US Government, Intel Aim for Nation’s Fastest Computer 

A U.S. government-led group is working with chipmaker Intel and Cray to develop and build the nation’s fastest computer by 2021 for conducting nuclear weapons and other research, officials said Monday.

The Department of Energy and the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago said they were working on a supercomputer dubbed Aurora with Intel, the world’s biggest supplier of data center chips, and Cray, which specializes in the ultra-fast machines. 

The $500 million contract for the project calls on the companies to deliver a computer with so-called exaflop performance — that is, being able to perform 1 quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) calculations per second.

If the project succeeds, Aurora would represent nearly an order of magnitude leap over existing machines that feature so-called petaflop performance, capable of doing 1 quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) calculations a second. 

It also heightens the stakes in a race in which the United States, China, the European Union and Japan have all announced plans to build exaflop-capable supercomputers. 

One of Aurora’s primary functions would be simulating nuclear blasts, a pillar of weapons development since the ban of live detonation testings.

Aurora will be built with artificial intelligence capabilities for projects such as developing better battery materials and helping the Department of Veterans Affairs prevent suicides, Rick Stevens, an associate lab director with Argonne overseeing the exascale computing project, said during a news 

briefing.

The project is a win for Intel, which will supply its Xeon CPU chips and Optane memory chips for Aurora. 

Intel has been fending off rival U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp.’s rise in the chip content of supercomputers as the machines take on more artificial intelligence work. Nvidia’s chips are found in five of the world’s current top 10 supercomputers, though the Nvidia chips are found alongside chips from its rivals, according to TOP500, which ranks the machines.

The world’s current most powerful machine, the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, contains chips from International Business Machines Corp. and Nvidia.

The source of chips for supercomputers has become a factor in trade tensions between the United States and China. The world’s third-fastest supercomputer — the Sunway TaihuLight in China — has chips developed domestically in China. 

Chirag Dekate, an analyst with Gartner who studies the supercomputing market, said that despite the small contract size relative to Intel’s overall revenue, the work done on Aurora will eventually filter down to the company’s commercial customers. 

“It’s not just a jingoistic race between the U.S. and China,” Dekate said. “The innovations that Intel is developing here will percolate down to other parts of its business.” 

Facebook Says Service Hindered by Lack of Local News

Facebook’s effort to establish a service that provides its users with local news and information is being hindered by the lack of outlets where the company’s technicians can find original reporting.

The service, launched last year, is currently available in some 400 cities in the United States. But the social media giant said it has found that 40 percent of Americans live in places where there weren’t enough local news stories to support it.

Facebook announced Monday it would share its research with academics at Duke, Harvard, Minnesota and North Carolina who are studying the extent of news deserts created by newspaper closures and staff downsizing .

Some 1,800 newspapers have closed in the United States over the last 15 years, according to the University of North Carolina. Newsroom employment has declined by 45 percent as the industry struggles with a broken business model partly caused by the success of companies on the Internet, including Facebook.

The Facebook service, called ”Today In ,” collects news stories from various local outlets, along with government and community groups. The company deems a community unsuitable for “Today In” if it cannot find a single day in a month with at least five news items available to share.

There’s not a wide geographical disparity. For example, the percentage of news deserts is higher in the Northeast and Midwest, at 43 percent, Facebook said. In the South and West, the figure is 38 percent.

“It affirms the fact that we have a real lack of original local reporting,” said Penelope Muse Abernathy, a University of North Carolina professor who studies the topic. She said she hopes the data helps pinpoint areas where the need is greatest, eventually leading to some ideas for solutions.

Facebook doesn’t necessarily have the answers. “Everyone can learn from working together,” said Anne Kornblut, director of news initiatives at the company.

The company plans to award some 100 grants, ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, to people with ideas for making more news available, said Josh Mabry, head of local news partnerships for Facebook.

That comes on top of $300 million in grants Facebook announced in January to help programs and partnerships designed to boost local news.

The company doesn’t plan to launch newsgathering efforts of its own, Kornblut said.

“Our history has been — and we will probably stick to it — to let journalists do what they do well and let us support them and let them do their work,” she said.

Facebook Still Working to Remove All Videos of New Zealand Terrorist Attack

Facebook is continuing to work to remove all video of the mass shooting in New Zealand which the perpetrator livestreamed Friday, the company said Sunday.

“We will continue working directly with New Zealand Police as their response and investigation continues,” Mia Garlick of Facebook New Zealand said in a statement Sunday.

Garlick said that the company is currently working to remove even edited versions of the original video which do not contain graphic content, “Out of respect for the people affected by this tragedy and the concerns of local authorities.”

