Jinri Toutiao. The two built a rapport, and an investment vehicle associated with Mr. Milner led a $10 million financing in Mr. Zhang’s company that same year, three people with knowledge of the deal said.

The news aggregator eventually became ByteDance — now valued at around $360 billion, according to PitchBook — and owns TikTok; its Chinese sister app, Douyin; and various education and enterprise software ventures.

By 2015, Mr. Chew had joined Xiaomi as chief financial officer. He spearheaded the device maker’s 2018 initial public offering, led its international efforts and became an English-speaking face for the brand.

“Shou grew up with both American and Chinese language and culture surrounding him,” said Hugo Barra, a former Google executive who worked with Mr. Chew at Xiaomi. “He is objectively better positioned than anyone I’ve ever met in the China business world to be this incredible dual-edged executive in a Chinese company that wants to become a global powerhouse.”

In March 2021, Mr. Chew announced that he was joining ByteDance as chief financial officer, fueling speculation that the company would go public. (It remains privately held.)

appointed Mr. Chew as chief executive, with Mr. Zhang praising his “deep knowledge of the company and industry.” Late last year, Mr. Chew stepped down from his ByteDance role to focus on TikTok.

Kevin Mayer, a former Disney executive, left after the Trump administration’s effort to sunder the app from its Chinese parent. China was also cracking down on its domestic internet giants, with Mr. Zhang resigning from his official roles at ByteDance last year. Mr. Zhang remains involved in decision making, people with knowledge of ByteDance said.

Mr. Chew moved to establish himself as TikTok’s new head during visits to the app’s Los Angeles office in mid-2021. At a dinner with TikTok executives, he sought to build camaraderie by keeping a Culver City, Calif., restaurant open past closing time, three people with knowledge of the event said. He asked attendees if he should buy the establishment to keep it open longer, they said.

a TikTok NFT project involving the musical artists Lil Nas X and Bella Poarch. He reprimanded TikTok’s global head of marketing on a video call with Beijing-based leaders for ByteDance after some celebrities dropped out of the project, four people familiar with the meeting said. It showed that Mr. Chew answered to higher powers, they said.

Mr. Chew also ended a half-developed TikTok store off Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, three people familiar with the initiative said. TikTok briefly explored obtaining the naming rights of the Los Angeles stadium formerly known as the Staples Center, they said.

He has also overseen layoffs of American managers, two people familiar with the decisions said, while building up teams related to trust and safety. In its U.S. marketing, the app has shifted its emphasis from a brand that starts trends and conversations toward its utility as a place where people can go to learn.

In May, Mr. Chew flew to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, speaking with European regulators and ministers from Saudi Arabia to discuss digital strategy.

June letter to U.S. lawmakers, he noted that ByteDance employees in China could gain access to the data of Americans when “subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls.” But he said TikTok was in the process of separating and securing its U.S. user data under an initiative known as Project Texas, which has the app working with the American software giant Oracle.

“We know we’re among the most scrutinized platforms,” Mr. Chew wrote.

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How Accent-Changing Apps Are Removing Communication Barriers

Apps like Sanas are helping smooth communication by removing accent barriers that can lead to misunderstandings.

Accents are diverse and unique, but sometimes accents get in the way of understanding people. An app called Sanas looks to remove that barrier by using AI technology to take away a person’s accent.

“We’re all trained with the products, with the services,” said Dwayne Alviola, “Whether we’re in the Philippines or in a different country, rest assured that we’re trained in every detail to handle your accounts.”

Alviola lives in the Philippines and has worked for U.S.-based companies for eight years. He previously worked in call centers and now works in customer service.

Throughout the years of working in call centers, Alviola says he and his coworkers faced discrimination and racism on the other end of the call.

“Usually, the “f-you” word, then usually they’ll be in different types of curses, but since it’s our second language, we don’t even mind it,” Alviola said. “But, racism comes in, even if we know that we’re not the one being blamed for their experience, it still hits us the most.”

Alviola says they’re stuck. When he was working in call centers, they’re not allowed to hang up, so they have to be on the call until the caller on the other line clicks off. He says accent-altering apps can lead to smoother communication and less verbal abuse.

“Especially for new graduates who just entered training, then it would help them boost their confidence,” Alviola said. “That’s also one reason why I like the app, because if it was developed just a few years ago when I was starting, I would love it.”

