What happens in the clip?

Titled “7 Sins of India”, the video stars female presenter, Dier Wang, who lists out China’s grievances against India in the ongoing border dispute in the Doklam area, which borders China, India and Bhutan.

It is the latest episode of an online series called The Spark, an English-language online chat show recently launched by Xinhua.

Speaking in an amused yet indignant tone, she accuses India of “trampling international law” and “inventing various excuses to whitewash its illegal moves”.

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Ms Wang uses casual language in the clip

Her monologue is interspersed with dialogue from an “Indian”, depicted by a Chinese actor wearing a turban, sunglasses, and an obviously ill-fitting beard.

In what appear to be attempts at humour, he waggles his head and speaks English in an exaggerated Indian accent, amid canned laughter.

In another scene he points a pair of scissors at another actor who is supposed to represent Bhutan – a clear reference to the Chinese view that India is “bullying” the tiny Himalayan nation.

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The actor representing Bhutan was not in costume

The video appears to be solely targeted at a foreign audience. It is delivered entirely in English and appears on Xinhua’s YouTube, Twitter and Facebook feeds – services which are banned in China.

Chinese reports say the online chat show aims to “comment on hot domestic and international topics from China’s perspective and with an international vision”.

Previous episodes have also focused on the stand-off and Sino-Indian relations, as well as relations with the US and President Donald Trump, but were more sober than this one.

What has been the reaction?

Indian news outlets have rounded on the video, slamming it as racist.

The Hindustan Times said Xinhua released “a racist video parodying Indians” which “particularly targets the Sikh minority”.

News portal The Quint said it was “yet another attempt by Chinese media to push its aggressive rhetoric on the stand-off”, while India Today accused Chinese media of going a “step further” in mocking India.

The UK-based Sikh Press Association said it was “sad to see just how low Chinese media have stooped in using Sikh identity as a pawn in their state propaganda against India,” pointing out that Sikhs make up less than 2% of India’s population.

The video also prompted criticism from social media users.

But it has also generated some debate on the Doklam stand-off, with many on Facebook arguing about which country has sovereignty over the disputed territory.

How did all this begin?

The conflict began in mid-June when India opposed China’s attempt to extend a border road through a plateau known as Doklam in India and Donglang in China.

The plateau, which lies at a junction between China, the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim and the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, is currently disputed between Beijing and Bhutan. India supports Bhutan’s claim over it.

India and China fought a war over the border in 1962, and disputes remain unresolved in several areas, causing tensions to rise from time to time.

Each side has reinforced its troops and called on the other to back down.

On Wednesday, Indian officials said another border confrontation had flared up, this time in the Western Himalayas.

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‘Robotarium’ gives anyone access to robots, and other news

BBC Click’s Nick Kwek looks at some of the best of the week’s technology news stories including:

  • Amazon announces the closure of its LoveFilm By Post DVD rental service
  • Bill Gates donates shares worth $4.6bn (£3.6bn) to charity – equivalent to 5% of his total fortune
  • Georgia Tech unveils its “Robotarium” which allows researchers around the world to conduct experiments remotely

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

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Google's stance on neo-Nazis 'dangerous', says EFF

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Events in Charlottesville have spurred a national conversation in the US about far-right groups, free speech and censorship

Decisions by Google, GoDaddy and Cloudflare to eject a neo-Nazi site from their services were “dangerous”, a US-based digital rights group has said.

The Daily Stormer had denigrated 23-year-old Heather Heyer who died while protesting against a far-right rally in Charlottesville.

This led to a backlash in which multiple web firms kicked the site off their platforms.

But the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has now criticised this response.

None of the three companies has yet responded to a BBC request for comment on the EFF’s statement.

“We strongly believe that what GoDaddy, Google, and Cloudflare did here was dangerous,” the EFF said.

“Because internet intermediaries, especially those with few competitors, control so much online speech, the consequences of their decisions have far-reaching impacts on speech around the world.”

It added that it believed “no-one” – including the government and private companies – should decide who is able to speak or not.

In the dark

The Daily Stormer is currently inaccessible on the open web, after various domain providers and hosting firms – including one in Russia – banned it from their services.

However, it has relocated to the dark web.

Dark web network Tor has said it has no plans to stop the Daily Stormer from using its technology.

“Tor is designed to defend human rights and privacy by preventing anyone from censoring things, even us,” the Tor Project explained in a blog post.

But the list of businesses that have shut out the Daily Stormer and other neo-Nazi or white nationalist sites has now grown very large.

Payment giants Mastercard, Visa , Paypal and American Express all said this week that they would take a tough stance on sites that engaged in illegal activities.

Paypal, for example, mentioned sites that incite hate, racial intolerance or violence.

And music streaming service Spotify said it would remove music that favours hatred or incites violence against race, religion and sexuality.

“We are glad to have been alerted to this content – and have already removed many of the bands identified, while urgently reviewing the remainder,” the firm said.

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Cyber pirates

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Breaking into a shipping firm’s computer systems could allow attackers to access all kinds of sensitive information

When staff at CyberKeel investigated email activity at a medium-sized shipping firm, they made a shocking discovery.

“Someone had hacked into the systems of the company and planted a small virus,” explains co-founder Lars Jensen. “They would then monitor all emails to and from people in the finance department.”

Whenever one of the firm’s fuel suppliers would send an email asking for payment, the virus simply changed the text of the message before it was read, adding a different bank account number.

“Several million dollars,” says Mr Jensen, were transferred to the hackers before the company cottoned on.

After the NotPetya cyber-attack in June, major firms including shipping giant Maersk were badly affected.

In fact, the company revealed this week that the incident could cost it as much as $300 million (£155 million) in profits.

But Mr Jensen has long believed that that the shipping industry needs to protect itself better against hackers – the fraud case dealt with by CyberKeel was just another example.

The firm was launched more than three years ago after Mr Jensen teamed up with business partner Morten Schenk, a former lieutenant in the Danish military who Jensen describes as “one of those guys who could hack almost anything”.

They wanted to offer penetration testing – investigative tests of security – to shipping companies. The initial response they got, however, was far from rosy.

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Shipping giant Maersk was a target of the Petya cyber attack

“I got pretty consistent feedback from people I spoke to and that was, ‘Don’t waste your time, we’re pretty safe, there’s no need’,” he recalls.

Today, that sentiment is becoming rarer.

The consequences of suffering from the NotPetya cyber-attack for Maersk included the shutting down of some port terminals managed by its subsidiary APM.

The industry is now painfully aware that physical shipping operations are vulnerable to digital disruption.

Breaking into a shipping firm’s computer systems can allow attackers to access sensitive information. One of the most serious cases that has been made public concerns a global shipping conglomerate that was hacked by pirates.

They wanted to find out which vessels were transporting the particular cargo they planned to seize.

A report on the case by the cyber-security team at telecoms company Verizon describes the precision of the operation.

“They’d board a vessel, locate by barcode specific sought-after crates containing valuables, steal the contents of that crate – and that crate only – and then depart the vessel without further incident,” it states.

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The control systems on ships are often connected to the internet

But ships themselves, increasingly computerised, are vulnerable too. And for many, that’s the greatest worry.

Malware, including NotPetya and many other strains, is often designed to spread from computer to computer on a network. That means that connected devices on board ships are also potentially vulnerable.

“We know a cargo container, for example, where the switchboard shut down after ransomware found its way on the vessel,” says Patrick Rossi at consultancy DNV GL.

He explains that the switchboard manages power supply to the propeller and other machinery on board. The ship in question, moored at a port in Asia, was rendered inoperable for some time, adds Mr Rossi.

Seizing the controls

Crucial navigation systems such as the Electronic Chart Display (Ecdis) have also been hit. One such incident is recalled by Brendan Saunders, maritime technical lead at cyber-security firm NCC Group.

This also concerned a ship at an Asian port, but this time it was a large tanker weighing 80,000 tonnes.

One of the crew had brought a USB stick on board with some paperwork that needed to be printed. That was how the malware got into the ship’s computers in the first instance. But it was when a second crew member went to update the ship’s charts before sailing, also via USB, that the navigation systems were infected.

Departure was consequently delayed and an investigation launched.

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Malware can hit a ship’s navigation systems

“Ecdis systems pretty much never have anti-virus,” says Mr Saunders, pointing out the vulnerability. “I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a merchant ship Ecdis unit that had anti-virus on it.”

These incidents are hugely disruptive to maritime businesses, but truly catastrophic scenarios might involve a hacker attempting to sabotage or even destroy a ship itself, through targeted manipulation of its systems.

Could that happen? Could, for example, a determined and well-resourced attacker alter a vessel’s systems to provoke a collision?

“It’s perfectly feasible,” says Mr Saunders. “We’ve demonstrated proof-of-concept that that could happen.”

And the experts are finding new ways into ships’ systems remotely. One independent cyber-security researcher, who goes by the pseudonym of x0rz, recently used an app called Ship Tracker to find open satellite communication systems, VSat, on board vessels.

In x0rz’s case, the VSat on an actual ship in South American waters had default credentials – the username “admin” and password “1234” – and so was easy to access.

It would be possible, x0rz believes, to change the software on the VSat to manipulate it.

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Commercial ships carry 90% of the world’s trade

A targeted attack could even alter the co-ordinates broadcast by the system, potentially allowing someone to spoof the position of the ship – although shipping industry experts have pointed out in the past that a spoofed location would likely be quickly spotted by maritime observers.

The manufacturer behind the VSat unit in question has blamed the customer in this case for not updating the default security credentials. The unit has since been secured.

Safe at sea

It’s obvious that the shipping industry, like many others, has a lot of work to do on such issues. But awareness is growing.

The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) have both recently launched guidelines designed to help ship owners protect themselves from hackers.

Patrick Rossi points out that crew with a poor understanding of the risks they take with USB sticks or personal devices should be made aware of how malware can spread between computers.

This is all the more important because the personnel on board vessels can change frequently, as members go on leave or are reassigned.

But there are more than 51,000 commercial ships in the world. Together, they carry the vast majority – 90% – of the world’s trade. Maersk has already experienced significant disruption thanks to a piece of particularly virulent malware.

The question many will be asking in the wake of this and other cases now being made public is: What might happen next?

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Spotify removes white supremacy music after events in Charlottesville

Spotify has removed several white supremacist bands from its service, following recent events at Charlottesville in America.

Earlier this week, a music news website published a list of 37 “white power” bands which were being streamed online.

Less than 48 hours later, Spotify announced they had removed some of the bands from its service in America.

The Swedish company says it is also considering taking down the other named artists on the list.

Some of the artists named by Digital Music News are still available for streaming in the UK.

A spokesperson for Spotify in the UK tells Newsbeat “any takedowns they [Spotify] issue are effective for all markets, not just a specific country.”

“Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention,” says Spotify in an official statement.

“We are glad to have been alerted to this content – and have already removed many of the bands identified today, while urgently reviewing the remainder.”

Spotify also gave a second statement to Billboard magazine, which outlined its stance on offensive music.

“Illegal content or material that favours hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us,” it said.

Artists removed from Spotify had very low numbers of subscribers and play counts on the service.

Earlier this week, Reddit removed its “Physical Removal” sub-Reddit (a section of the website) because of its alt-right content.

