Twitter will crack down on automation and simultaneous actions across multiple accounts

twitter-e1506460732539 Twitter will crack down on automation and simultaneous actions across multiple accounts

(Reuters) — Twitter said on Wednesday it would no longer allow people to post identical messages from multiple accounts, cracking down on a tactic that Russian agents and others have allegedly used to make tweets or topics go viral.

The San Francisco-based social network also said it would not allow people to use software to simultaneously perform other actions such as liking or retweeting from multiple accounts.

Twitter, known for freewheeling discussions in short messages, is under pressure from users and Western governments to stem the spread of false news and foreign propaganda, often done with the help of automated accounts known as bots.

Twitter bots disseminated propaganda before the 2016 U.S. elections and have continued to inflame U.S. politics under cover of anonymity, academic researchers and U.S. authorities say.

On Friday, the office of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies, including St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency known for trolling on social media. The court document said those accused “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

Twitter’s new restrictions are aimed at improving “information quality,” Yoel Roth of the company’s policy team said.

“These changes are an important step in ensuring we stay ahead of malicious activity targeting the crucial conversations taking place on Twitter – including elections in the United States and around the world,” Roth said in a statement.

Posting identical messages to multiple accounts, or simultaneously retweeting or liking a message from multiple accounts, could help vault something into Twitter’s trending list, giving a false impression of how viral it is among real people.

Twitter said it would give users until March 23 to comply before suspending accounts. It made an exception for bots of broad interest such as earthquake alerts.

Twitter has cracked down on other violations of its terms of service, including fake accounts by people inflating their following.

Some U.S. users with conservative politics complained their number of followers had gone down after Twitter asked them to verify their identity. #TwitterLockOut was among the trending topics.

Former Twitter user Jared Taylor, editor of the white supremacist magazine American Renaissance, sued Twitter on Tuesday in state court in San Francisco, saying the decision to ban him violated California law governing “privately owned public forums.” Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Another company, privately held online publisher Medium, recently removed accounts belonging to far-right U.S. commentators including Mike Cernovich, who said on his Twitter account on Wednesday that Medium was acting unlawfully.

Medium said it would not discuss individual accounts, but a recent rule change banned people from spreading “disinformation.”

twitter-e1506460732539 Twitter will crack down on automation and simultaneous actions across multiple accounts


Find Your Grind and ReKTGlobal team up for $450,000 in esports scholarships

hannahathertonscholarship Find Your Grind and ReKTGlobal team up for $450,000 in esports scholarships

Find Your Grind (FYG) has partnered with esports platform ReKTGlobal to create a scholarship program for students and others who want to pursue esports. Each year, the two will be offering $450,000 through the program, which focuses on high school students but is open to anyone.

FYG founder Nick Gross says that esports aptitude isn’t a prerequisite for applicants. Instead, the program is searching for people who have “identified a purpose and a direction” and demonstrate a passion for competitive gaming. ReKTGlobal will also be connecting recipients with folks in the industry and professional players. The scholarships aren’t earmarked for any particular purpose; when students receive one, they can use it for anything, such as college tuition or buying computer equipment.

In 2017, the organization began offering several different types of scholarships aside from esports. It started out focusing on music, art, and technology awards and programs. It has teamed up with Will.I.Am’s I.Am.Angel Foundation, which helps prepare kids for college and provides scholarships.

Through a partnership with memorabilia company Jostens, FYG is on tour until April to speak to high school students about opportunities in creative fields.

“Think Tony Robbins meets Vans Warped Tour,” said Gross in an email to GamesBeat. “We’re really trying to break the mold of ‘the perfect grades equals the perfect college equals the perfect life.’ At each of the events this year we’ve elected two students who embody our scholarship principal of ‘stories not scores’ — our scholarship program supports the kids who have identified a purpose and a direction by helping them take that next step. ”

ReKTGlobal specializes in esports infrastructure, such as building venues for competitions and bringing esports events to conventions. FYG partnered with it to help strategize and execute the new esports scholarship. ReKTGlobal will also be guiding the organization in future events and membership programs.

I became an investor [in ReKTGlobal] last year, and during every FYG tour stop the No. 1 request we’d get are that the kids wanted to learn more about esports/gaming,” said Gross. “90 percent of kids these days are about playing or watching esports/gaming, so this was a void that was missing which REKTGlobal helps fill.”

