Technology

Commerce Department Asks F.C.C. to Narrow Protections for Web Platforms

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration asked the Federal Communications Commission this week to narrow its interpretation of a law that shields internet platforms like Facebook and YouTube from certain lawsuits over the content they host.The request, which stems from an executive order President Trump signed in May, is part of a growing push by the president and his allies, who say that tech companies are removing or suppressing conservative content. Despite evidence that conservative sites and figures perform well online, the president, along with much of his conservative base, have repeatedly criticized the platforms over instances in which conservative content was removed or otherwise moderated for violating a platform’s rules.In a petition on Monday, the Department of Commerce asked ...

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Technology

A Possible Weapon Against the Pandemic: Printing Human Tissue

This article is part of our continuing Fast Forward series, which examines technological, economic, social and cultural shifts that happen as businesses evolve.As shortages of personal protective equipment persist during the coronavirus pandemic, 3-D printing has helped to alleviate some of the gaps. But Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and his team are using the process in a more innovative way: creating tiny replicas of human organs — some as small as a pinhead — to test drugs to fight Covid-19.The team is constructing miniature lungs and colons — two organs particularly affected by the coronavirus — then sending them overnight by courier for testing at a biosafety lab at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. While they initially cr...

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Technology

‘Challenge Accepted’: Why Women Are Posting Black-and-White Selfies

Over the past several days, many Instagram feeds have been overrun with black-and-white images of women both famous and not.These photographs are often posed and filtered, taken from flattering angles and accompanied by benign captions about “supporting women.”“Love this simple way to lift each other up. #challengeaccepted. Thank you for nominating me @vanessabryant,” the model Cindy Crawford posted on Monday along with a black-and-white photo of herself strolling on a beach that looks ripped from a Calvin Klein advertisement.The premise of the “challenge accepted” trend is that these photos promote female empowerment, and that nominating friends to take part in the campaign is a way for women to support each other.So far, more than 3 million photos have been uploaded with the #Challeng...

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Technology

Uber and Lyft Drivers Win Ruling on Unemployment Benefits

Drivers for Uber and Lyft won a key victory on Tuesday in their continuing effort to be treated like other workers when a federal judge in New York ruled that the state must promptly begin paying them unemployment benefits.Many drivers have waged a long legal and political battle with the companies over their employment status. Uber and Lyft have maintained that drivers are independent contractors who are not entitled to standard employment protections, such as a minimum wage, overtime pay and unemployment insurance.The companies have gone to elaborate lengths to prosecute this argument, including spending tens of millions of dollars on a ballot measure that would exempt their drivers from a California law that effectively classifies them as employees.In her ruling, Judge LaShann DeArcy...

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Technology

Their Businesses Went Virtual. Then Apple Wanted a Cut.

ClassPass built its business on helping people book exercise classes at local gyms. So when the pandemic forced gyms across the United States to close, the company shifted to virtual classes.Then ClassPass received a concerning message from Apple. Because the classes it sold on its iPhone app were now virtual, Apple said it was entitled to 30 percent of the sales, up from no fee previously, according to a person close to ClassPass who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of upsetting Apple. The iPhone maker said it was merely enforcing a decade-old rule.Airbnb experienced similar demands from Apple after it began an “online experiences” business that offered virtual cooking classes, meditation sessions and drag-queen shows, augmenting the in-person experiences it started selling...

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Technology

What to Do About TikTok

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays.Don’t ban TikTok. Restrain it. And then apply those same restraints to the American internet powers, too.That’s what Kevin Roose, a New York Times technology columnist, wrote in his latest column about TikTok, the app owned by an internet giant based in Beijing. Some U.S. officials worry that the app could let China’s government spy on Americans or spread propaganda.I talked with Kevin about his proposed fix to make TikTok — and American internet companies, too — more open and less data-hogging, and how to sniff out the valid concerns about the video app from the less legitimate ones.Shira: Let’s start with TikTok. What are the reasonable concerns about it?Kevin: Because TikTok is owned by a Chin...

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Technology

Fighting False News in Ukraine, Facebook Fact Checkers Tread a Blurry Line

MOSCOW — To understand the complexity of policing online disinformation, consider the small Ukrainian fact-checking group StopFake.Earlier this year, Facebook hired StopFake to help curb the flow of Russian propaganda and other false news across its platform in Ukraine.StopFake, like all of Facebook’s outside fact checkers, signed a pledge to be nonpartisan and not to focus its checks “on any one side.” But in recent weeks, StopFake has been battling accusations of ties to the Ukrainian far right and of bias in its fact-checking. The episode has raised thorny questions for Facebook over whom it allows to separate truth from lies — and who is considered a neutral fact checker in a country at war.“They are empowering these organizations and these people to be making calls about what kind ...

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