In 2014, iTunes removed music with white supremacy messages from its download service after the Southern Poverty Law Centre (a service which monitors hate groups in America) raised the issue.

Find us on Instagram at BBCNewsbeat and follow us on Snapchat, search for bbc_newsbeat

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Very few girls took computing A-level

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The problem begins at primary school, according to the BCS

A worrying statistic for the tech industry was revealed amid freshly-released A-level data – only 9.8% of those completing a computing course were girls.

It comes amid a storm in Silicon Valley over the number of women employed in the tech industry.

Experts agree that the world faces a digital skills shortage and that a more even gender balance is crucial.

One industry body worried that too few boys were also choosing the subject.

“Today’s announcement that nearly 7,600 students in England took A-level computing means it’s not going to be party time in the IT world for a long time to come,” said Bill Mitchell, director of education at the IT Chartered Institute, BCS.

He said that it fell well short of the 40,000 level that “we should be seeing”.

But he added that the fact so few girls were taking the subject was particularly worrying.

“At less than 10%, the numbers of girls taking computing A-level are seriously low.”

“We know that this a problem starting at primary school and it’s something that we need to address at all levels throughout education.

“As a society, we need to make sure that our young women are leaving education with the digital skills they need to secure a worthwhile job, an apprenticeship or go on to further study.”

The figures, from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), are not all bad news. They reveal that there has been a 34% rise in the number of female students sitting the computer science exam, up to 816 from 609 in 2016.

Uphill battle

Google engineer James Damore caused controversy this month when he penned a memo suggesting that there were fewer women at Google because of biological differences. The search giant sacked him over the remarks, saying they were “offensive”.

A recent survey of 1,000 university students conducted by audit firm KPMG suggested that only 37% of young women were confident they had the tech skills needed by today’s employers.

A total of 73% said that they had not considered a graduate job in technology.

Aidan Brennan, KPMG’s head of digital transformation, said: “The issue here isn’t around competency – far from it – but rather how businesses understand the underlying capability of an individual and how to unlock it.

“I think this research highlights the work that needs to be done to show the next generation that when it comes to a career in tech, gender isn’t part of the equation.

“Competition for jobs is tough and we know that female job seekers can be less likely to apply for a role than their male counterparts if they don’t feel they already possess every prerequisite the job demands.”

Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, who founded the charity Stemettes to persuade more girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths has her own view about the low number of girls taking A-level computing.

“Girls often don’t want to be the only one in the class so they tend not to pick the subject when it is an option,” she said.

“Also, it’s often not even an option in a lot of schools so it’s an uphill battle but fortunately, a lot of computer science courses take A-level maths students, so there is a very viable route for girls into the course itself and related courses.”

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Chatbot helps students choose courses

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Leeds Beckett University

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Students can chat to the AI about the options available to them

Leeds Beckett University has launched a chatbot to help prospective students find the right course.

It follows the publication of A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Using Facebook Messenger’s chatbot technology, students would be able to “assess their suitability” for different courses, the university said.

But if they would prefer to speak to a human, “phone lines will continue to be open throughout the clearing process”.

The university’s head of digital experience and engagement, Dougal Scaife, said: “We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that is ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them.”

Jill Watson

Leeds Beckett is not the first university to employ chatbot technologies.

Georgia Tech University used a chatbot to answer questions from students enrolled in an artificial intelligence course last year.

It is dubbed Jill Watson because it is based on IBM’s Watson technology.

The chatbot was one of nine teaching assistants answering thousands of questions on the course’s online forum.

And Prof Ashok Goel, who hired Jill Watson, did not reveal that she was not human until after the students had completed their final exams.

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China cracks down on censorship loopholes

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Much web content is denied to Chinese users

China’s latest crackdown on those attempting to skirt state censorship controls has seen it warn e-commerce platforms over the sale of illegal virtual private networks (VPNs).

Five websites, including shopping giant Alibaba, have been asked to remove vendors that sell VPNs.

It is the latest in a series of measures from the Chinese government to maintain strict control over content.

Apple has previously been asked to remove VPN apps.

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) uses servers abroad to provide a secure link to the internet. It allows users in China to access parts of the outside world like Facebook, Gmail or YouTube, all of which are blocked in the country.

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Media captionEXPLAINED: What is a VPN service?

China’s cyber-regulator the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has ordered the websites to carry out immediate “self-examination and correction”.

“The CAC has ordered these five sites to immediately carry out a comprehensive clean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal account.. and submit a rectification report by a deadline,” the regulator said in a statement.

Authorities in China have already taken down popular celebrity gossip social media accounts and extended restrictions on what news can be produced and distributed by online platforms.

As well as clamping down on dozens of local VPNs, the authorities have ordered Apple and other app stores to remove foreign VPN apps that allow users to access websites censored by the Chinese government.

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Daily Stormer: Cloudflare drops neo-Nazi site

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Media caption The Daily Stormer has been a source of significant controversy in recent days

A neo-Nazi site that disparaged a woman who died during protests in Charlottesville has faced another wave of rejection by web companies.

The Daily Stormer’s account with Cloudflare – which protects websites from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks – has been terminated.

Cloudflare’s chief executive Matthew Prince said he had “had enough”, in a company email obtained by Gizmodo.

However, he added that he felt conflicted over the decision.

“Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet,” wrote Mr Prince.

“No-one should have that power.”

On Sunday, the Daily Stormer published an article denigrating Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed after a car rammed into protesters against a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This led to a backlash in which the site had to switch domain name registrars twice in 24 hours, after GoDaddy and Google both removed it from their services.

Cloudflare’s service involves handling web users’ requests to view a site and filtering out those that appear to be coming from systems set up to overload the site.

Without such protection, websites can sometimes be knocked offline.

Mr Prince said leaving the site open to DDoS attacks could lead to “vigilante justice”, in a blog post published later on Wednesday.

However, he also said: “Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion.

“The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.”

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Media captionEXPLAINED: What is a DDoS attack?

Earlier in the week, the Daily Stormer was set up as a site on the dark web and later relocated its open web presence to a Russian domain name ending “.ru”.

A spokesman for the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor said it had asked web firm Ru-Center to shut this down.

A BBC check on Thursday morning found that the .ru address no longer appeared to be working.

The Daily Stormer has faced frustration elsewhere in recent days.

Three Twitter accounts associated with the site that had previously been active were suddenly listed as “suspended” on Wednesday.

And cyber-security researcher Joseph Evers announced that he had stopped hosting an internet chat channel he said was used by staff at the Daily Stormer.

Describing himself as having once been a “free speech absolutist”, Mr Evers added: “I’m glad to do my small part in countering white supremacy.”

Donations blocked

Besides the Daily Stormer’s case, this week Paypal reiterated its stance on blocking donations to organisations that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance.

“This includes organizations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups,” the payment-processing firm said.

Internet companies were facing a “dilemma” over how to balance support for freedom of speech with a desire not to encourage hate groups, said Prof Eric Heinze, at Queen Mary, University of London.

“Had the Charlottesville events not occurred, the hate sites would still be operating from Cloudflare, GoDaddy, and other such venues,” he told the BBC.

“Some might call it satisfactory to wait until actual harm occurs before closing such a site. But others will say that’s too little and too late.”

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HBO social accounts hacked in latest cyber security breach

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The hack is the latest to hit HBO and its titles, which include the popular fantasy drama Game of Thrones

HBO’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been compromised in the latest cyber security breach to hit the firm.

A group called OurMine appeared to take control of the main HBO accounts, as well as those for the network’s shows including Game of Thrones.

One posts said “OurMine are here. we are just testing your security”.

It is the latest cyber security headache for the entertainment firm after hackers released Game of Thrones scripts and company data.

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Twitter: HBO

Some of the social media posts were removed quickly afterwards.

HBO did not immediately respond to the BBC’s request for comment.

OurMine has a reputation for hacking high profile Twitter accounts.

Last year it compromised Netflix, as well as Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai.

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Facebook: HBO

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Nokia 8 smartphone takes 'bothie' videos

The latest Nokia smartphone aims to popularise the idea of filming “bothies”.

The device can capture video from both its front and rear-facing cameras at the same time, and broadcast the images side-by-side to YouTube and other livestreaming services.

The aluminium-shelled Nokia 8 costs about 600 euros ($703; £547).

The BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones asked whether it is distinctive enough to stand out from other high-end rivals.

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Amazon launches Instant Pickup service targeting students

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Amazon is offering certain “essential” items for pickup from self-service lockers within two minutes

Amazon has launched a service in the US offering daily “essentials” for collection within two minutes of ordering.

The items available in Instant Pickup include snacks, cold drinks, smartphone chargers and Amazon devices.

The move poses a threat to bricks-and-mortar convenience stores, but one expert questioned its appeal.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has criticised Amazon on Twitter for harming other retailers.

Instant Pickup

The new service will enable Prime and Prime Student members to use the Amazon app to order items they need urgently from a curated collection of popular products.

Amazon employees at the pickup points then process the order, and it will be available to collect from a self-service locker within two minutes.

For now, the service will be available at only one location in each of:

  • Los Angeles
  • Berkeley
  • Atlanta
  • Ohio
  • College Park, Maryland

The online retail giant already operates 22 manned pickup locations on or near university campuses in the country.

Moving offline

Over the past two years, Amazon has been making an increasing play for offline bricks-and-mortar shops – from the physical book shop Amazon Books, launched in Seattle in 2015, to its acquisition of the grocery chain Whole Foods in June.

“They’re making a play for convenience stores, but ultimately, you have to think of the logistics involved,” Ronan Hegarty, news editor of the Grocer magazine, told the BBC.

“How many people would live within two minutes of the pickup point, and would they really want to do this? To me, it sounds fantastic.

“You might actually pass a shop selling [what you need] on the way to the pickup point.

“I don’t think it’s going to stop a chain like 7-Eleven in its tracks just yet.”

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On Wednesday, the president tweeted: “Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the US are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

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Game of Thrones struck by fresh leak

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HBO’s Spanish and Nordic offshoots streamed the episode early

Game of Thrones’s next episode has been pirated and shared online in the latest leak to hit the fantasy TV series.

However, this time, the source of the leak was not hackers or thieves, but rather the show being mistakenly released on to its broadcaster’s streaming platform too early.

The episode, titled Death is the Enemy, has since been withdrawn, but not before it was copied.

Twin Peaks suffered a similar error recently.

A spokesman for HBO Europe blamed an unnamed contractor for the most recent blunder.

“We have learned that the upcoming episode of Game of Thrones was accidentally posted for a brief time on the HBO Nordic and HBO Espana platforms,” Tom Krogsgaard Nielsen told the BBC.

“The error appears to have originated with a third-party vendor, and the episode was removed as soon as it was recognised.

“This is not connected to the recent cyber-incident at HBO in the US.”

Reports indicate that high-definition footage from the episode was initially posted to YouTube, the Daily Motion, Instagram and other social media sites.

Although it has since been removed, different copies of the complete 66-minute show are still being shared on several file-sharing platforms, according to the news site Torrentfreak.

Stolen shows

HBO has suffered a series of security setbacks over recent weeks.

