Twitter is no longer blocking links to a New York Post article about Biden’s son – CNET

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Twitter is facing scrutiny from conservatives after blocking a New York Post article.

Graphic by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET

Twitter said Friday it's no longer blocking links to a New York Post article that contains allegations about the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden following backlash from conservative lawmakers.

The company had initially blocked links to the article on Wednesday because the content violated its rules against the distribution of hacked materials and another policy against posting people's personal information such as emails and phone numbers. The New York Post article cites alleged leaked emails that the news outlet says show Biden's son, Hunter, introduced the US presidential candidate to a Ukrainian energy executive. Social networks have been worried that hackers will leak documents as part of an attempt to meddle in the Nov. 3 election.

After changing its policy on hacked materials, Twitter said that the information included in the New York Post article is also no longer considered private because it's widely available in the press and other digital platforms. The reversal shows how quickly content moderation decisions can change amid increased political pressure and scrutiny. Senate Republicans have said they plan to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Twitter's actions were tougher than Facebook, which reduced the distribution of the article as it was being fact checked by its third-party partners. Biden's campaign has challenged the accuracy of the New York Post article. The decisions from both companies, though, drew criticism from President Donald Trump and other high-profile conservatives who accused the social networks of suppressing their views. Both companies have denied that political beliefs play a role in how they moderate content. On Thursday, Twitter said it will start labeling content with hacked materials rather than block them on the site. The company said it would only do so if the hacked content was shared directly by hackers or people working with them.

Joan Donovan, research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School told the New York Times, which reported earlier about Twitter's latest actions, that tech platforms "are merely reacting to public pressure and therefore will be susceptible to politician influence for some time to come."

Some Twitter users, including Trump's campaign, tweeted this week that their accounts got locked unless they removed the link to the New York Post article. Twitter hasn't shared any data about how many links to the New York Post article the company has blocked.

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Joe Biden now has his own Animal Crossing island – CNET

Joe Biden Animal Crossing

Joe Biden's Animal Crossing island went live Friday.

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This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET's coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

Presidential candidate Joe Biden is trying to find more voters in cutesy Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing. The former vice president launched his own island in the game on Friday, with Biden HQ touting ice cream, trains and aviators.

"With less than three weeks until Election Day, we are continuing to reach out to voters across the country wherever they are," said Christian Tom, Biden's director of digital partnerships. "Biden HQ will encourage players to explore all the ways they can make a plan to vote at IWillVote.com and help elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris."

There's even exclusive Biden-Harris merch for Animal Crossing players, which you can access by texting "AC" to 30330. In-game merchandise includes "No Malarkey" t-shirts and Kamala Harris-themed "I'm speaking" caps.

Read more: The best Nintendo Switch games for 2020

The island includes a polling place that pushes players to IWillVote.com. There's also a White House. You can meet Biden on the island, with his character sporting aviator sunglasses.

It comes after Biden last month launched digital campaign yard signs for Animal Crossing players.

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Treatment and Vaccine Trials are Halted, US Cases Rise, and More Coronavirus News

Treatment and vaccine trials are halted, the US forges ahead with its decentralized response, and new revelations about American society and institutions underscore the deadly toll of the virus. Here’s what you should know:

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Once-promising treatments and vaccines hit roadblocks

Two weeks ago, President Trump was given a dose of an experimental antibody cocktail that he later claimed “cured” him of Covid-19. Two companies that manufacture versions of the drug—Regeneron and Eli Lilly—each applied for an emergency authorization from the FDA soon after. Prior therapies authorized by the FDA were all for use by people already in the hospital, but this one is administered right after diagnosis. For this reason and others, it shows promise, but data on the drug is still limited. Then, on Tuesday, Eli Lilly halted its Phase III drug trials due to unspecified potential safety concerns. While this may seem like bad news, it’s important to remember that pauses are an important and necessary part of the clinical trial process.

In addition to Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson also paused a Phase III trial this week for its coronavirus vaccine after one participant reported an adverse event. The break will give the data and safety monitoring board ample time to investigate what happened before pressing ahead with the trial. Meanwhile, a massive international trial investigating the efficacy of Remdesivir, the only authorized Covid-19 treatment in the US, found that the drug does not prevent Covid-19 deaths. That said, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the drug can’t benefit people earlier in the course of their illness. The data, which were part of a study sponsored by the WHO, were posted online yesterday but have not yet been peer reviewed or published in a journal.