In the 24 hours following the mass shooting, which left 50 people dead, Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the attack, of which 1.2 million were blocked at upload, the company said.

Facebook’s most recent comments follow criticism of the platform after the shooter not only livestreamed the 17 graphic minutes of his rampage, using a camera mounted on his helmet, but also had posted a 74-page white supremacist manifesto on Facebook.

Earlier Sunday, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference that there were “further questions to be answered” by Facebook and other social media platforms.

“We did as much as we could to remove or seek to have removed some of the footage that was being circulated in the aftermath of this terrorist attack. Ultimately, though, it has been up to those platforms to facilitate their removal and support their removal,” she said.

The attack came during Friday prayers when the Al Noor Mosque and the nearby Linwood Mosque were filled with hundreds of worshippers. The victims of Friday’s shooting included immigrants from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Social Media Scramble to Remove New Zealand Suspect’s Video

They built their services for sharing, allowing users to reach others around the world. Now they want people to hold back.  

 

Facebook and other social media companies battled their own services on Friday as they tried to delete copies of a video apparently recorded by the gunman as he killed 49 people and wounded scores of others in the attack on two New Zealand mosques Friday.  

 

The video was livestreamed on the suspect’s Facebook account and later reposted on other services.  

 

According to news reports, Facebook took down the livestream of the attack 20 minutes after it was posted and removed the suspect’s accounts. But people were able to capture the video and repost it on other sites, including YouTube, Twitter and Reddit.  

 

YouTube has tweeted that it is “working to remove any violent footage.” A post from one user on Reddit asks others not to “post the videos. If you see the videos, bring it to the moderators’ attention.” 

 

Criticism of pace

 

Despite the companies’ quick actions, they still came under fire for not being fast enough. Critics said the platforms should have better systems in place to locate and remove content, instead of a system that helps others facilitate its spread once something is posted. 

 

One critic, Tom Watson, a member of the British Parliament and deputy leader of the Labor Party, called for YouTube to stop all new videos from being posted on the site if it could not stop the spread of the New Zealand video.  

Resistance to censorship

The companies’ race to stamp out the New Zealand video highlighted the dilemma that social media companies have faced, particularly as they have allowed livestreaming.  

 

Built on users’ content, Facebook, YouTube and others have long resisted the arduous task of censoring objectionable content.   

 

At hearings in Washington or in media interviews, executives of these firms have said that untrue information is in itself not against their terms of service.

Instead of removing information deemed fake or objectionable, social media companies have tried to frame the information with fact checking or have demoted the information on their sites, making it harder for people to find.

That is what Facebook appears to be doing with the anti-vaccination content on its site. Earlier this month, Facebook said it would curtail anti-vaccination information on its platforms, including blocking advertising that contains false information about vaccines. It did not say it would remove users expressing anti-vaccination content.

But sometimes the firms do remove accounts. Last year, Facebook, Twitter and others removed from their platforms Alex Jones, an American commentator, used for spreading conspiracy theories and stirring hatred.  

 

More monitors

 

In the past year, some social media companies have hired more people to monitor content so that issues are flagged faster, rather than having to wait for other users or the firm’s algorithms to flag objectionable content.

With the New Zealand shooting video, Facebook and other firms appeared to be in lockstep, saying they would remove the content as quickly as they found it.  

 

But there have been more calls for human and technical solutions that can quickly stop the spread of content across the internet. 

Facebook Product Chief Cox to Leave in Latest Executive Exit

Facebook Inc said on Thursday Chief Product Officer Chris Cox will leave the social media network after 13 years, adding to a recent string of high-profile exits.

Also departing is WhatsApp Vice President Chris Daniels, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post. The company does not immediately plan to appoint anyone to fill Cox’s role in the near term, he said.

Cox, among the first Facebook hires, gained oversight of WhatsApp and Instagram following the exits of their founders. In September, Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger resigned as chief executive officer and chief technical officer of the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook.

Jan Koum, the co-founder of WhatsApp, left in April last year.

“As Mark has outlined, we are turning a new page in our product direction, focused on an encrypted, interoperable, messaging network. …This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through,” Cox said in a Facebook post.

Will Cathcart, vice president of product management, will now lead WhatsApp and Head of Video, Games and Monetization Fidji Simo will be the new head of the Facebook app, Zuckerberg said.

US General: Google’s Work in China Benefiting China’s Military

The United States’ top general said on Thursday that the Chinese military was benefiting from the work Alphabet Inc’s Google was doing in China, where the technology giant has long sought to have a bigger presence.

“The work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military,” Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing that there is that indirect benefit,” he said.

“Frankly, ‘indirect’ may be not a full characterization of the way it really is, it is more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military.”