FYG’s new program doesn’t just award folks who want to play esports. It also offers other scholarships geared toward various gaming-related disciplines, such as cosplaying, concept art for games, and esports commentating. And though it’s previously focused on encouraging high schoolers to pursue creative opportunities, Gross says that they decided to open up the esports scholarship to everyone. He says that by taking applications for a wide array of skills as well as from various demographics will encourage diversity in the industry.

“We wanted [the scholarships] to be available for the entire esports ecosystem, whether you’re a 30-year-old aspiring gamer or a 14-year-old cosplay fanatic,” said Gross. “It’s important that we open this up to the entire community and not just limit it to high school students.”

Esports is slated to hit $906 million in revenues this year, according to market researcher Newzoo. And the audience will continue to grow — the analyst predicts that esports fans will grow to 250 million strong by 2021.

hannahathertonscholarship Find Your Grind and ReKTGlobal team up for $450,000 in esports scholarships

Virtual reality is poised for big business-to-business sales

virtual-reality-1 Virtual reality is poised for big business-to-business sales

Why is the allure of virtual reality in the enterprise becoming increasingly difficult to resist for many marketers? Are there real-world use cases in business-to-business (B2B) marketing today, and will these translate into sales venues any time soon?

While some companies are active in VR and AR in the enterprise, many large businesses have been hesitant to leap into VR. This is true because the focus has been all about the technology and not as much about the potential value of these kinds of applications. Simply creating a VR application for the sake of the VR experience has no inherent value to the customer, nor does it have any value to the marketer, other than the hype it generates. After the hype wears off, however, one is left with nothing sustainable, in terms of brand association, recall or customer loyalty.

The evolution of the virtual

VR has been around for a long time. The first public experience of this kind was the Sensorama, unveiled in 1962 as a multi-sensory 3D stereoscopic movie experience that included stereo sound and even aromas to complete the “real life” simulation.

Since then, the technology has evolved substantially and is most commonly delivered in the form of a head-mounted display, which has become more popular for computer games than any other application. When one looks at virtual reality in the enterprise, we are really early in the Technology Adoption Lifecycle – in fact, we are just emerging from the “Innovation” stage and are beginning the “Early Adopter” phase. What this means is that the underlying technology is still advancing rapidly, but leading companies are willing to begin to solve important problems in this innovative way because of the significant benefits that would accrue were these early projects proven to be successful.

What is the real value of VR for marketing and sales? Well, the answer revolves around the notion of immersive experiences. When one dons a headset, all visual connection to the real world is suspended, and the user is immersed in the virtual 3D scene. (This is different from augmented reality, in which a combination of real-time views of the real world and digital objects are blended).

What this means for sales

For marketers, immersive applications are useful when complex products and solutions are difficult to understand in conventional experiences (such as presentations, or even touch-screen modes). Communicating a business outcome for complex products and solutions is extremely difficult to demonstrate “live” in the real-world with physical products or less tangible solutions (such as cloud computing, software data flows, electric grid re-routing, or molecular reactions). Demonstrating these complex solutions within a “virtual” immersive environment – such as a hospital, laboratory, data center, manufacturing plant, or oil refinery – that is contextually relevant to the user can be a highly effective way to help customers relate to what the product or solution is, how it works and why it will benefit them.

In 2017, Sirius Decisions reported that B2B salespeople’s top challenge is “their inability to communicate value differentiation.” This is why VR is starting to become a viable “early adopter” solution for many leading enterprises. Giving customers access to immersive platforms to learn about the relevant product or solution can realistically help marketers and salespeople overcome their biggest barrier to closing business.

For every company, this engagement-building with customers is a key element to developing long-lasting and lucrative relationships. At Kaon Interactive, we have identified three primary factors that contribute to successful engagement strategies:

  1. Multi-sensory engagement: Getting customers involved in learning about, and using, products in a way that involves multiple senses – touch, sight, sound and even smell all play a role.
  2. Intellectual engagement: Sharing relevant and useful information with customers so they have a meaningful experience learning about and using the company’s products and solutions.
  3. Emotional engagement: With B2B purchases, building an emotional connection is at least as important as creating a logical case for people to buy; and, continuing to develop emotional connections post-purchase leads to loyal customer relationships.