The US continues with a decentralized approach as virus cases rise

In the last week, cases have risen in 35 states across the US, with 14 reporting their peak seven-day average on Thursday. Despite the national trend, US responses to the coronavirus continue to be decentralized, and states are left to make many of their own decisions about how to stop the spread of the virus. In New York City, for example, officials recently implemented targeted lockdowns in areas with rising case rates. While such a hyperlocal approach makes a lot of sense, the fact remains that the boundaries between city neighborhoods are porous at best.

When a vaccine is ready, its distribution will likely be just as decentralized as other public health measures taken over the last eight months. In mid-September the CDC released a playbook laying out what states should be doing now to prepare for a vaccine. The states’ first versions of their plans are due back to the CDC today. But they have to submit these plans without knowing when the vaccine will arrive or how many doses they’ll receive. And the CDC guidelines still leave many decisions up to the states, like deciding who gets a vaccine first. All of this means we could be looking at a different rollout strategy in every state.

The preexisting conditions of the coronavirus pandemic

A massive new accounting of the health of people around the world found that the health of people in the US—especially if you’re poor or not white—lags behind other rich countries. The diseases and disorders that marginalized Americans are most likely to have are the same comorbidities that can make Covid-19 severe or fatal. This isn’t the case in countries with better social and medical safety nets. ”Some researchers have described Covid-19 as not a pandemic but a ‘syndemic,’” WIRED’s Adam Rogers writes, “a synergistic epidemic of related, overlapping problems, each one making the others worse.”

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COVID-19 cases top 8 million in the US – CNET

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Coronavirus cases surpassed 8 million in the US on Friday.

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

The United States surpassed 8 million cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The grim milestone puts the US ahead of every other country in terms of total cases. Over 218,000 coronavirus deaths have been reported in the US as well, again setting a record that represents about 20% of total deaths worldwide. 

COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, has rapidly spread across the globe, infecting nearly 40 million and killing over 1.1 million. Beside the US, India has the highest number of cases, at almost 7.4 million, followed by Brazil on 5.2 million, Russia on 1.4 million and Argentina on almost 950,000 cases. On the other end of the spectrum, some countries like New Zealand have all but eliminated COVID-19 with the number of active infections now at zero.

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Experts expect an end to the pandemic will begin once vaccines that prevent against the coronavirus become widely available sometime in 2021

Here's a list of all the symptoms of COVID-19, according to the CDC, as well as a list of places to buy the most popular face masks on sale now.

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Judge orders DOJ to determine intent of Trump’s tweets ‘declassifying’ Russia docs – CNET

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A federal judge wants to know more about what President Donald Trump meant when he tweeted that he'd "fully authorized the total declassification" of documents related to the probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 US elections, according to media reports.

On Friday, Judge Reggie Walton of the US District Court in Washington, DC, ordered the US Department of Justice to explain in writing the intent behind Trump's tweets earlier this month about the documents, CNN reported. 

"I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!" Trump tweeted. DOJ attorneys say Trump's tweets weren't an order to the agency to declassify materials related to the Russian election interference probe. The DOJ didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

News outlets, including CNN and BuzzFeed, are trying to get more access to records about the investigation conducted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller between 2017 and 2019. Last week, BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold referenced Trump's declassification tweets in an emergency motion seeking access to Mueller's unredacted report.

Leopold tweeted that Walton said during a Friday hearing that the president clearly indicated his intent when he tweeted that he'd allow the declassification of these documents. Another hearing about the case is scheduled for Oct. 21, according to court records.

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Twitter’s ‘Hacked Materials’ Rule Tries to Thread an Impossible Needle

Twitter for years functioned as an unrestricted mouthpiece for hackers of all stripes, from freewheeling hacktivists like Anonymous to the Kremlin-created cutouts like Guccifer 2.0. But as the company tries to crack down on hackers’ use of its platform to distribute their stolen information, it’s finding that that’s not a simple decision. And now, less than three weeks before Election Day, Twitter has put itself in an impossible position: flip-flopping on its policy while trying to navigate between those who condemn it for enabling data thieves and foreign spies, and those who condemn it for heavy-handed censorship.