Last year Google said it was no longer vying for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the U.S. Defense Department, in part because the company’s new ethical guidelines do not align with the project.

In June, Google said it would not renew a contract to help the U.S. military analyze aerial drone imagery when it expires, as the company sought to defuse an internal uproar over the deal.

At the same time, Google said it has “no plans” to relaunch a search engine in China, though it is continuing to study the idea.

During the hearing, Republican Senator Josh Hawley sharply criticized the tech company, referring to it as “a supposedly American company.”

Technology companies have recently been a favorite target of many members of the U.S. Congress, who have criticized them over a wide range of issues such as privacy, work in China and allowing foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

Lawmakers and Google employees have raised concerns the company would comply with China’s internet censorship and surveillance policies if it re-enters the Asian nation’s search engine market.

Asked about Dunford’s comments, Google referred to previous statements.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has previously said the company has invested in China for years and plans to continue to do so, but that the company also was continuing to work with the U.S. government on projects in health care, cybersecurity and other fields.

Instagram Returns After Outage; Facebook Still Down for Some

Instagram is back up after suffering a partial outage for more than several hours, the photo-sharing social network platform said in a tweet, but its parent Facebook Inc.’s app still seemed to be down for some users around the globe.

Certain users had trouble in accessing widely used Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook apps earlier Wednesday, in one of the longest outages faced by the company in the recent past.

“Anddddd… we’re back,” Instagram tweeted:

Facebook did not provide an update.

Social media users in parts of United States, Japan and some parts Europe were affected by the outage, according to DownDetector’s live outage map. Facebook users, including brand marketers, expressed their outrage on Twitter with the #facebookdown hashtag.

“Ya’ll, I haven’t gotten my daily dosage of dank memes and I think that’s why I’m cranky. #FacebookDown,” a user Mayra Mesina tweeted. 

The Menlo Park, California-based company, which gets a vast majority of its revenue from advertising, told Bloomberg that it was still investigating the overall impact “including the possibility of refunds for advertisers.”

A Facebook spokesman confirmed the partial outage, but did not provide an update. The social networking site had issues for more than 12 hours, according to its developer’s page.

Facebook took to Twitter to inform users that it was working to resolve the issue as soon as possible and confirmed that the matter was not related to a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

In a DDoS attack, hackers use computer networks they control to send such a large number of requests for information from websites that servers that host them can no longer handle the traffic and the sites become unreachable.

Facebook, Instagram Suffer Outages

Facebook says it is aware of outages on its platforms including Facebook, Messenger and Instagram, and is working to resolve the issue.

According to downdector.com, which monitors websites, the outages started around 12 p.m. E.T. on Wednesday in parts of the U.S., including the East and West Coast, parts of Europe and elsewhere. Both Facebook’s desktop site and app appeared to be affected. Some users saw a message that said Facebook was down for “required maintenance.”

Facebook did not say what was causing the outages, which were still occurring as of 2:15 p.m. E.T., or which regions were affected.

Spotify Files EU Antitrust Complaint Against Apple 

Spotify has filed a complaint with European Union antitrust regulators against Apple, saying the iPhone maker unfairly limits rivals to its own Apple Music streaming service. 

Spotify, which launched a year after the 2007 launch of the iPhone, said on Wednesday that Apple’s control of its App Store deprived consumers of choice and rival providers of audio streaming services to the benefit of Apple Music, which began in 2015. 

Central to Spotify’s complaint, filed with the European Commission on Monday, is what it says is a 30 percent fee Apple charges content-based service providers to use Apple’s in-app purchase system (IAP). 

Forced to raise price

Horacio Gutierrez, Spotify’s general counsel, said the company was pressured into using the billing system in 2014, but then was forced to raise the monthly fee of its premium service from 9.99 to 12.99 euros, just as Apple Music launched at Spotify’s initial 9.99 price. 

Spotify then ceased use of Apple’s IAP system, meaning Spotify customers could only upgrade to the fee-based package indirectly, such as on a laptop. 

Under App Store rules, Spotify said, content-based apps could not include buttons or external links to pages with production information, discounts or promotions and faced difficulties fixing bugs. Such restrictions do not apply to Android phones, it said. 

“Promotions are essential to our business. This is how we convert our free customers to premium,” Gutierrez said. 

Voice recognition system Siri would not hook iPhone users up to Spotify, and Apple declined to let Spotify launch an app on its Apple Watch, Spotify said. 

Spotify declined to say what economic damage it believed it had suffered. 

“We feel confident in the economic analysis we have submitted to the commission that we could have done better than we have done so far,” Gutierrez said.