Unidentified hackers have released Game of Thrones scripts, company documents and unbroadcast video episodes of some of HBO’s other shows, including Curb Your Enthusiasm and Insecure.

They claim to have stolen 1.5TB of data in total.

In a separate incident, pirated copies of the 6 August episode of Game of Thrones were spotted online several days earlier in the week, featuring an Indian broadcaster’s logo.

Four people have since been arrested, three of whom work for a Mumbai-based company that stored and processed the show for an online streaming service.

Not what it seemed

HBO is not the only broadcaster to have been caught out by its own technology.

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Director David Lynch has declined to provide previews of Twin Peaks episodes (pictured) to the press, to help avoid details leaking

Sky Deutschland accidentally uploaded episode 14 of Twin Peaks: The Return to its streaming platform on 7 August, instead of episode 13.

It blamed “wrong labelling of the broadcasting file” for the error, which is somewhat ironic as one of the themes of the series is mistaken identities.

Although some viewers shared spoilers and screengrabs to Reddit, reports at the time suggested the episode had not been pirated as a consequence.

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Scottish Parliament targeted in 'brute force' cyber attack

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MSPs have discussed cyber security on several occasions recently

The Scottish Parliament has been targeted by a “brute force” cyber attack, officials have said.

Chief executive Sir Paul Grice said the attack, from “external sources”, was similar to that which affected Westminster in June.

He confirmed the attack in a message to MSPs and staff with parliamentary email addresses, urging them to be vigilant.

Mr Grice said “robust cyber security measures” identified the attack early, and systems “remain fully operational”.

Scottish NHS boards were also affected by a cyber-attack in May, leading to several discussions of cyber security at Holyrood.

Parliamentary corporate body member David Stewart told MSPs in June that an independent review of “cyber security maturity” had been carried out, and had “offered assurance that sufficient and effective arrangements are in place to manage cyber threats and risks”.

He added that parliament regularly takes advice from the police, the security services and the national cyber security centre.

‘Brute force’

A “brute force” attack involves hackers repeatedly trying to access systems using a range of different passwords, in the hope of effectively guessing the correct password through trial and error.

Mr Grice’s email urged MSPs and staff to make sure their passwords were as secure as possible, saying that the parliament’s IT team would “force a change to weak passwords as an additional security measure”.

He wrote: “The parliament’s monitoring systems have identified that we are currently the subject of a brute force cyber attack from external sources.

“This attack appears to be targeting parliamentary IT accounts in a similar way to that which affected the Westminster parliament in June. Symptoms of the attack include account lockouts or failed logins.

“The parliament’s robust cyber security measures identified this attack at an early stage and the additional security measures which we have in readiness for such situations have already been invoked. Our IT systems remain fully operational.”

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App iTrump wins trademark fight against Trump Organization

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iTrump was a follow-up app to iBone, a trombone simulator

An app developer appears to have prevailed in a long-running trademark war against the US president’s business operation.

The creator of iTrump first clashed with the Trump Organization in January 2011, when the billionaire’s lawyers alleged the trumpet simulator’s name falsely suggested a link to the tycoon.

After defeating this claim, the developer then went on the attack.

And this resulted in the company losing a key trademark of its own last week.

On 11 August, the US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board cancelled the New York-headquartered company’s exclusive right to use “Trump” in relation to entertainment services, including reality TV shows.

The ruling followed earlier victories by San Francisco-based Tom Scharfeld, in which he prevented the Trump Organization from owning the exclusive right to use “Trump” in connection with computer games, golf-related mobile apps and music streaming.

What are trademarks?

Trademarks are the distinctive name or symbol used to identity a product made by a manufacturer or a good distributed by a dealer.

Trademark law is generally concerned with avoiding consumer confusion regarding the origin or manufacturer of a product.

To trademark an existing word, the applicant needs to demonstrate they have given it new meaning and that there would not be grounds for confusion with other marks.

The Bloomberg news agency was first to report last week’s development.

It brings to an end the legal action between Mr Scharfeld’s company Spoonjack and the US president’s conglomerate, assuming neither side launches a fresh claim.

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Donald Trump passed control of his business to his two eldest sons after becoming the US president

Mr Scharfeld had represented himself, which required teaching himself about trademark law.

He told Bloomberg that he believed Mr Trump’s legal team “didn’t seem to respect that I could do this”.

“I just wanted to be treated fairly,” he said.

He added that he now planned to spend more of his time marketing his music apps rather than defending them.

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AI seeks fantasy football challengers

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A UK university is challenging fantasy football fans to beat its AI at predicting Premier League results

Computer scientists at University of Southampton are testing an artificially intelligent tool for predicting Premier League football results.

The machine learning algorithm has managed to beat BBC football commentator Mark Lawrenson’s predictions for two seasons in a row.

The team now wants fantasy football fans to try to beat it.

The algorithm could also help the players generate better teams, the researchers said.

What is it?

Fantasy football is a game in which users assemble an imaginary team of real-life footballers and score points based on the players’ actual statistical performance during the season.

The game was invented in 1971 in the UK by Bernie Donnelly and was originally a niche recreational activity, but today it is a burgeoning business on the internet, where users play ad-supported versions of the game, download it as an app and even place bets on the outcomes of games.

There are two types of fantasy football games:

  • Salary cap: the user is given a notional budget of £100m ($13m) to form their team, and can choose any player they like.
  • Draft: teams of users play in a league, and one user selects a single player, followed by the next user, until everyone has been round once, and then the selection process repeats until all the teams are full

Beat the AI

Fantasy managers can compete with Squadguru’s AI in the Challenge the Squadguru league in the free Fantasy Premier League salary cap game by entering league code 2917382-677658.

“We’ve compared the performance of our AI against the performance of three million human players over two seasons and shown that we are able to outperform 99% of these players,” Dr Sarvapali (Gopal) Ramchurn, an associate professor at University of Southampton’s electronics and computer science department, told the BBC.

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University of Southampton

Initially, the researchers applied a computer algorithm to disaster response, trying to work out the best way to assign emergency responders and tools.

Dr Ramchurn realised the same computer algorithm could also be used to make predictions about fantasy football, and so, over the past five years, the team has trained and improved Squadguru using semi-supervised learning.

“We’re challenging people to compete against us, to see how people perform against the AI,” he said.

“By doing this, we hope to attract keen fantasy football enthusiasts who stick with the game for the full duration of the season and don’t drop out.”

But editor of news site Fantasy Football 24/7 Adam Alcock said user feedback on AI tools in fantasy football was often negative.

“[AI is] out there to use – but from my experience most fantasy players use it sparingly and usually only out of interest rather than having any actual reliance on it,” he said.

“The fun part of the game is in making your own decisions and seeing how they work out.

“To have a team based upon the choices made by a machine defeats that object really.”

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Trump tweets cartoon of train hitting CNN reporter

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The tweet was deleted 30 minutes after being posted at 07:00 New York time

US President Donald Trump has posted an image of a train hitting a CNN reporter three days after a hit-and-run left one person dead at a far-right rally.

The cartoon, which Mr Trump deleted after tweeting, depicts the cable network logo being run over by a “Trump Train” symbolising his supporters.

The president also apparently accidentally retweeted a post by someone calling him “a fascist”.

Mr Trump is in New York where he faces a second day of protests.

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Media captionTrump: “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs”

White House officials told NBC the train image – captioned “Fake news can’t stop the Trump Train” – had been “inadvertently posted” and when “noticed it was immediately deleted”.

In another presumably unintentional retweet, the US president shared – and then also deleted – a post by someone who said of him: “He’s a fascist, so not unusual.”

The Twitter user, @MikeHolden, had been commenting on a Fox report saying that Mr Trump could be planning to pardon Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty in July of racially profiling Hispanic people.

Mr Holden, of Manchester, England, promptly changed his Twitter bio to read: “Officially Endorsed by the President of the United States. I wish that were a good thing.”

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Media captionCritics see Confederate monuments as racially offensive

Mr Trump has drawn criticism from both ends of the political spectrum since Saturday’s so-called Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman was killed.

Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old counter-protester and 19 other people were injured when a car rammed the crowd. A 20-year-old man is facing murder and other charges.

Mr Trump did not immediately condemn the white supremacists, instead blaming “many sides” for “hatred, bigotry, and violence” in the university town.

On Monday he sought to clarify his views, denouncing the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis by name.

But in the process he took a moment to demean a CNN reporter.

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Media captionRacism in the US: Is there a single step that can bring equality?

Asked by journalist Jim Acosta why he had waited so long to condemn the hate groups, Mr Trump responded: “I like real news, not fake news.”

Pointing the finger at the White House correspondent, he added: “You are fake news.”

Mr Trump frequently targets the so-called “fake news media” in tweets to his nearly 36 million followers.

In May he shared a clip of himself pummelling professional wrestler with a CNN logo superimposed on his face.

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Media captionPost-war US anti-Nazi film makes comeback

Late on Monday, Mr Trump also retweeted a post from an account linked to one of his supporters known for fuelling conspiracy theories, such as “Pizzagate”.

The post by Jack Posobiec linked to a story from an ABC affiliate and said: “Meanwhile: 39 shootings in Chicago this weekend, 9 deaths. No national media outrage. Why is that?”

The Pizzagate conspiracy theory claimed Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief was running a paedophile ring out of a pizza parlour in Washington.

Mr Trump awoke for the first time as president in Trump Tower on Tuesday, tweeting that it “feels good to be home”.

He arrived at the Manhattan skyscraper on Monday night amid throngs of protesters calling for his impeachment.

Three people were arrested, and police expect further demonstrations on Tuesday.

Late-night show hosts turned their fire on Mr Trump on Monday night.

The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon, who usually avoids political polemic, rebuked the president.

“The fact that it took the president two days to clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful,” Mr Fallon said on his NBC show.

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The clip was originally submitted to a pro-Trump forum on the social media site Reddit

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Web firm fights DoJ on Trump protesters

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Protesters linked arms in the street on Inauguration Day

A US service provider is fighting government demands for it to hand over details of millions of activists.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) wants all visitors’ IP addresses – some 1.3 million – to a website that helped organise a protest on the day of President Trump’s inauguration.

DreamHost is currently refusing to comply with the request and is due in court later this month.

The DoJ has not yet responded to requests for comment from the BBC.

It is unclear why it wants the internet protocol addresses of visitors to website, which organised a protest against President Trump on 20 January – the day of his inauguration.

“The website was used in the development, planning, advertisement and organisation of a violent riot that occurred in Washington DC on January 20, 2017,” it wrote in its motion to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which sought to compel DreamHost to hand over the information.

It suggested that “a particular customer” was the subject of the warrant, but does not explain why it needed so much information on other visitors.

‘Digital dragnet’

In a blog post on the issue, DreamHost said that, like many other online service providers, it was regularly approached by law enforcement about customers who may be the subject of criminal investigations.

But, it added, it took issue with this particular search warrant “for being a highly untargeted demand”.

In addition to the IP addresses, DreamHost said that the DoJ requested the contact information, email content and photos of “thousands of visitors”.

Civil liberties group The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is helping DreamHost fight its case, said: “No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible.”

A hearing on the issue is due on 18 August.