Others find the Sanas app especially helpful when cops or hospitals are involved.

“If there is a law, like a with discussion, with the cop, with their doctor mainly, there are a lot of problem when communicating with the doctor if you don’t know proper English,” said Mehboob Ahmedabadi, an Indian man working in media.

On the flip side, others argue that apps that take away accents perpetuate racism and discrimination by masking the problem at hand. Judy Ravin, the founder of Accents International, says there’s a way to do things differently.

“At the conclusion of our program, which is called Powerful Pronunciation, people will still have an accent,” Ravin said. “We think that’s a good thing. An accent is a piece of our cultural and linguistic identity. What we won’t have is a communication barrier due to pronunciation.”

Unlike the app that filters voices, Accents International improves pronunciation through real time coaching. For example, the vowel sounding “aw” used in words like “law” or “daughter” can be tough for those not familiar with pronouncing it.

“The way we teach it is both,” Ravin said. “What does it look like, and what does it feel like? Well, it looks like someone’s popped an egg in their mouth. It looks like a perfect oval… and a person can feel the top of their tongue behind their lower teeth. So what does it look like? What does it feel like… not, what does it sound like?”

Vincent Dixon had a thick Irish accent, but through years of teaching English in France, he learned to communicate more effectively.

“I think sometimes people feel that their accents makes them lesser or more, and it really doesn’t,” Dixon said. “It just makes you who you are. It’s like the color of my eyes or the color of my hair.”

In a world filled with more AI listening, trying to get machines to understand despite an accent can be especially frustrating.

“It’s very frustrating because I talk to my watch, I talk to my husband,” said Eileen Panzardi, a Puerto Rican living in Atlanta. “I talk to my phone, and I have to pass it to my daughter, who was born here in Atlanta, and ask her to say whatever word it is for Siri to understand me because sometimes she don’t even get me.”

Ultimately, the goal of accent-changing technology is to create better person-to-person communication in an ever-increasing, globalized world.

“For me, the key point is not their identity in communication,” said Haulk A, a Kurdish software engineer living in Chicago. “In the communication, the important thing is to the message that you send and the message that you get.”

Source: newsy.com

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Tesla is sued by drivers over alleged false Autopilot, Full Self-Driving claims

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The logo of car manufacturer Tesla is seen at a dealership in London, Britain, May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo

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Sept 14 (Reuters) – Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) was sued on Wednesday in a proposed class action accusing Elon Musk’s electric car company of misleading the public by falsely advertising its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features.

The complaint accused Tesla and Musk of having since 2016 deceptively advertised the technology as fully functioning or “just around the corner” despite knowing that the technology did not work or was nonexistent, and made vehicles unsafe.

Briggs Matsko, the named plaintiff, said Tesla did this to “generate excitement” about its vehicles, attract investments, boost sales, avoid bankruptcy, drive up its stock price and become a “dominant player” in electric vehicles.

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“Tesla has yet to produce anything even remotely approaching a fully self-driving car,” Matsko said.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco seeks unspecified damages for people who since 2016 bought or leased Tesla vehicles with Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features.

Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It disbanded its media relations department in 2020.

The lawsuit followed complaints filed on July 28 by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles accusing Tesla of overstating how well its advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) worked. read more

Remedies there could include suspending Tesla’s license in California, and requiring restitution to drivers.

Tesla has said Autopilot enables vehicles to steer, accelerate and brake within their lanes, while Full Self-Driving lets vehicles obey traffic signals and change lanes.

It has also said both technologies “require active driver supervision,” with a “fully attentive” driver whose hands are on the wheel, “and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

Matsko, of Rancho Murieta, California, said he paid a $5,000 premium for his 2018 Tesla Model X to obtain Enhanced Autopilot.

He also said Tesla drivers who receive software updates “effectively act as untrained test engineers” and have found “myriad problems,” including that vehicles steer into oncoming traffic, run red lights, and fail to make routine turns.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has since 2016 opened 38 special investigations of Tesla crashes believed to involve ADAS. Nineteen deaths were reported in those crashes.

The case is Matsko v Tesla Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 22-05240.

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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Ethereum’s Long-Awaited ‘Merge’ Reaches the Finish Line

The moment finally arrived, in the last minutes before midnight on the West Coast on Wednesday.