As an example, at Cisco Live in June 2017, Dell EMC used a VR application developed by Kaon Interactive for its enterprise prospects and customers. The application addressed a complex subject – how data centers are becoming more and more integrated to support the growth requirements of highly scalable applications and data repositories. This application uses VR to immerse the user inside the data center and look at how data flows using the cloud. End-user customers and prospects visualized their own IT transformation with converged and hyper-converged solutions, and thereby resulted in a deeper understanding of the company’s differentiated value propositions.


As VR hardware continues to evolve and become simpler for the mainstream, these experiences will become more useful in sales engagements. For example, Lenovo is the first to announce the availability of an all-in-one VR headset based on Google’s Daydream platform, which will deliver high-quality VR experiences with very little setup required. Another dimension of technology evolution that will dramatically impact B2B marketing is WebVR, the ability to deliver VR experiences on websites. Because of the recent launch of the Microsoft Mixed Reality platform, WebVR is now a reality and will become a pervasive VR environment for both B2C and B2B applications.

Immersive VR applications have the potential to transform the connection with between buyers and customers because they offer the ability to help them understand differentiated value by delivering the most engaging, personalized and truly useful experiences.

Gavin Finn is President and CEO of Kaon Interactive.

virtual-reality-1 Virtual reality is poised for big business-to-business sales

Heartland Tech Weekly: Tech’s growing obsession with income inequality

heartlandtech-newsletter Heartland Tech Weekly: Tech’s growing obsession with income inequality

Last week, I wrote about Venture for America founder Andrew Yang’s unlikely run for president, with the aim of convincing the general public about the need for universal basic income. Whether or not one agrees that UBI is a necessity in today’s digital economy, the stories highlighted in this week’s Heartland Tech newsletter show that inequality is increasingly becoming top of mind for tech companies and their executives.

Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes has a new book out today where he joins Yang in calling for the implementation of UBI. Meanwhile his former employer is giving troves of personal data to  Stanford researcher Raj Chetty, who will study the roles social divisions play in income inequality, Politico’s Nancy Scola reported.

Finally, as I reported yesterday, a tech think tank is calling for an overhaul of workforce training programs as artificial intelligence is poised to automate an array of tasks that workers perform today. But at the same time, the think tank — the Information Technology and Innovation Fund — came out against UBI, arguing that artificial intelligence won’t automate as many jobs as people fear.

What I feel is missing from these discussions is the hiring practices that may have contributed to income inequality. Certainly, automation threatens to disrupt the jobs of millions of Americans from Silicon Valley to the Heartland — as has been true with any new technology.  But when nearly 3 in 4 new jobs go to the 40 percent most prosperous ZIP codes in the U.S. — and companies with huge market caps like Facebook are often the ones adding these jobs — it’s not enough to simply look at how training and UBI can aid communities that are receiving fewer and fewer jobs.

As always, please send me your thoughts via email. And be sure to sign up for one of the remaining tickets to VentureBeat’s inaugural BLUEPRINT event, taking place in two weeks in Reno, Nevada.

Thanks for reading,

Anna Hensel
Heartland Tech Reporter

Featured Video

Please enjoy this video from CNBC, “Facebook cofounder’s proposal to rethink inequality

heartlandtech-newsletter Heartland Tech Weekly: Tech’s growing obsession with income inequality

From the Heartland Tech Channel

heartlandtech-newsletter Heartland Tech Weekly: Tech’s growing obsession with income inequality

Workforce programs will need to be overhauled in the age of artificial intelligence

Not all researchers agree that artificial intelligence is as important a development as electricity or fire, or that hundreds of millions of jobs will be automated in the next decade. But it is clear that an increasing array of tasks will soon be completed by machines. And workers need to be prepared for a future […]

Read the full story 

heartlandtech-newsletter Heartland Tech Weekly: Tech’s growing obsession with income inequality

Silicon Valley backlash won’t necessarily cause an exodus to Middle America

OPINION: Peter Thiel is fleeing liberal Silicon Valley for … Los Angeles. That’s according to a story from the Wall Street Journal this week, which reports that Thiel is planning to relocate to a home he bought in the City of Angels six years ago. Fifty staffers from Thiel Capital and the Thiel Foundation are also reportedly planning […]

Read the full story 

heartlandtech-newsletter Heartland Tech Weekly: Tech’s growing obsession with income inequality