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DJI drones to gain privacy mode after US Army ban

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DJI’s Go app is set to gain a privacy mode before the end of September

The world’s best-selling drone-maker is adding a privacy mode to its aircraft to prevent flight data being shared to the internet.

The announcement comes a fortnight after it emerged that the US Army had prohibited its troops from using the Chinese firm’s equipment because of unspecified cyber-security concerns.

DJI told the BBC that it had already been working on the new facility, but had speeded up development after the ban.

The mode should be launched next month.

“It will provide an enhanced level of data assurance for security flights, such as those involving critical infrastructure, commercial trade secrets, governmental functions or other similar options,” the Shenzhen-headquartered company added in a blog.

Disabled features

DJI previously faced security fears in 2016 after a member of its staff told reporters that the firm had repeatedly shared customer data with the Chinese authorities.

The company issued a clarification shortly afterwards, saying a junior member of its team had “misspoke” and that it only handed over information if there was a valid legal request from Beijing or any other government.

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DJI’s drones are the best-selling brand in North America

DJI says it is unable to collect flight logs or captured images anyway, unless users opt to share the information via its Go apps, which are used to track and control its aircraft.

But the latest move is designed to provide further reassurance.

If the privacy mode is enabled, however, users will lose access to several features including the ability to:

  • livestream videos to YouTube
  • automatically install map and geofencing boundary updates, which are designed to prevent owners flying within banned zones
  • receive notifications about newly issued flight restrictions from the authorities

As a consequence, DJI said it might not be able offer the new mode in countries where pilots are required by law to have the latest information.

New memo

The US armed forces decided in July that using DJI’s drones posed “operational risks”, leading the US Army to detail its ban on 2 August.

The memo said that its use of the aircraft should cease, all DJI apps should be uninstalled from its computers and that all batteries and storage media should be removed from the drones while they were kept in storage.

However, the SUAS news site – which was the first to reveal the development – has since reported on a follow-up memo dated 11 August.

It indicates the army will grant exceptions to the ban once a DJI plug-in to its own drone software has been properly vetted.

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GoFundMe removes campaign for Charlottesville suspect

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James Alex Fields Jr was arrested after a car rammed into protesters in Charlottesville

GoFundMe and other crowd-funding sites have taken a tough stance on campaigns for a man arrested following violence at a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

GoFundMe removed some campaigns, saying they fell foul of its rules regarding hate speech and abuse.

James Alex Fields Jr, 20, is being held in police custody after a car rammed into a crowd of protesters.

One woman died in the incident, and 19 other people were injured.

GoFundMe had removed “multiple” campaigns for Mr Fields, a spokesman told Reuters.

“Those campaigns did not raise any money, and they were immediately removed,” said director of strategic communications Bobby Whithorne.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo, fellow crowd-funding platforms, said they had not seen any campaigns in support of Mr Fields but added that they were monitoring the situation.

A check by the BBC found no evidence of such fundraising efforts on any of the three sites.

There are several GoFundMe campaigns in support of victims injured while protesting against the white nationalist march.

Charlottesville: Who is suspect James Fields?

Trump condemns ‘evil racism’

Charlottesville white nationalists face backlash

However, there are at least two campaigns in support of those who marched at Charlottesville at an “alternative” crowd-funding site called Rootbocks, which uses the slogan: “No Censorship. No Limits.”

One seeks to gather funds for Nathan Damigo – the founder of a white nationalist group – to bring legal action against the city of Charlottesville.

The campaign argues that Mr Damigo’s First Amendment rites were “violated” when he was arrested at the event.

About $9,000 (£6,900) has so far been raised out of a $50,000 goal.

Other technology sites are closely managing the discussion of incidents at Charlottesville.

Facebook said it would remove links to an article on a neo-Nazi website denigrating Heather Heyer – the woman who died – unless links to the piece condemned it.

The site in question, the Daily Stormer, was also forced to switch domain registrars twice in 24 hours after GoDaddy and Google both expelled it from their services that allow customers to register web addresses.

Later on Monday, other tech platforms used by the site – including email newsletter provider Sendgrid and business software firm Zoho – said they had also terminated services.

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Indian police arrest four for Game of Thrones leak

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Indian police have arrested four people suspected of leaking an episode of the hugely popular TV show Game of Thrones before it was aired.

Three of the accused are current employees of Prime Focus Technology, while one is a former employee.

Prime Focus, a Mumbai-based company that stores and processes the series for Indian streaming website Hotstar, had lodged a complaint with police.

The fantasy series is already the most pirated show in TV history.

Episode four of the seventh season was leaked on 4 August, days before it was due to air globally.

The show produced by HBO has seen several leaks over the years. Most recently a group of hackers said they had stolen 1.5TB of data, allegedly including episodes of Ballers, Room 104 and scripts from Game of Thrones episodes. On Monday they leaked some of the unaired material.

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The arrests on Monday were related to the leaked episode, not the most recent hack.

After receiving a complaint “we investigated the case and have arrested four individuals for unauthorised publication of the fourth episode from season seven,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Akbar Pathan told AFP news agency.

The four have been charged with criminal breach of trust and computer related offences and will be detained until 21 August, he said.

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The right note?

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Arcade Fire’s Everything Now is the most popular hi-res album on the Qobuz site

High-resolution sites are proving music to the ears of fans who want the best possible sound.

Ever since the first CD was produced – 35 years ago this month – the music industry has been trying to sell fans new formats on the basis of better sound quality.

The shiny silver discs were meant to banish the crackle and hiss of vinyl forever and were marketed as a boon for audiophiles.

But at the same time, they were more convenient, being smaller and offering the chance to play tracks in any order you liked. And you didn’t have to turn them over to hear the second half of an album.

What record company executives didn’t realise was that it was the convenience, rather than the better sound quality, that was the main draw for consumers. That’s why the rise of the relatively low-quality MP3 file caught record companies on the hop.

The download is fading from popularity as consumers embrace streaming instead, but most streamed music services use the same digital compression techniques as MP3 files did.

So is top-notch sound quality no longer important? Some firms disagree and are promoting high-resolution digital music.

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The SACD and DVD-Audio formats failed to fly

“Is MP3 as interesting as it was 10 years ago? Not really, because bandwidth has improved,” says Malcolm Ouzeri, head of marketing at French streaming and download provider Qobuz, founded in 2007.

“Now the industry is going towards more quality.”

The music industry placed bets on high-end sound quality before. It came up with two new types of silver discs – the Super Audio CD (SACD) in 1999, followed by the DVD-Audio disc a year later.

The ensuing format war, plus the need to buy new hardware, didn’t help matters. But what really killed their chances was the launch of Apple’s iPod in 2001, which established the compressed MP3 digital file as the mass-market way to hear music.

“Like Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition, nobody expected the iPod,” says independent audio consultant Garry Margolis.

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Apple’s first iPod went on sale in 2001

“Apple made it easy for the average consumer to buy music and carry it in a convenient package.

“The money that consumers would have spent on high-resolution surround sound instead went to portable music, and the demand needed to establish a viable hi-resolution format never materialised.”

But now, nearly two decades later, another business model for high-end audio is up and running. In its native France, Qobuz has 4% of the digital music market with its unashamedly niche offer of uncompressed streams and downloads.

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“Our goal is to be a service with one million customers worldwide,” says Qobuz chief executive Denis Thebaud.

“Qobuz is not a brand for everyone. It’s not a brand where we want to have 100 million users. Our goal is really to satisfy the most discerning music lovers, the ones who are the most passionate about music.”

And at £349.99 a year for its top-end Sublime+ service, offering both streaming and downloads at the highest quality, only those with deep pockets as well as sensitive ears are likely to be signing up to the site.

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Lana Del Rey’s latest release, Lust for Life, is proving popular with Qobuz users

Some kinds of music are really not well served by the MP3 system of encoding, which is designed to preserve the elements that the human ear can hear and discard the rest.

Classical music aficionados, for instance, have never been keen on that kind of sonic compression.

But Qobuz, along with rivals Tidal and Deezer Elite, offers streaming of “lossless audio” that throws nothing away.

The highest quality MP3 has a bit-rate of 320kbps, while a hi-res file can go as high as 9,216kbps. Music CDs are transferred at 1,411kbps.

“The artists want to have their music played as it was recorded. More and more albums are in hi-resolution,” says Mr Ouzeri.

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Neil Young is planning a new hi-res streaming site

This means that musical genres traditionally associated with hi-fi buffs are particularly popular on his firm’s service.

“On Qobuz, different things are being listened to. At the end of the day, more royalties go to those things that have difficulty surviving in the digital world,” Mr Ouzeri adds. “Classical music and jazz have this important role.”

If you’re looking for hi-resolution downloads in the 16-bit or 24-bit Flac format, Qobuz also offers those, as do other sites including 7digital.

Other services, such as Neil Young’s now-dormant Pono venture, have tried and failed to enter the same download market. However, the rocker has vowed to return to the world of hi-res music with Xstream, which he calls “the next generation of streaming”.

Qobuz thinks there is still demand for downloads, and Mr Thebaud points out that some labels, including esoteric jazz specialist ECM, only offer that option rather than streaming as well.

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A large number of portable music players can play hi-res downloads

But does hi-res music face the same hardware problem that helped to sink SACD and DVD-Audio?

As it happens, a whole range of portable music players has sprung up to play hi-res downloads. Some are from mainstream manufacturers such as Sony and Pioneer, while others are produced by specialist firms such as Astell & Kern. Prices range from £165 to £3,000 or more.

But when it comes to streaming, there are various inexpensive options that will do the job.

“The Chromecast dongle, for instance, supports hi-res,” says Mr Ouzeri. “MP3 does not make as much sense as it did 10 years ago. So we are pioneers and we will keep being pioneers.”

Meanwhile, back in the world of physical product, the CD soldiers on, while vinyl has raised its game considerably in the audiophile stakes.

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Sales of vinyl records have rebounded in recent years

It hasn’t become any more convenient as a format, but today’s heavyweight 180g vinyl album release is a real improvement on the lightweight pressings, often made with recycled vinyl, that were the norm in the 1970s.

The vinyl revival has been well documented, with 3.2 million LPs sold in the UK last year, but do SACDs still exist?

Sister Ray in Berwick Street is one of the few record shops left in London that still stocks them, but you won’t see much change from £30 if you want to pick up a choice Bob Dylan or Miles Davis title in the format.

And as senior buyer Steve Sexton makes clear, they don’t quite fly off the shelves. “It’s always been quite a niche format. We’re phasing them out, to be honest,” he says.

“I think it’s a bizarre format and I’ve never really understood it. A lot of it is people who’ve spent far too much money on their stereo system.”

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Record-sized data centre planned inside Arctic Circle

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The facility would be surrounded by water on three sides, which could aid security

Plans to build the world’s “largest” data centre are being made public.

The facility is set to be created at the Norwegian town of Ballangen, which is located inside the Arctic Circle.

The firm behind the project, Kolos, says the chilled air and abundant hydropower available locally would help it keep its energy costs down.

The area, however, suffers the country’s highest rate of sick leave from work, which may be related to its past as a mining community.

The US-Norwegian company says it has already raised “several million dollars” for the project from Norwegian private investors.

However, it is still working with a US investment bank to secure the remaining necessary funds.

It is basing its record-setting claims on the amount of power it intends to draw on to run its computer servers.