After years of delays, discussions and frantic experimentation, the popular cryptocurrency platform Ethereum completed a long-awaited software upgrade known as the Merge, shifting to a more environmentally sustainable framework.

Ethereum is arguably the most crucial platform in the crypto industry, a layer of software infrastructure that forms the basis of thousands of applications handling more than $50 billion in customer funds. The upgrade is expected to reduce Ethereum’s energy consumption and set the stage for future improvements that will make the platform easier and cheaper to use.

Celebrations erupted on a YouTube livestream where engineers and researchers who worked on the Merge had gathered to mark the milestone. It was a rare moment of joy in a grim year for crypto that saw a devastating market crash drain nearly $1 trillion from the industry, forcing some prominent crypto companies into bankruptcy.

announced in August that it would pause certain Ethereum deposits and withdrawals during the Merge as a precautionary measure.

In interviews before the Merge, Ethereum developers said they had prepared for snags, though they downplayed the possibility of a systemwide collapse.

“I don’t want to claim everything will go perfectly without a hitch,” said Tim Beiko, who works for the Ethereum Foundation, a nonprofit that helps maintain the platform. “We’re kind of confident we won’t see network-level issues just because we’ve run through the thing so many times before.”

The technical details of the Merge are mind-bendingly complex. But, ultimately, the process boils down to a shift in how cryptocurrency transactions are verified.

In traditional finance, an exchange of funds involves an intermediary, like a bank, which verifies that one entity has enough money to make a payment to another.

Crypto was designed to eliminate such financial gatekeepers. So, early crypto engineers had to devise an alternative system to ensure that users had the funds they claimed to have. Their solution was called “proof of work.” Under that system, powerful computers run software that races to solve complex problems, verifying transactions in the process. The system is widely known as “mining” because the computers earn payments in cryptocurrency as rewards for the verification service.

Bitcoin, the original and most valuable cryptocurrency, runs on a proof-of-work system. And, until the Merge, so did Ethereum. But the process is environmentally draining: To run all those computers requires an enormous amount of energy.

The Merge shifts Ethereum to a verification system called “proof of stake” that uses less energy. Unlike proof of work, the new framework does not involve an energy-guzzling computational race. Instead, participants deposit (or “stake”) a certain amount of their crypto savings in a pool, which enters them in a lottery. Every time a crypto transaction requires approval, a winner is selected to verify the exchange and receive a reward.

By some estimates, Ethereum’s shift to proof of stake will reduce its energy consumption by more than 99 percent. And the project’s developers say the switch will make it easier to design future updates that minimize so-called gas fees — the costs of executing a transaction in Ether, the cryptocurrency associated with the Ethereum platform.

The process of shifting Ethereum to proof of stake required years of intense study and debate. The platform was founded in 2013 by a teenage software engineer, Vitalik Buterin, who remains one of the most influential people in the crypto industry. Ethereum is now run by a loose network of coders from around the world. For months, they have gathered on video calls streamed on YouTube to discuss the intricacies of the Merge.

The shift to proof of stake took so long partly because it required the construction of an entirely new blockchain — the public ledger where cryptocurrency transactions are recorded for all to see. That new chain, the Beacon Chain, was unveiled in December. A series of tests followed this year.

The Beacon Chain has now finally combined with the original Ethereum blockchain, signifying the “merge.”

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MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell Says FBI Agents Seized His Cellphone

By Associated Press
September 14, 2022

Lindell has been charged in what prosecutors say was a “deceptive scheme” to breach voting system technology used across the country.

MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell said Tuesday that federal agents seized his cellphone and questioned him about a Colorado clerk who has been charged in what prosecutors say was a “deceptive scheme” to breach voting system technology used across the country.

Lindell was approached in the drive-thru of a Hardee’s fast-food restaurant in Mankato, Minnesota, by several FBI agents, he said on his podcast, “The Lindell Report.” The agents questioned him about Dominion Voting Systems, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and his connection to Doug Frank, an Ohio educator who claims voting machines have been manipulated, he said.

The agents then told Lindell they had a warrant to seize his cellphone and ordered him to turn it over, he said. On a video version of his podcast, Lindell displayed a letter signed by an assistant U.S. attorney in Colorado that said prosecutors were conducting an “official criminal investigation of a suspected felony” and noted the use of a federal grand jury.