AT&T offers roadmap for U.S. cities that want early 5G service

The upcoming transition from 4G to 5G cellular technologies has consumers eagerly awaiting the chance to get their hands on smartphones with extraordinarily fast internet speeds. In the meantime, city mayors are grappling with how to get their citizens access to 5G service as soon as possible, without getting bulldozed by telecom companies. In a blog […]

Read the full story 

heartlandtech-newsletter Heartland Tech Weekly: Tech’s growing obsession with income inequality

The Iowan Project wants to identify skilled tech workers who have left the state 

A lot of young professionals dream of leaving their hometowns after graduating high school or college in search of broader career opportunities or new lifestyles. It seems like an inevitable thing. However, it’s also a problem for states like Iowa that are losing valuable tech talent to other ecosystems. But what if Iowa could identify […]

Read the full story 

Beyond VB

Facebook’s next project: American inequality

A Stanford economist is using the company’s vast store of personal data to study why so many in the U.S. are stuck in place economically. (via Politico)

Read the full story 

When you give Alaskans a universal basic income, they still keep working 

A universal basic income (UBI) is at the heart of the debate about how society will organize itself after robots and algorithms do more and more of today’s work. Not everyone agrees how we do this. (via Quartz)

Read the full story 

Facebook’s brewing legal battle with cities and states 

Last week, Seattle became the first city to crack down on the secrecy surrounding online political ads. Experts say it likely won’t be the last. (via Governing)

Read the full story 

Austin Blockchain Collective to Advocate for Local Crypto Startups

One of the top selling points for blockchain technologies is that it decentralizes whatever it is used for — cryptocurrencies, government records or health data. So, it might sound a little strange for a bunch of local blockchain-based startups to centralize their efforts. But that’s exactly what’s happening. (via Austin Inno)

Read the full story 

heartlandtech-newsletter Heartland Tech Weekly: Tech’s growing obsession with income inequality

AWS’ Serverless Application Repository compounds its early advantage

aws AWS’ Serverless Application Repository compounds its early advantage

Amazon Web Services gave its customers an easier way to get started with serverless applications today. The cloud provider launched the Serverless Application Repository out of beta, which provides customers with an app store to try out different applications built using Lambda, its event-driven computing service.

AWS made a major splash when it announced Lambda at its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas roughly three and a half years ago. It allows developers to write short computing functions that run in response to trigger events, without managing the underlying computing infrastructure used to run those functions.

Serverless application development has drawn quite a bit of interest from AWS customers, since it has the potential to alleviate a major drag on developers’ time.

This launch makes the already easy-to-use Lambda even easier to adopt. Customers don’t even have to write code to use applications from the repository, but the service also allows them to modify the applications they deploy. That way, it’s possible for Lambda novices to see how other companies build on the service, improving their own skills.

It also helps improve the network effects that keep people using AWS products. The more people who publish and consume serverless apps through the repository, the more likely people are to build apps on top of Lambda — and that effect keeps compounding.

Getting people deeper into the Lambda ecosystem is really good news for AWS, since it’s hard to port code that integrates with AWS’s technology to other cloud platforms, like those operated by Microsoft and Google.

Developers can publish their applications through the repository in a few steps. First, they set up a unique ID for the project, add an open source software license, and connect it to a source code repository.

Customers can search the repository for apps that they want to run, and either consume them as-is, or modify the code to meet their needs. If they do make changes, customers will be able to submit them to the application’s creator for inclusion in future iterations of the software.

Running applications from the repository doesn’t cost customers anything beyond what they pay for the cloud services underpinning it.

aws AWS’ Serverless Application Repository compounds its early advantage

What Nuro’s focus on last-mile delivery might mean for the autonomous vehicle sector

nuro What Nuro’s focus on last-mile delivery might mean for the autonomous vehicle sector

The self-driving car industry is developing rapidly, and companies are competing not just to perfect the technology first, but also to figure out and execute the type of autonomous vehicle model that’s most likely to be profitable and accepted by the general public.

Originating as Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo remains a frontrunner in bringing consumer-owned fully autonomous vehicles to market. But another startup, with interestingly similar origins, has the potential to shift the industry — and help bring us to an autonomously driven future.

Enter Nuro

Remaining stealthily in development for the past several years, the startup Nuro was founded by two engineers who contributed to Google’s self-driving car project back when it was still a part of Google. But instead of trying to automate a fleet of taxis, provide hands-free transportation for individual commuters, or replace truck drivers for cross-country trips, Nuro is focusing on an entirely different segment.