Initially, Kolos’ base would draw on about 70 megawatts of power.

However, within a decade, the firm intends to have added enough computer server modules to drawn on more than 1,000 MW.

Amazon’s data processing division is already thought to draw on about 1,000 MW of power in Ashburn, Virginia, however its servers are spread across the area rather than being clustered together into a single centre.

Facebook has operated its own large data centre about 385km (239 miles) from Ballangen at Lulea, Sweden since 2013. But it is limited to 120 MW.

Other giant single-site data centres also tend to use less than 200 MW.

Cheap energy

When complete, the Ballangen development is set to cover 600,000 sq m (6.46m sq ft) and stretch over four storeys.

That is a bigger area than today’s record-holder – a facility in Langfang, China – but slightly smaller than the final plan for a still-in-development centre in Nevada.

The Norwegian enterprise should benefit from the fact that large amounts of fibre optic cable were laid in the past alongside a railway built to transport mined iron ore to Sweden.

In more recent times, the EU and Norwegian government have invested in building large dams for hydroelectric projects. There are also several wind farms nearby.

“It’s quite literally the lowest power cost in Europe – and 100% of the power is renewable on one of the most stable grids in the world,” Kolos’ co-chief executive Mark Robinson told the BBC.

“It’s in a region of the planet that is naturally cool and has ideal humidity, so we can keep servers cool without having to artificially chill them,” he added.

“It has unlimited access to fresh, clean cool water as a secondary chilling source.

“And there’s a university nearby, which produces about 200 technology students a year – and the idea is to employ some of these.”

When questioned about local sickness rates, Mr Robinson acknowledged that he had not been aware of the municipality’s poor standing.

But he noted that the benefits to the local economy of hosting the centre could improve the situation.

Kolos says it already has the support of five local mayors, and Norway’s climate and environment minister Vidar Helgesen will take part in a public meeting the firm has organised later this week.

“We want to see many projects come to fruition and I am supportive of this just as I am supportive of any other,” Mr Helgesen told the BBC ahead of the event.

“We are not picking individual winners, but we have reduced our tariffs in order to welcome the establishment of data centres in Norway – and we welcome this initiative very much.”

The major cloud infrastructure service providers – including Amazon, Microsoft and Google – have repeatedly cut their prices over recent years, putting pressure on other data centre operators.

Tech consultancy Gartner says this has meant private endeavours have needed to seek scale of their own in order to keep their prices competitive.

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Water from nearby fjords will be used to keep the temperature inside the centre cool

“There’s always a danger with this kind of thing that providers rush to build capacity that outstrips what the market requires,” added David Groombridge, research director at tech consultancy Gartner.

“But in terms of data centres, it’s hard to see consumer-driven demands dropping off and there’s the promise of the internet-of-things, with millions of sensors generating information that will need to be processed.

“So, unless there are radical new technologies that come along very quickly to help compress data, we will need the resources that these kind of facilities provide.”

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Facebook launches China-only version of Moments photo app

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Facebook secretly launched Moments in China under the name Colourful Balloons

Facebook has quietly launched a photo-editing app exclusively for China.

The app, called Colourful Balloons, was launched in May and is almost identical to the Facebook Moments app. It was spotted by the New York Times on Friday.

The BBC understands that part of the reason the app was not branded as Facebook was to study how apps organically gain users in China.

Facebook is working with Chinese app developer Youge Internet Technology.

“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways,” a Facebook representative told the BBC.

“Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”

The BBC has not been able to confirm whether the Chinese authorities are aware that Facebook launched the app in the country. However, the app works with WeChat, a leading messaging app by Chinese social media giant Tencent.

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Left: the Facebook Moments app on iTunes US; Right: the Colourful Balloons app on iTunes App Store China

Facebook and many other Western internet services are blocked in China, which has a strict internet censorship policy. Facebook was blocked in 2009, while its photo-sharing app Instagram was banned in 2014 and the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp was partially restricted last month

Twitter was blocked in 2009, and all Google services, including the video-sharing platform YouTube, were banned the same year.

China now has the world’s largest online market with 731 million users, according to latest statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

Google officially pulled its operations out of China in 2010 as a protest against internet censorship, but is now in talks with Beijing to relaunch its services in the country, according to CNBC.

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NHS cyber-defender Marcus Hutchins pleads not guilty in US

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Marcus Hutchins was arrested by the FBI on 2 August

A British cyber-security researcher has pleaded “not guilty” to charges of creating and selling malware that snooped on victims’ banking logins.

Marcus Hutchins, 23, appeared in court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

He shot to fame after helping to stall the WannaCry ransomware attack that struck the NHS and many other organisations around the world in May.

Mr Hutchins was arrested by the FBI on 2 August.

He has been charged with developing and distributing Kronos, a well-known piece of malware that gathered financial information from infected computers.

Mr Hutchins was arrested shortly after visiting the Black Hat and Def Con cyber-security conferences in Las Vegas.

More to follow…

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Uber allows in-app tips for UK drivers

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Uber drivers will receive 100% of tips offered by passengers via the app

Ride-sharing company Uber is to allow its drivers in the UK to receive tips from passengers via its app.

Uber said the feature – first introduced in the US in June – would launch in the UK on Tuesday.

The change follows criticism that Uber was making it unnecessarily difficult for its drivers to improve their earnings.

It was described as “a cynical PR move” by a union representing British Uber drivers.

Uber is also launching a series of changes intended to allow drivers to better control their work flow.

These include “paid waiting time” – in which passengers will pay 20p every minute after the first two minutes if they keep their driver waiting.

Paid waiting time will go live in the UK on 22 August.

Uber said that feedback from drivers had prompted it to make the changes.

“Riders who want to reward great service will now have the option to tip their driver through the app after each trip,” the company said.

“This means riders don’t need to carry cash if they want to tip their driver.”

A spokesman confirmed to the BBC that 100% of tips received via the app would go to drivers, without Uber taking a cut.

Rival service Lyft in the US has offered in-app tipping since 2012 and taxi-booking app myTaxi – available in Germany, Austria and elsewhere – can also process tips.

Other new features for Uber drivers include:

  • Two-minute cancellations – riders will have to pay a fee if they cancel after two minutes, instead of five minutes, from being allocated a car
  • “No thanks” button – drivers can instantly reject a trip request instead of having to wait 10-20 seconds
  • Driver destinations – drivers who want to go to a specific area will be matched with passengers seeking a similar route
  • Trip request control – drivers can choose not to receive less lucrative UberX trip requests

“This is a cynical PR move ahead of Uber’s appeal next month against last year’s employment tribunal ruling in favour of drivers,” said James Farrar, Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) chair.

“Despite its claims, Uber remains completely deaf to the most serious issue facing – excessively long hours earning on average between £5 and £6 per hour.”

Uber drivers have long called for better tipping options as a way of mitigating falling fares.

In April – shortly before Uber offered in-app tipping in the US – the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission announced plans to require all cab companies that take payment via credit card to offer a tipping option.

A petition on the issue was signed by 11,000 Uber drivers.

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Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent

Executives at the ride-sharing firm like to talk about Uber 2.0 – an attempt to rebrand the company after a disastrous year that has seen the departure of its founder and allegations of a toxic culture.

Today’s adjustments to the way the app works for drivers should be seen in light of that attempt to break with the past. Drivers at first seemed happy with the earnings offered by Uber and the flexibility of fixing their own hours.

But they have grown increasingly discontent, accusing the company of taking too high a commission and putting too many cars on the road.

Uber may actually be more focussed on last year’s employment tribunal ruling in which judges described as “faintly ridiculous” its claim that drivers were a mosaic of small businesses operating without central control.

With an appeal against that ruling due next month, the firm may hope that moves to give drivers greater control will impress the tribunal.

‘Sex crime’ criticism

Separately, the Sunday Times has reported a Metropolitan Police officer has written to Uber, accusing it of failing to report sex attacks and other “serious crimes”.

The newspaper said it had obtained a letter from Insp Neil Billany, head of the Met’s taxi and private hire unit.

Insp Billany said he had “significant concern” over Uber’s decision-making process and accused the company of reporting only less serious cases to avoid damaging its reputation.

The Sunday Times said at least six sexual assaults on passengers, two public order offences and an assault had gone unreported.

Uber’s licence to operate in London is currently being reviewed.

Transport for London, which issues licences, said the situation was “totally unacceptable” and would affect its decision on the review.

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Armed Met Police officers to wear head-mounted cameras

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Trials are under way on how cameras can be used in undercover operations

Armed officers are to be issued with head-mounted cameras in a effort to provide “greater transparency” in police shootings, the Met Police says.

The Met – the UK’s largest police force – said officers in its armed response units will have cameras fitted to baseball caps and ballistic helmets.

It will give “a documented and accurate account” of situations, the Met added.

Armed officers had trialled body-mounted cameras, but in 2015 they were criticised as “unfit-for-purpose”.

Their introduction followed criticisms of the Met over the death of Mark Duggan, who was shot by armed officers in August 2011, sparking riots across England.

However, the force said it was still examining how cameras could be used in such undercover operations.

‘World’s largest rollout’

The new cameras will be worn by officers who carry an “overt” firearm.

The police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), said during the trial the positioning of the cameras on officers’ bodies had obscured and impacted on the the quality of some footage.

The Met says it has decided that because of the way armed police operate, head cameras are a better option.

The firearms command will receive around 1,000 cameras, the force added, saying it was part of “the largest rollout of body worn cameras by police in the world”.

‘Greater transparency’

Commander Matt Twist said armed officers “very much welcome” the cameras.

“It provides a documented and accurate account of the threats officers face and the split second decisions they make,” he said.

“The cameras also offer greater transparency for those in front of the camera as well as those behind it.”

Body-mounted cameras have already been issued to frontline officers in 30 of the 32 London boroughs, as well as to officers from the roads and transport units, the territorial support group and the dog unit.

The deployment of 22,000 cameras, which do not permanently record, is anticipated to be complete by the end of October, the force added.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said cameras were “a huge step forward in bringing our capital’s police force into the 21st century and building trust and confidence in the city’s policing”.

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Teen's death at Chinese internet addiction camp sparks anger

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Some internet addiction “boot camps” employ military-style discipline in treating patients

A Chinese teenager has died days after he was sent to an internet addiction treatment centre, reigniting criticism of these controversial institutions.

The 18-year-old had allegedly sustained multiple injuries, and the centre’s director and staff members have been held by police, according to reports.

The incident took place earlier this month in eastern Anhui province.

China has seen a proliferation in so-called “boot camps” aimed at treating internet and gaming addictions.

Some are known for their military-style discipline and have been criticised for overly harsh practices.

‘Completely covered with scars’

In the latest incident in Anhui, the teenager’s mother, surnamed Liu, said her son had developed a serious internet addiction which she and her husband were unable to help.

The parents then decided to send their son to a centre in Fuyang city which touted to use a combination of “psychological counselling and physical training” to treat children for their internet addictions, reported the Anhui Shangbao newspaper.

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Film shows how Chinese internet addicts are treated

Ms Liu dropped off her son on the night of 3 August. Two days later, the parents were informed that their son had been rushed to the hospital, where he later died.

The exact cause of the teenager’s death is not known.