On Thursday evening, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Vijaya Gadde, posted a thread of tweets explaining a new policy on hacked materials, in response to the firestorm of criticism it received—largely from the political right and President Donald Trump—for its decision to block the sharing of a New York Post story based on alleged private data and communications of presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. Gadde wrote that the company was taking a step back on its “Hacked Materials Policy.” The company will now no longer remove tweets that contain or link to hacked content “unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them,” Gadde wrote. Instead, the company will “label Tweets to provide context.”

Despite that new rule, links to the Post article initially remained blocked, because it also violated Twitter’s policy on sharing private personal information, another spokesperson for Twitter posted last night. But Twitter ultimately backed down from that stance too, allowing the story to circulate as it broadly rethought its treatment of posts about hacked information.1 “Why the changes?” Gadde wrote. “We want to address the concerns that there could be many unintended consequences to journalists, whistleblowers, and others in ways that are contrary to Twitter’s purpose of serving the public conversation.”

Rather than solve Twitter’s hacked data dilemma, though, Twitter’s backpedaling on its policy has only highlighted just how stuck it is between impossible options, says Clint Watts, a disinformation-focused senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University and author of the book Messing With the Enemy. And it may also leave Twitter open to exploitation by a well-crafted hack-and-leak operation, just as Russian hackers carried out in 2016.

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“It’s a super difficult problem to thread,” Watts says. “If they didn’t take that down, and it turns out to be a foreign op, and it changes the course of the election, they’re going to be right back testifying in front of Congress, hammered with regulation and fines.” After all, Twitter faced widespread criticism for allowing itself to be exploited ahead of the 2016 election by Kremlin hackers who distributed information stolen from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, as well as by disinformation trolls working for the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency.

In response to those incidents, Twitter implemented its rule against the “distribution of hacked materials” in 2018, which banned posting hacked content directly or linking to other sites that hosted it. Critics of the policy, however, argued that it also risked blocking legitimate news stories in the public interest if they are based on information released without authorization.

“There’s incredible journalism that starts with hacked materials,” says Lorax B. Horne, editor in chief of the whistle-blowing “leaks” group known as Distributed Denial of Secrets, or DDoSecrets.2 DDoSecrets published a massive collection of internal memos, financial records, and other data stolen from 200-plus police organizations in June, and told WIRED that the information had been given to them by a transparency-focused hacker affiliated with Anonymous. Journalists dug through the material and found revealing stories about police misperceptions of antifa and Homeland Security surveillance practices, including those focused on Black Lives Matter protestors.

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The iPhone 12 Is a Smartphone Made for Our Terrible Times

At last, some good news! It’s been a difficult few months, but Apple is ready to help lift your spirits. On Tuesday, the company finally introduced the iPhone 12, in four different variants and a smattering of delightful colors. Could this be the best thing that has happened in 2020? Maybe!

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This was a very special Apple event. Because it’s still not safe to gather in crowds, the usual hoopla was abandoned in favor of a series of prerecorded videos. But you didn’t need to be there to understand that this is the most dramatic iPhone release in years. The new model uses Apple’s new A14 Bionic system on a chip, which has 11.8 billion transistors spread across six cores and powers a whole slew of cool new features.

The Big Picture

The feature that will have the biggest day-to-day impact for most users is the improved set of cameras. When you’re living through history, you really want to have the best possible image capture at your fingertips. The sky can now turn bright orange because of how much of the planet is on fire, and the iPhone 12’s Deep Fusion computational photography system and Smart HDR 3 system will help you catch every last surreal hue. Future generations may not believe it was ever blue, so now is the time to take your final beautiful shots of the horizon using the new 12 megapixel f/1.8 “wide” camera. Kudos, as always, to Apple’s hardware engineers for designing the devices we’ll need in this previously unfathomable future.

Some have speculated that the front-facing cameras’ FaceID unlocking feature may be significantly faster on the new phones. This is all a bit theoretical for now, given that your face will always be covered by a mask. Still, it’s nice to know that the feature will be waiting for us if we do ever manage to develop a vaccine. Also, credit where it’s due: Apple’s is one of the only widespread facial-recognition technologies on the market that helps people instead of surveilling them.