The company differentiates itself by designing a unique vehicle with a unique purpose: last-mile delivery of goods. These small, efficient, and packable vehicles are meant for users to load with groceries, packages, gifts, or other goods for transport over short distances. Hypothetically, merchants could employ these cars as errand-running vehicles, grabbing a week’s worth of groceries for a consumer just a couple miles away after they place an order, or as extension delivery vehicles, connecting with distribution centers to handle the final leg of the journey for most packages.

It’s an interesting model, for sure, hybridizing typical self-driving car projects with a concept similar to drone delivery. Considering McKinsey’s estimate that last-mile delivery costs about $86 billion each year and is growing sharply every year, there’s clearly a place for this type of service.

The vehicles produced by the company bear little resemblance to other solutions. They aren’t sidewalk-bound drones, like Starship Technologies’ rover-looking prototypes, nor are they simply consumer vehicles outfitted with delivery gear. Engineers designed the prototype for Nuro’s operations, internally referred to as R1, from the ground up. There’s no driver seat, since drivers won’t use the vehicle; nor are there any internal controls that you might see on a conventional or semi-autonomous vehicle like a gas pedal or gearshift. Instead, there are four compartments and a wide range of sensors, including lidar, cameras, and radars.

Nuro has a permit to start road testing later this year in California, but it will take time before it starts testing in other states.

The challenges

That said, the company has some kinks to work out with the business model.

For example, how will Nuro handle customer notification of delivery? Assuming these vehicles park in a driveway or in front of an establishment, would it send a text message to the recipient and hope they come down in a reasonable amount of time? If nobody’s home, does the vehicle stay there? If so, that means losing availability and valuable time.

How will these vehicles protect against identity theft? Onboard biometric scanners could feasibly ensure that the only people able to access the vehicle’s cargo are those previously authorized to do so. But how reliable are they, considering how easy it is to replicate a fingerprint?

Nuro also needs to worry about the competition. The company has an interesting model, but is it going to be the one that consumers and lawmakers prefer? Take Starship Technologies (mentioned earlier) as an example. The company has had its sidewalk drone in development longer, last year reaching the milestone of 100,000 km of driving over 100 different cities. The drone doesn’t require on-road travel, which means it would be easier to regulate (and potentially safer), and would require lower fuel costs as well, in trade for lower carrying capacity.

And what if customers want to select their groceries or pick up their package by hand? Given the low hassle of being a passenger in a fully autonomous vehicle, it may be worth it to accompany your vehicle on these types of errands. Considering that fully autonomous vehicles are expected to become consumer-ready by the early 2020s, that’s a major logistical threat.

The main effects

Here are just some of the ways Nuro could effect (or at least be an indicator of) change in the autonomous vehicle industry:

  • Function-oriented vehicle design. Nuro didn’t take an existing vehicle and simply upgrade it to be capable of driving itself. Instead, the company designed a prototype from the ground up for one specific purpose: autonomous delivery. Other companies will likely follow suit, choosing to develop their own models for other functions rather than merely evolving a form already on the market.
  • Driverless, passengerless operation. The R1 is equipped to function not only without a driver, but without a passenger as well. In a way, this makes it more dronelike than carlike. It’s inherently safer with this structure, and is therefore more likely to face less strict laws and faster public acceptance. If that’s the case, cars like these could be the perfect stepping stones to convince consumers and lawmakers that self-driving cars are ready to carry human passengers en masse.
  • Heightened specialization. Nuro also sets a tone for the industry to demand more specialization. Rather than developing a vehicle designed for multiple purposes or producing a technology that’s applicable to any vehicle, it’s focused on one area: last-mile delivery. Look for more startups to make the transition to an exclusive, specialty focus.

In any case, Nuro looks to be an exciting competitor in the autonomous driving arena. It remains to be seen exactly how autonomous vehicles will continue to advance and what impact they’ll have on consumers and the economy at large, but with billions of dollars at stake and millions of consumers and investors interested in the outcomes, the race will likely grow even more complex and sophisticated in the near future.

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer who contributes to Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, and The Huffington Post. 

nuro What Nuro’s focus on last-mile delivery might mean for the autonomous vehicle sector

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