But the parents said they were told by doctors who examined their son’s body that he had sustained more than 20 external injuries, as well as several internal injuries. They were allowed to see his body in the mortuary.

“My son’s body was completely covered with scars, from top to toe… When I sent my son to the centre he was still fine, how could he have died within 48 hours?” Ms Liu was quoted as saying in Anhui Shangbao.

State broadcaster CCTV said the centre’s director and four teaching staff have been held by police, and authorities have shut down the centre while investigations are ongoing.

‘Lack of education’

In the wake of the incident, many online and in newspaper editorials called for tighter regulation of addiction treatment centres – but also criticised the teenager’s parents.

“In the end this is due to a lack of family education,” said one commenter on microblogging platform Sina Weibo.

An editorial by the Mingguang Daily paper noted that “some parents, upon discovering the problem, fail to reflect on their responsibility to educate, and instead want to seek third parties’ help in solving the problem.”

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Some treatment centres, like this one in Beijing, do EEG tests to record the electrical activity in patients’ brains

Addiction “boot camps” have grown in number across China in recent years. Some are run out of government hospitals while others are private centres or schools.

They remain popular despite growing controversy over some centres’ practices, such as beating patients and electroshock therapy, and a string of shocking incidents. Last year, a teenager reportedly killed her mother for sending her to a centre where she was allegedly abused.

Trent Bax of Ewha Womans University, who has researched Chinese internet addiction, says many centres use “emotive power advertising” which appeal to parents who want “a ‘quick fix’ solution to their child’s problems”.

“The parents are also acting in response to a very real fear that the only child’s successful future may never be realised because they refuse to stop gaming and start studying,” he told the BBC.

In some cases, says Prof Bax, parents may also hold the “‘traditional’ view of education that permits the use of violence to ‘straighten out’ a delinquent child”.

Chinese authorities have begun cracking down, and earlier this year drafted laws which, if passed, would explicitly prohibit abusive treatment of internet addicts such as electroshock therapy.

Companies have also moved to limit minors’ excessive online gaming. Last month, internet giant Tencent began imposing restrictions on gaming hours for young users of one of its most popular games.

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HBO hackers leak Curb Your Enthusiasm and Insecure shows

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Hackers have leaked unaired episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm scheduled for broadcast in October

Hackers have continued to plague HBO by leaking unaired episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm over the weekend.

The data dump also included episodes of Insecure, Ballers, Barry, The Deuce, a comedy special and other programming, according to the Associated Press.

An earlier leak indicated HBO had offered the blackmailers $250,000 (£192,300), Variety reported.

Over recent weeks, one Game of Thrones episode, scripts and sensitive internal documents have also been exposed.

‘Bounty payment’

HBO confirmed that its computer network had been attacked on 31 July.

The hackers claimed to have stolen 1.5TB of company data and demanded a multimillion-dollar ransom to prevent them from leaking sensitive proprietary files, as well as entire television series.

It has now emerged that the television network offered a “bounty payment” to the hackers on 27 July, according to Variety.

“You have the advantage of having surprised us,” a member of HBO’s technology team is reported to have said in an email.

“In the spirit of professional cooperation, we are asking you to extend your deadline for one week.”

HBO has said that it does not intend to release a statement each time the hackers leak more information.

“It has been widely reported that there was a cyber-incident at HBO,” the television network said on Sunday.

“The hacker may continue to drop bits and pieces of stolen information in an attempt to generate media attention.

“That is a game we are not going to participate in.”

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GoDaddy expels neo-Nazi site over article on Charlottesville victim

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Web hosting giant GoDaddy has given the Daily Stormer 24 hours to move

Web hosting company GoDaddy has given a US neo-Nazi site 24 hours to find another provider after it disparaged a woman who died in protests in Virginia.

The Daily Stormer published a piece denigrating Heather Heyer, who was killed on Saturday after a car rammed into a crowd protesting at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

GoDaddy had faced calls to remove the white supremacist site as a result.

The web host said the Daily Stormer had violated its terms of service.

“We informed the Daily Stormer that they have 24 hours to move the domain to another provider, as they have violated our terms of service,” GoDaddy said in a statement on Twitter.

Previously, some web users had called on GoDaddy to remove the site – including women’s rights campaigner Amy Siskind.

Violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, after white supremacists organised a controversial far-right march called “Unite the Right”.

Since the announcement, a blog post has appeared on the Daily Stormer, claiming the site has been hacked by Anonymous.

However, the main Twitter feed for Anonymous has said it has no confirmation that the hacker group is involved.

More to follow…

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Snapchat registered with Russian regulator 'unknowingly'

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Snapchat has been registered with a Russian regulator

Snapchat’s parent company says the US messaging app has been registered with Russia’s technology regulator without its knowledge.

Snap told the BBC that the Roskomnadzor agency had unilaterally put it on its register of information distributors.

The move means Snapchat will be required to keep all messages for six months and make them accessible to the Russian security services.

Snap said it had no intention of complying with the rule.

A spokesman for the company said it had provided “very basic contact information” to Roskomnadzor, but “not for the purpose of registering us”.

Snap is the first Western social media company to find itself on the list. Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger have not been added.

Russia’s new data laws require “information distribution organisers” to register with the regulator and store users’ data for six months. The requirements come into force next year.

Companies must also hand over their encryption keys when asked, in line with Russian anti-terror legislation.

Russian sites VKontakte and RuTube have all signed up, according to technology website Gizmodo, while Telegram added its name to the list after pressure from local authorities.

Non-compliance comes with a risk. Chinese messaging service WeChat was blocked earlier this year, Russian website VC.Ru reported [in Russian].

Snap does not have a specific figure for Russian users, but says there are 57 million daily users in Europe as a whole.

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US firm reveals gun-toting drone that can fire in mid-air

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A US firm has armed a drone with a machine-gun and a grenade launcher in order to fight terrorism

A US technology firm has developed a drone that is able to aim and fire at enemies while flying in mid-air.

The Tikad drone, developed by Duke Robotics, is armed with a machine-gun and a grenade launcher.

The gun can be fired only by remote control, and is designed to reduce military casualties by cutting the number of ground troops required.

But campaigners warn that in the wrong hands, it will make it easier to kill innocent people.

The Tikad drone, available for private sale at an undisclosed price, has won a security innovation award from the US Department of Defense, and there is interest from several military forces around the world, including Israel, reports Defense One.

According to the firm’s website, two of the three co-founders of Duke Robotics worked for the Israel Defense Forces and the third at Israel Aerospace Industries.

‘Violent force’

“As a former Special Mission Unit commander, I have been in the battlefield for many years,” said CEO Raziel Atuar.

“Over the last few years, we have seen how the needs of our troops in our battlefield have changed.”

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Duke Robotics

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The weapon can be fired only remotely by human control.

However, robotics expert Professor Noel Sharkey expressed concern that gun-toting drones could make it easier to kill innocent people.

“Big military drones traditionally have to fly thousands of feet overhead to get to targets, but these smaller drones could easily fly down the street to apply violent force,” he told the BBC.

“This is my biggest worry since there have been many legal cases of human-rights violations using the large fixed-wing drones, and these could potentially result in many more.”

For the past decade, Prof Sharkey has been campaigning against killer robots, which are fully autonomous, computer-powered weapons that would be able to track and select targets without human supervision.

Together with the Campaign To Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of over 60 international NGOs including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Sharkey has been lobbying the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons.

However, the machine-gun on board the Duke Robotics device still has to be controlled remotely by a human operator.

Copycat fears

According to Prof Sharkey, some US military officials are concerned that although the US might follow the laws of war, terrorists could easily look at drone innovations and copy the idea to kill innocent people.

“We already know that Islamic State is using drones laden with explosives to kill people. What’s to stop them from getting their hands on this? Copying has not been possible with big military drones, but once you get the idea that you can strap automatic weapons onto one and operate it remotely, that’s very much easier,” he said.

“This type of weapon is another dangerous step towards the development of fully autonomous weapons that could hunt down targets and kill them without human supervision.”

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Blizzard starts drive to recruit more women and ethnic minorities

The company behind games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch has started a drive to recruit more women and ethnic minorities.

The information is in a leaked internal email from Blizzard’s CEO, seen by the website Kotako.

It claims 21% of Blizzard’s employees are women, and although that’s similar to the rest of the gaming industry, it says it wants to do better.

Newsbeat has contacted the firm, but they’re yet to respond.

Image caption Overwatch is becoming one of the most popular eSports in the world

The company claims the initiative will focus on finding more female employees and getting them to stay on longer.

At the moment women are leaving at a higher rate than men but it says it’ll fall short of setting “quotas”.

Instead it plans to partner with organisations like Girls Who Code, set up networking sessions and launch an annual “Women @Blizzard” summit.

It’s also set up a council of female workers which will help the company’s leaders “make Blizzard a more rewarding and enjoyable place for women to work”.

Later on the project plans to expand to other “under-represented minority groups”, which it claims make up 14% of the business.

A gaming convention

The gaming industry has faced accusations of sexism and racism for some time.

Last year Blizzard said it was working on technology to block offensive comments on sites like Twitch.

It was after a black Hearthstone player, Terrence Miller, was the subject of racist abuse during a tournament in Austin, Texas.

The developer was also forced to remove an “over-the-shoulder” victory pose from its game Overwatch, after criticism that it accentuated anything but the shoulder.


Last September, two of the biggest streaming sites – Twitch and YouTube – told Newsbeat they were doing what they could to stamp out misogyny.

Find us on Instagram at BBCNewsbeat and follow us on Snapchat, search for bbc_newsbeat

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Password guru regrets past security advice and other news

BBC Click’s Marc Cieslak looks at some of the best of the week’s technology news stories including:

  • The Pentagon gives US military bases permission to shoot down civilian drones if they get too close to their bases
  • Social media company Facebook announces a new video service, Watch, which will include specially commissioned shows
  • Password guru Bill Burr regrets past tips about frequently changing passwords and muddling up words with capital letters, numbers and symbols.

Additional footage: Pixar / Walt Disney Pictures / Lucasfilm

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

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US warns of fidget spinner fire and choking hazards

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Parents are advised to be careful when charging fidget spinners, and to warn children not to put them in their mouths

A US government body has released safety guidance for battery-operated fidget spinners, following incidents of the toys catching fire.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is advising people to avoid charging the toys, some of which are Bluetooth-enabled, overnight.

Children of all ages are also warned not to put fidget spinners of any kind in their mouths.

A recent BBC investigation discovered unsafe toys on sale in the UK.

Although intended for stress relief and popular with both children and adults, fidget spinners have also reportedly been the cause of accidents.

“Fidget spinner users or potential buyers should take some precautions,” CPSC’s acting chairwoman Ann Marie Buerkle said in a statement.

“Keep them from small children. The plastic and metal spinners can break and release small pieces that can be a choking hazard, and older children should not put fidget spinners in their mouths.”

The commission wants all retailers to ensure that fidget spinners marketed at children aged 12 and under meet the US Toy Standard ASTM F963-16.

Fire hazards

In June, a Bluetooth-enabled fidget spinner that played music reportedly burst into flames after being left to charge for 45 minutes in a family home in Alabama. The gadget left a burn on the carpet but was discovered by the family before it caused more damage.