In the meantime, the stress of long-term isolation has made it more important than ever to keep in touch with your support network, particularly if your terrible health insurance doesn’t include mental health benefits. This is still technically a phone, after all, even if the unchecked proliferation of spam callers makes it nearly impossible to use it as one. Tools like Facetime are absolutely vital when you can’t safely see your friends and family in person, and on the iPhone 12 you’ll always look great no matter how you’re actually doing. FaceTime is end-to-end encrypted, too, so your conversations will be private—although if you’re really worried about that you should probably just switch to Signal.

The Silver Lining

The iPhone 12 does its part to keep up with the breakneck pace of life in 2020. Connectivity speeds have been dramatically upgraded, with the new models all operating over high-speed 5G networks and delivering data at up to 4 gigabits per second. That’s especially welcome given that most of the mainstream internet is now bloated with ads that are difficult to block from mobile device operating systems. I guess you could try to solve that problem by addressing the underlying economic forces, but as usual Apple has a more elegant solution: Just move everything to higher speeds!

At this week’s unveiling event, Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out that faster connectivity also helps improve your personal security, since you won’t need to connect to the internet as often via sketchy Wi-Fi hot spots. He’s right: You really can’t afford to trust foreign networks anymore. At the very least, you have to use a VPN service anytime you connect to the internet through a network that you don’t personally control. In fact, it may even be wise to just use a VPN all the time, even over your own connection, now that the FCC has explicitly allowed ISPs to undermine net neutrality and the FBI doesn’t need a warrant to examine your browsing history. Whether you pay for an extra layer of protection or not, 5G is a big deal.

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Celebrity star Betelgeuse is smaller and closer to us than we thought – CNET

Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse.

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/E. O'Gorman/P. Kervella

If you're experiencing the creepy sensation of someone breathing down your neck, it might be Betelgeuse. The infamous star -- subject of an exciting will-it-or-won't-it supernova discussion earlier this year -- may be much closer to Earth than we suspected.

Betelgeuse is a red supergiant and it's monstrous compared with the size of our sun. A study published in The Astrophysical Journal this week unveils some new calculations of the star's mass and distance, and gives us an estimate for when it's likely to go supernova. 

The speculation around Betelgeuse exploding kicked into high gear when the star went through some odd dimming and brightening episodes starting in late 2019. Scientists believe a dust cloud caused one of these events. "We found the second smaller event was likely due to the pulsations of the star," said lead author Meridith Joyce, in a statement from The Australian National University (ANU) on Friday. 

The science team used modeling to sort out what was going with the pulsations, tracing it to what co-author Shing-Chi Leung of the University of Tokyo described as "pressure waves -- essentially, sound waves." This activity helped the researchers figure out where the star is in its life cycle.

Scientists had previously estimated this as the size of Betelgeuse compared with our solar system, but the new study revises that estimate down. 

ESO

The upshot is that Betelgeuse isn't in danger of going supernova anytime soon. It could easily take 100,000 years before it gets to that stage. This is in line with what other scientists have suggested.

The study also shakes up our knowledge of the star's size. "The actual physical size of Betelgeuse has been a bit of a mystery -- earlier studies suggested it could be bigger than the orbit of Jupiter. Our results say Betelgeuse only extends out to two thirds of that, with a radius 750 times the radius of the sun," said co-author Laszlo Molnar of the Konkoly Observatory in Budapest.

With Betelgeuse's size dialed in better, the team was able to make a more accurate calculation of its distance from Earth, placing it at around 530 light-years away, or about 25% closer than previously known. That's still plenty far enough that Earth won't be harmed by Betelgeuse's future explosion.

"It's still a really big deal when a supernova goes off. And this is our closest candidate. It gives us a rare opportunity to study what happens to stars like this before they explode," Joyce said.   

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This Book Will Change How You See Game of Thrones

James Hibberd’s book Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, about the making of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones, draws on more than 50 new interviews with the cast and crew—many of them more revealing than anything that came out when the show was on the air.