The circumstances of the investigation were unclear. The Justice Department did not immediately respond Tuesday night to a request for comment about the seizure or investigation.

“Without commenting on this specific matter, I can confirm that the FBI was at that location executing a search warrant authorized by a federal judge,” FBI spokeswoman Vikki Migoya said in an email.

Federal prosecutors have been conducting a parallel investigation alongside local prosecutors in Colorado who have charged Peters with several offenses, including attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation and official misconduct. The Republican was elected in 2018 to oversee elections in Colorado’s Mesa County. A deputy clerk, Belinda Knisley, was also charged in the case, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years of probation.

For more than a year, Peters has appeared onstage with supporters of former President Donald Trump who made false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The charges against Peters and Knisley allege the two were involved in a “deceptive scheme which was designed to influence public servants, breach security protocols, exceed permissible access to voting equipment, and set in motion the eventual distribution of confidential information to unauthorized people.”

State election officials first became aware of a security breach in Mesa County in 2021 when a photo and video of confidential voting system passwords were posted on social media and a conservative website. Because each Colorado county has unique passwords maintained by the state, officials identified them as belonging to Mesa County, a largely rural area on the border with Utah.

Peters appeared onstage in August 2021 at a “cybersymposium” hosted by Lindell, who has sought to prove that voting machines have been manipulated and promised to reveal proof of that during the event.

While no evidence was provided, a copy of Mesa County’s voting system hard drive was distributed and posted online, according to attendees and state officials.

The copy included proprietary software developed by Dominion Voting Systems that is used by election offices around the country. Experts have described the unauthorized release as serious, saying it provided a potential “practice environment” that would allow anyone to probe for vulnerabilities that could be exploited during a future election.

Nearly two years after the 2020 election, no evidence has emerged to suggest widespread fraud or manipulation, while reviews in state after state have upheld the results showing President Joe Biden won.

The Mesa County breach is just one of several around the country that have concerned election security experts. Authorities are investigating whether unauthorized people were allowed to access voting systems in Georgia and Michigan.

Lindell said the federal agents had also questioned him about when he first met Frank, an Ohio math and science educator, who is among a group of people who have been traveling across the U.S. meeting with community groups claiming to have evidence that voting machines were rigged in the 2020 election.

In court records, prosecutors say Frank met with Peters and members of her staff in April 2021 in her office. During the meeting, Frank told Peters that the county’s election management system was vulnerable to outside interference and the group discussed concerns the state was going to “wipe” the machines, according to the court records.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

Source: newsy.com

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Whistleblower Lays Out Twitter’s Data Security Troubles

Former head of Twitter security Peiter Zatko explained the company has previously employed foreign agents.

Former head of Twitter security Peiter Zatko on Tuesday told Congress about the tech giant’s widespread issues with keeping foreign adversaries from working at the company and exploiting internal data. 

“Twitter would be a gold mine for people in the community who focus on foreign intelligence organizations and assets,” Zatko said. “If you placed somebody in Twitter, as we know has happened, it would be very difficult to Twitter to find them. They would probably be able to stay there for a long period of time and gain a significant amount of information.”  

In his opening remarks, Sen. Chuck Grassley noted that Zatko’s disclosures helped uncover evidence that India was able to place at least two foreign assets on payroll at the company, and that China had at least one agent at Twitter as well. 

Zatko noted those agents could be embedded to figure out what information Twitter might censor, or to use internal software to find user phone numbers, current and former email addresses, and even where Twitter thinks a user lives.  

“This is the information that you need to start taking over other people’s accounts […] Once I know your home address and your home phone number, I can approach you in real life. I can put pressure on you, I can possibly recruit you,” Zatko said. “You could be a witting or unwitting accomplice. And then I could influence you or target you for influence operations in the real world. 

Zatko also said that former users may be at risk of having their data exposed, too. 

“I was told straight out by the chief privacy officer that the FTC had come and asked, ‘does Twitter delete user information when they leave the platform?’”  

“Instead of answering whether we delete user data, we have intentionally replied, ‘we deactivate users,’ and try to sidestep the program because we know we don’t delete user data, and cannot comply with that if they demand us to.” 

A Twitter spokesperson told Newsy that “Today’s hearing only confirms that Mr. Zatko’s allegations are riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies.” The company also said its hiring process is independent of foreign influence and includes background checks. 

Source: newsy.com

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