And in May, another battery-operated fidget spinner caught fire after being charged for less than half an hour, according to Michigan local TV station NBC 25 News.

The toy had been sold without its own charger, so the family had used one from another device.

“Like any battery-operated product, consumers should be present and pay attention to their devices while charging them,” said Ms Buerkle.

“It is important to use the charging cable that either comes with the fidget spinner, or one that has the correct connections for the device, as charging cables are not interchangeable.”

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Google cancels all-staff diversity meeting

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Google has cancelled an all-staff meeting to discuss a controversial memo about diversity written by former engineer James Damore.

It is reported that some staff members were concerned about being singled out online if they were identified while they spoke out during the meeting.

The firm said it would “find a better way” to help employees discuss the issues raised by the memo.

Mr Damore was fired for breaking Google’s code of conduct.

He had suggested in his internal note that there were fewer women in tech and leadership positions because of biological differences.

According to Google’s most recent diversity figures, 80% of its tech workforce and 75% of its leaders are men.

“We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” Mr Damore wrote in his note, which was widely criticised.

Mr Damore said he had been sent messages of support from some staff at the tech giant and he also received a job offer from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who tweeted “censorship is for losers”.

Google’s new vice-president Danielle Brown said that his view “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender”.

“We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul,” she wrote in a statement published by Motherboard.

Analysis: Zoe Kleinman, technology reporter

The ongoing lack of diversity in the entire tech sector is an issue that has grown an even bigger head of steam in recent months, with a steady stream of stories about big firms and big names being held to account.

Women who work in the industry are increasingly choosing to speak out about their experiences in this male-dominated domain, and to challenge the statistics that demonstrate that they remain a minority, despite high-profile campaigns and initiatives aimed at redressing the balance.

James Damore’s suggestion that it is because they are biologically less suited to it has caused considerable anger, particularly among those who have forged successful Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers.

Google has been very clear that Mr Damore did not speak on its behalf but it has also faced criticism for firing him, with critics suggesting that it the action went against the firm’s principle of free speech.

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A ginger haired emoji is coming to a phone near you soon

This is not a drill. A ginger haired emoji is finally a step closer.

According to Unicode, redheads will be able to describe themselves in emoji form from June 2018 after the organisation’s emoji subcommittee recommended 67 new characters.

It’s not just ginger emojis set to make their way to our fingertips though.

There’ll be new emojis for those with bald heads, curly hair and silver foxes will be represented with a white-haired emoji.

Two years ago, more than 21,000 people signed a petition calling for new redhead emojis after new racially and sexually diverse emoticons were released.

The petition read: “Redheads. In all their glorious gingerness, they’ve been missed out. Again.

“If you say you’re going to diversify, why not add a few red-haired emoji in the mix?

“Natural redheads may be rare at less than 2% of the world’s population, but that is 138,000,000 iPhones waiting to happen.”

Now it looks like Unicode, which decides on everything emoji-related has heard the call.

Back in May, Jeremy Burge from Emojipedia shared a number of possible designs.

Unicode will decide on the final candidates later this year.

The proposed characters include a llama, a hippopotamus, a cupcake, a skateboard and Radio 1 Newsbeat’s personal favourite, a frowning poo emoji.

What a time to be alive.

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Jennifer Lawrence 'blindsided' by nude photos leak

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Annie Leibovitz

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Lawrence was photographed by Annie Leibovitz for US Vogue’s September issue

Jennifer Lawrence has said the leaking of nude photos of her left her feeling “blindsided”.

Intimate images of the Oscar-winning actress were published online in 2014.

She told Vogue: “I think people saw [the hacking] for what it was, which was a sex crime, but that feeling, I haven’t been able to get rid of it.

“Having your privacy violated constantly isn’t a problem if you’re perfect. But if you’re human, it’s terrifying.”

She added: “When my publicist calls me, I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, what is it?’ Even when it’s nothing. I’m always waiting to get blindsided again.

“It’s scary when you feel the whole world judges you.”

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Lawrence spoke to Vogue for their 125th anniversary issue

The actress is the cover star for US Vogue’s prestigious September issue, for which she has been photographed by Annie Leibovitz and Inez & Vinoodh.

Vogue also commissioned artist John Currin to paint her for one of the four covers as part of the celebrations for the magazine’s 125th anniversary issue.

Lawrence also spoke about her relationship with director Darren Aronofsky, who she’s been dating for the past year.

The pair met while filming her new movie Mother!, which Aronofsky directs, and became an item shortly after.

“When I saw the movie, I was reminded all over again how brilliant he is,” Lawrence said of the 48-year-old.

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John Currin

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John Currin painted a portrait of the actress for one of the September issue’s four covers

“For the past year, I’ve been dealing with him as just a human.

“I normally don’t like Harvard people, because they can’t go two minutes without mentioning that they went to Harvard. He’s not like that.”

The actress also explained that filming Mother! – a horror drama, about which very few details have been revealed – got so intense that she hyperventilated and dislocated a rib.

“I ended up getting on oxygen,” she said. “I have oxygen tubes in my nostrils, and Darren’s like, ‘It was out of focus; we’ve got to do it again.'”

Lawrence’s response to this idea was sadly unprintable, but it’s safe to say she wasn’t keen on the idea of a reshoot.

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Holiday couple watch on CCTV app as Streetly home burgled

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Media captionA couple are helpless as they watch online as a burglar targets their home

A horrified couple watched a burglar break into their home on a CCTV app while they were on holiday 120 miles away.

Donna Marusamy, 37, was with her husband and children in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, when she had a notification that sensors had detected movement in their back garden in the West Midlands.

The couple looked on in horror as the burglar walked into their living room.

She alerted her brother-in-law and the thief fled when he arrived.

The head teacher, of Streetly, said: “I wish to God I hadn’t seen it unfold.”

Wedding rings belonging to her husband, Nathan, 45, and his father were taken along with an Air-King Rolex, Indian gold jewellery and passports at about 22:15 BST on Friday.

The footage on her mobile phone showed the burglar creep around the back garden, enter the house with a torch and roam around looking for things to steal.

Mrs Marusamy, who had just put her children to bed, said it “really ruined” their weekend break and they had to cut it short.

She said: “We thought it’s either a ghost or someone is in our garden.

“We zoomed in and I said ‘I think it is someone checking out our house’.

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Passports and jewellery were stolen during the raid

“He got in through our conservatory and removed the glass and put it to the side neatly.

“He then stepped inside, I was horrified, scared and helpless. My heart just went ‘no’. I just wanted to scream and shout but we were just totally speechless.”

She said her brother-in-law got there before police.

“He went on the driveway and shone a light through the house and the burglar then legged it.

“I thought I am splattering your face everywhere so I uploaded it to Facebook.”

Mrs Marusamy said her children now sleep in the same bed as her.

Kevin Pitt, police, engagement and consultation officer with West Midlands Police, said: “The offender has gained entry to the rear garden and then removed the beading from a window to enter the house.

“The house alarm sounded and the offender was disturbed.”

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Lorenzo Maccotta

Interactive webcamming is the fastest-growing sector of the global pornography business. In Romania, thousands of women work as “cam-girls” from studios and from home. It is a 24/7 market, the majority of clients logging in from North America and Western Europe.

In the heart of Bucharest on the pavement outside a tall apartment building a group of young women smoke, talk and laugh. It is an unremarkable scene. Except that in the bright morning sunlight, their heavy makeup, sky-high heels and shiny, revealing clothes contrast with the sensible, summer dress of passers-by.

Inside the building, Studio 20 occupies the first and second floors. Forty rooms open off pristine, white corridors, their walls adorned with pictures of women in states of glamorous undress. A closed door means business. Inside that room a woman is live and direct via webcam with international clients – and as long as she is alone in the room, it is entirely legal. In this world of virtual relationships and cybersex, those in front of the camera are “models” and the men who watch are “members”.

Studio 20 corridors

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Inside Studio 20 – a closed door means a model is entertaining a client

Lana works in Room 8. It is dominated by a circular bed with cushions. There is a wardrobe containing some of her clothes.

“I usually go for dresses, lingerie, or leather,” she says.

In a corner of the room there is a large computer screen, an expensive camera and behind them, professional photographers’ lights. Dozens of pairs of eyes may view Lana in her room online in real time via dedicated adult websites. But she does not make any money until a member asks her to “go private” in a one-to-one webcam session.

Lana in Studio 20

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Lana works at Studio 20

Working an eight-hour day, she earns close to 4,000 euros (£3,600) per month – nearly 10 times the Romanian average wage. As Lana’s employer, Studio 20 also makes 4,000 euros per month from her online sessions. And at the top of the video chat money-making pyramid, LiveJasmin – the online cam site that streams Studio 20’s content and is responsible for collecting payment from the credit cards of clients – takes double that: 8,000 euros.

Find out more

LiveJasmin is the largest internet cam host in the world. Between 35 and 40 million users visit it daily, and at any given moment, there are 2,000 models live online. It is not hard to understand how the web-cam industry, overall, generated an estimated $2-3bn in 2016.

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Lorenzo Maccotta

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A cam-girl gets ready to entertain in a bathroom setting – complete with chandelier

Lana is a graduate who worked in real estate until the global economic crash of 2008 plunged Romania into recession. That is when she first took up video-chat. Her first day in front of the camera has stayed with her.

“I was alone in the room, and it felt like there were hundreds of people around me. And I couldn’t keep up with what they were all saying, and what they were asking of me. It was quite shocking. But then I learned to be perceptive about which member was a potential paying customer and not to waste time with all of them in the free online space.”

So what happens in a private, webcam one-to-one?

“Mostly it’s conversation. I do role-play sometimes, and a small part of it is nudity and masturbation,” she says.

While the members sometimes try to push her to do things she doesn’t want to do, she is able to set the pace.

“It’s up to you as a woman to lead, and that’s quite empowering.”

The important thing is to keep a paying client online for as many minutes as possible.

“You have 10 minutes of being cute and sexy, and then you better have something to talk about because otherwise the member will not stay,” says Andra Chirnogeanu, Studio 20’s PR manager.

Andra Chirnogeanu, Studio 20's PR managerImage copyright
Studio 20

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“You better have something to talk about otherwise the member will not stay” says Andra Chirnogeanu, Studio 20’s PR manager

To this end, Studio 20 employs trainers, a psychologist and an English teacher. Most of the clients are North American and European, so it is essential the models can communicate with them.

But the English teacher, Andrea, has a remit that goes far beyond language skills.

“I teach them about fetishes – what a fetish is, why a person has one… We study Freud and a lot of psychology. And we study a book of gestures because women must be sensual, smart and beautiful.”

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Models are encouraged to message clients every day

Geography is important too, so the models can talk about where the members are from.

“That or exotic places,” says Andrea. “This is not only a sex business as some people think – models have to speak with a member as if they are in a normal, online relationship. Being able to discuss many subjects brings comfort to both parties.”

Studio 20 is the largest studio webcam franchise in the world. It has nine branches in Romania, including one employing “cam-boys” who service the gay market. Its other branches are in the Colombian city of Cali, Budapest and Los Angeles.