“I knew there was an opportunity to circle back on some of the controversies, and see if people would open up more now that the show is over, and they did,” Hibberd says in Episode 436 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Game of Thrones was a lightning rod for controversy throughout its eight-year run, and many fans have second-guessed the choices made by showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Hibberd hopes his book gives readers a clearer understanding of why those decisions were made.

“One thing I was trying to do throughout the book is, ‘You might like something, you might not like something, but here’s why certain decisions were made, and why people did what they did, and what the thinking was behind it,’” he says.

The book makes it clear that Game of Thrones was a gamble from start to finish, with Benioff and Weiss counting on the show becoming a cultural phenomenon just to reach the finish line. “It was such an incredible feat for them to pull that off, and a really ballsy thing to do,” Hibberd says. “You’re really just on a total high-wire act trying to do that.”

Hibberd also devotes six chapters to the show’s divisive final season. He hopes the book will appeal to those who enjoyed the ending as well as those who hated it. “I was trying to write it so it can either play out like watching the movie Titanic or like watching the movie Rudy, depending on your point of view,” he says. “I was trying not to put a thumb on the scale, and let the reader decide how they felt about everything as it went along.”

Listen to the complete interview with James Hibberd in Episode 436 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

James Hibberd on journalism:

“I don’t tend to take cheap shots, I don’t think, and I don’t make assumptions about, why somebody did something unless I know why they did something. In other words, I don’t go from ‘this was a bad decision’ to ‘this was a bad decision that they clearly did because they wanted this or wanted that,’ when I don’t know. And I think that just comes from being a reporter all my life. The fewer assumptions you can make, the better off you are and the more accurate what you’re doing is going to be.”

James Hibberd on season 8:

“I think the average fan has a much clearer sense of how it played than I do, because they watched it correctly —they watched it relaxed, and enjoying it, and not knowing what was going to happen. I came into it having known everything, and I also have my laptop open in front of me—I didn’t see the episodes in advance—I’m frantically taking notes for my recap, and preparing to post my postmortems. So the way I watched it was all screwed up, because I was in the middle of working through it. So it’s really hard for me to put on a ‘TV critic’ hat.”

James Hibberd on George R.R. Martin:

“We talked for hours at his favorite restaurant in Santa Fe. He was really candid. When you read his quotes, you’re never quite sure which direction he’s going to go on something, because there are things that he really praises about the show, and there are things where he’s really critical about the show. The journey for him in this is very emotionally complex, and he’s pretty open about that—you can sort of feel the emotional complexity as he goes on. So of all the things in the book, I was most happy with the interview that I had with George.”

James Hibberd on HBO:

“[The showrunners] were looking at this as, ‘How do we do [George’s ending] on our budget? We can’t do anything close to that. The only way we could do it is as movies, so maybe the final season can basically be three movies instead.’ … I called HBO for a comment. They had a big reaction, and then there was a whole summit meeting between HBO and the showrunners about it. HBO did not want to do that, because they’re not in the business of doing movies. They’re not in the business of saying, ‘OK, now that you’ve watched a show on our network for seven years, go to a movie theater to see how it ends.’”


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ISS oxygen supply system in Russian module fails, but the crew is OK – CNET

The ISS is facing a few issues with an ongoing air leak and problems with an oxygen supply system in the station's Zvezda module. 

NASA

The International Space Station is all about redundancy. There's more than one toilet on the ISS, and there's more than one oxygen supply system that provides precious air for the crew in orbit. It's still not great when one of those systems fails.

 An oxygen supply system in the Russian-built Zvezda module of the station failed Wednesday, according to an AFP report. It's not the only oxygen generation system on board, so the crew of six -- which includes three new arrivals from NASA and Roscosmos -- is not in danger.

A Roscosmos spokesperson told AFP that the crew will work to repair the issue this week.

Zvezda has been in orbit for 20 years. NASA describes it as "the early cornerstone for the first human habitation of the station." It contains living quarters, flight systems and life support systems. 

This is the latest in a series of air-related issues on the ISS. The crew and ground controllers have been trying to track down a lingering air leak that was recently traced to the Zvezda module. There's no indication yet if there's a connection between the leak and the oxygen system. 

CNET reached out to NASA, but didn't immediately hear back.

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