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Technology

Twitter Bots Poised to Spread Disinformation Before Election

Be aware: Fake Twitter accounts will very likely sow disinformation in the few remaining days before Election Day on Nov. 3.This week, researchers at the University of Southern California released a new study that identified thousands of automated accounts, or “bots,” on Twitter posting information related to President Trump, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and their campaigns. The study examined over 240 million election-related tweets from June through September.Many of these bots, the study said, spread falsehoods related to the coronavirus and far-right conspiracy theories such QAnon and “pizzagate.” The study said that bots accounted for 20 percent of all tweets involving these political conspiracy theories.“These bots are an integral part of the discussion” on social media, said Emilio Ferrar...

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Sports

Disinformation Moves From Social Networks to Texts

Last week, a political action committee called the American Principles Project unveiled a new video on Twitter falsely claiming that Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden Jr. supported sex changes for 8-year-olds.Since Friday, a similar video has also appeared on Facebook as many as 100,000 times — primarily in Michigan, a swing state in the Nov. 3 election.What has been harder to pinpoint is how widely the video has been spreading through text messages.Though companies like Facebook and Twitter have developed tools for tracking and policing disinformation on their social networks, texting activity is largely a free-for-all that receives little scrutiny from tech companies and government regulators.“There is no way to audit this,” said Jacob Gursky, a research associate at the...

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Business

The pandemic has pushed some Silicon Valley start-ups back into the garage.

Designing and creating new technology — never an easy task — has become far more difficult in the pandemic.This is particularly true for companies building batteries, computer chips, robots, self-driving cars and any other technology that involves more than software code. While many American workers can get by with a laptop and an internet connection, start-up engineers piecing together new kinds of hardware also need circuit boards, car parts, soldering irons, microscopes and, at the end of it all, an assembly line.But Silicon Valley is not the home of ingenuity for nothing. When the pandemic hit, many start-up engineers in the area moved their gear into their homes so they could keep innovating, The New York Times’s Cade Metz reports.For example, an engineer at Cerebras Systems, a sta...

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Business

When Start-Ups Go Into the Garage (or Sometimes the Living Room)

SAN FRANCISCO — It is the folksiest of Silicon Valley origin stories: Tech start-up makes it big after a wide-eyed entrepreneur builds a prototype in his garage. But Colin Wessells could never have imagined that a pandemic would force him back into the garage just to keep his company going.Mr. Wessells, 34, is one of the founders and the chief executive of Natron Energy, a start-up building a new kind of battery. In March, when social distancing orders shuttered his company’s offices in Santa Clara, Calif., he and his engineers could no longer use the lab where they tested the batteries. So he packed as much of the equipment as he could into a sport utility vehicle, drove it home and recreated part of the lab in his garage.“It was only a fraction of the test equipment,” Mr. Wessels said...

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Technology

Ann Syrdal, Who Helped Give Computers a Female Voice, Dies at 74

Ann Syrdal, a psychologist and computer science researcher who helped develop synthetic voices that sounded like women, laying the groundwork for such modern digital assistants as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, died on July 24 at her home in San Jose, Calif. She was 74.Her daughter Kristen Lasky said the cause was cancer.As a researcher at AT&T, Dr. Syrdal was part of a small community of scientists who began developing synthetic speech systems in the mid-1980s.It was not an entirely new phenomenon; AT&T had unveiled one of the first synthetic voices, developed at its Bell Labs, at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. But more than 40 years later, despite increasingly powerful computers, speech synthesis was still relatively primitive.“It just sounded robotic,” said Tom Gru...

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