Men do webcam work tooImage copyright
Lorenzo Maccotta

Not all models work from a studio. Sandy Bell – a graduate with two university degrees – is one of a small army of women who webcam from home. She makes about 100 euros (£90) a day when she goes online to supplement her income as an interior designer. One advantage of being independent – and dealing directly with a web-hosting company – is that she earns a larger percentage of members’ fees.

“Mostly they’re nice guys, not crazy men,” she says. “There are a lot of members looking for love. They want the connection. Some members want you to call their name. Or to talk to them while you dance and strip. I’m very honest with them – they know I have a boyfriend, and they know we are not going to have sex in real life.”

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Media caption“They don’t touch you. They are thousands of miles away”- Sandy Bell, a ‘cam-girl’, describes her work.

Sandy Bell’s partner lives with her in their high-rise flat on the outskirts of Bucharest. He knows what she does, but her parents do not. It is not uncommon in this industry – even for studio owners – to hide their occupations from family and friends. This accounts for the fact that those who talked to the BBC in Bucharest preferred to use their cam name, or just a first name.

Unlike many who work in the sex industry, Sandy Bell does not worry about her own security.

“What can a member do to me? If he crosses a line or even if he is rude to me, I just click the mouse and stop it. And I can talk to the administrator on the website and they ban the IP address, so the guy can never enter again even if he changes his nickname. I mean, those people are thousands of miles away from me. They don’t touch you – nobody touches you. You go online alone and you work online alone. This has nothing to do with prostitution.”

Is Sandy Bell a victim? She says she is not, though feminists such as Irina Ilisei say the question is more complicated than it seems.

“Do we talk about women who are forced to do this? Are they women who choose it? Or perhaps they do it because they are psychologically manipulated, or they have a lack of economic stability. Probably, it’s a combination of all these factors.”

Ilisei believes the push factors include Romania’s high rate of teenage pregnancy, and the fact that 30% of those who finish higher education cannot find a job.

Irina Ilisei

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Irina Ilisei believes some women are pushed into the industry

The webcam industry also does its best to entice young women into the business.

“There are advertisements on university campuses,” says Ilisei. “Students get direct Facebook messages with offers of work. And the studios are very corporate – exactly like an entry-career job in other fields. The language is all about empowering young women, being independent, learning skills, even getting bonuses if you convince your friends to try it too.”

For Lana, 31, webcamming has provided enough money for her to bring up her daughter alone, and to think about investing money in something “that will bring money to the country”. She plans to give up in two years’ time.

But some women are not free to make the choices Lana has. Oana, 28, counts herself as an escapee from the sex industry. At 16 – a minor – she fell in love with a boyfriend who persuaded her to do video chat.

“He told me I just had to talk. That’s all. But he was in the room with me, and we made pornography there.”

It is illegal in Romania for a man and woman to webcam together, but it is impossible to say how commonly the law is flouted in the way Oana describes. She went on to work as a prostitute in Germany, until she found the courage to return to Bucharest and a new life. Now she works in sex work prevention – talking to young women about her experiences, and trying to persuade them of the danger of video chat.

“There are girls who think they will just stay in front of the camera and make money. But all the things they do there will affect their minds. The next step is prostitution. I see that now.”

Lana disagrees.

“It’s about selling your brain, not your body,” she says. “I see it like a performance, like a show. But this is not a job for everybody – a lot of girls quit after a few weeks or even days, because they have this mindset that they’re selling their body. Your mindset is what matters in this job. I have my limits, and I truly do not feel exploited.”

Andra Chirnogeanu, Studio 20’s PR Manager, also rejects the idea that this is risky or psychologically damaging work.

“It’s psychologically damaging to stay 12 hours in an office getting paid a minimum wage,” she says.

But the fact that models often seek to conceal their job is, perhaps, telling. If Lana and Sandy Bell could have made a good living using their qualifications and other work experience, would they still have chosen to undress for clients in New York, Frankfurt and London?

Lorenzo Maccotta’s photographs are from his award-winning series about the Live Cam studio industry in Romania

Listen to Romania’s webcam boom on Crossing Continents

Join the conversation – find us on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

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Overwatch League strikes London deal

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Activision Blizzard

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Overwatch deliberately contains little gore to aid its appeal to younger audiences

The American founder of a leading e-sports business has become the first owner of a European squad in the forthcoming Overwatch League.

Jack Etienne, chief executive of Los Angeles-based Cloud9, has bought the rights to field a London team in the sci-fi video game competition.

The BBC understands he paid roughly $20m (£15.4m) for the privilege.

The league represents game producer Activision Blizzard’s most ambitious venture into e-sports yet.

The company believes the “family-friendly” shooter should have wider appeal to both audiences and advertisers than existing e-sports events.

It has suggested the contest could eventually become more lucrative than England’s Premier League or the US’s National Football League for those involved.

The company will split revenues generated by the competition with each of its team owners.

“We view this as a major milestone marking the league as truly global – it now has representation in Europe, Asia and North America,” Pete Vlastelica, an executive in Activision Blizzard’s e-sports division, told the BBC.

Several of the previously announced investors had ties to traditional sports teams, including the New England Patriots American football team, the New York Mets baseball team and the Sacremento Kings basketball team.

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Activision Blizzard

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Overwatch League matches will be streamed over the internet

Mr Vlastelica said that there had been discussions with unnamed European equivalents to buy the London rights, but that Cloud9 – which already fields an Overwatch team in other competitions – had won out.

“Cloud9 may be a new name for some in the traditional sports world, but I can assure you they are not a niche or fringe player in e-sports,” he said.

“As we build this league, it was really important to us to combine the capabilities of owners from both traditional sports and the world of e-sports.”

The league will get under way later this year, with its initial matches held at a studio in Southern California.

But the intention is for later games to be played locally to help teams attract supporters.

It is not yet clear where Cloud9 will host its home matches.

“Buying into the Overwatch League for a franchise remains relatively high risk because of the costs involved and Overwatch’s immaturity as an e-sports title,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, from the IHS Technology consultancy.

“Traditional sports team owners have to be prepared to commit fully to an e-sports strategy to make this work, and it is clear that US-based teams are more willing to make the transition at this early stage.

“For European buyers, I think the risk increases somewhat due to the fragmented nature of the market in the region, the more diversified gaming tastes and the impact that can have on sponsorship rates, advertising and consumer interest.”

Activision Blizzard also announced that it had licensed the rights to a second Los Angeles team.

Stan and Josh Kroenke – who have investments in the UK’s Arsenal football club and the Los Angeles Rams American football team – bought the franchise.

Noah Winston, the chief executive of the Immortals e-sports organisation, owns the city’s other Overwatch League team.

A brief introduction to Overwatch

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Activision Blizzard

The first-person shooter features about two dozen characters who engage in team-based battles set across a near-future Earth.

Each character has a distinct personality – including a genetically engineered scientist ape, a cowboy-styled bounty hunter and a nerdy-looking climatologist – and unique abilities.

The heroes divide into four broad categories:

  • offence – fast-moving characters that can inflict a lot of damage quickly
  • defence – warriors best suited to guarding key parts of the battlefield and repelling attacks
  • tank – fighters that can sustain a lot of damage and are therefore well-suited to leading attacks
  • support – champions that help other players heal and access their most powerful attack modes more quickly than normal

Squads of six characters are pitched against each other in a range of challenges, including protecting/capturing a location; defending/destroying a vehicle as it is driven across a zone; and being first to wipe out the enemy team.

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China's VPN developers face crackdown

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China recently launched a crackdown on the use of software which allows users to get around its heavy internet censorship. As the BBC’s Robin Brant in Shanghai found, developers are facing growing pressure.

The three plain-clothes policemen tracked him down using a web address. They came to his house and demanded to see his computer. They told him to take down the app he was selling on Apple’s App Store, and filmed it as it was happening.

His crime was to develop and sell a piece of software that allows people to get round the tough restrictions that limit access to the internet in China.

A virtual private network (VPN) uses servers abroad to provide a secure link to the internet. It’s essential in China if you want to access parts of the outside world like Facebook, Gmail or YouTube, all of which are blocked on the mainland.

“They insisted they needed to see my computer,” the software developer, who didn’t want us to use his name, told us during a phone interview.

“I said this is my private stuff. How can you search as you please?”

No warrant was produced and when he asked them what law he had violated they didn’t say. Initially he refused to co-operate but, fearing detention, he relented.

Then they told him what they wanted: “If you take the app off the shelf from Apple’s App Store then this will be all over.”

‘Sorry, I can’t help you with that’

Up until a few months ago his was a legal business. Then the government changed the regulations. VPN sellers need a licence now.

Apple decided it had to comply. Two weeks ago, over a weekend, it removed dozens of VPN apps from its App Store, because they didn’t have a licence.

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Media captionExplained: What is a VPN service?

When I asked Apple’s virtual assistant Siri to “open VPN” on my phone this is what she said: “Sorry, I can’t help you with that.”

There are still plenty of VPNs available on the App Store. They are the legal ones that meet government regulations. But about 60 were removed in that weekend purge.

Apple’s Chief Executive Tim Cook said the company would “rather not” have done it, but he insisted the biggest company in the world had to abide by the law.

Speaking in June at the company’s annual developer conference he had much praise for the “developer community”. There are almost two million in China alone. I’m told the company expends “tremendous energy” to ensure they are successful.

The company didn’t want to comment to the BBC, but its position is clear: Apple will only work with people making legal VPN apps, something one critic said was “aiding censorship” in China.

However, the US firm’s mobile devices can still be manually set up to connect to the wider range of VPN services if users know what details to enter into their settings menu.

Keeping China onside?

The outlook for Apple’s business in China is mixed. Sales of iPhones dipped last year, but the App Store is going great guns. Revenue more than doubled in the same period.

Apple has just appointed it’s first China-wide managing director, and it’s in the midst of a multibillion dollar localisation project to establish a data centre and more of its cloud computing.

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Despite suggestions that it’s “fighting back” against the government crackdown on internet access it’s clear that keeping on side – complying with China’s regulations – is crucial for Apple’s future.

But this fresh move against free access to the internet isn’t just about Apple and censorship. Some think it’s also about competition.

If you have a branch office in Shanghai and your headquarters in New York, there is more than one way to get your internet traffic out of China. There have been significant price drops for those facilities, but not from the behemoth state-owned firm China Telecom.

“Those price reductions are not from China Telecom, those big names, but from smaller, much smaller operators,” another software developer told us.

“That has a big impact on the whole industry because this is the bread and butter for the China Telecom.”

He didn’t want to give his name either, but this developer thinks the other reason for what he calls this “clean up” of the market is to protect the monopoly position of China’s big state owned telecoms companies.

As for the future, he thinks the government has no desire to shut down all the VPNs. He says Beijing has the technology to do that. They can see who is using them, and they can shut them down instantly. But he believes they want control, not closure.

Addressing a crowd of thousands of soldiers last week, China’s President Xi Jinping made much of his country’s sovereignty.

“Nobody should expect to infringe on China’s sovereignty or security,” he told them, as he marked the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples’ Liberation Army. China believes that sovereignty extends to the internet.

It sees virtual borders where others see no boundary. China is using its security apparatus to force its own people to abide by that and its laws to force the world’s biggest company to comply.

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