Friday, May 7, 2021

Halo Debuts New 'World Of Halo' Stop-Motion Video Series, Episode 1 Available Now

While we continue to wait for a Halo Infinite release date other than the anticipated November 2021 window, the team over at 343 Industries has a different sort of Master Chief-inspired project to share. Using the Jazwares action figure line, the stop-motion series called World of Halo just debuted its first episode. You can watch it below. Spoiler alert: it's pretty awesome. The Jazwares line is surprisingly detailed for being a mere four inches tall and seeing them in action in this format is kind of cool to see as a Halo fan myself. From a fight to death with the iconic energy sword to seeing some of the most recognizable enemies in the Halo-verse, the first episode of this series has us pretty jazzed to see what's next. Especially being a massive collector.  [embedded content] Master Chief's badassery, glowing energy swords, grunts screaming in panic - what more could you want? Other than a Halo Infinite gameplay trailer, but don't worry about that. 343 Industries has recently confirmed that a new gameplay reveal is coming this Summer to show off what the team has been working on since criticism hit about its next-gen graphics.  In other Halo news, 343 recently shared off a new screenshot from the main campaign, which you can see here, detailing the various PC-specific settings for resolution. The team also confirmed that Halo Infinite will include cross-progression and crossplay between Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC, so that anyone can enjoy the latest game without worried about being tied to one specific platform.  To learn more about Halo Infinite before the gameplay trailer drops in the coming months, you can scope out our dedicated game hub. From fan desires to inside looks, catch up on the latest news right here.  Thoughts on Halo Infinite and the latest stop-motion video with World of Halo? Sound off in the comments below; Cortana would want you to. 
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    Facebook is testing sticker ads in Stories

    Facebook is offering creators more options to make money from their audiences. One method it’s testing is a way to make bank from Stories. Some creators will be able to plug ads that look similar to stickers into their Stories and they'll get a cut of ad revenue. For instance, creators might plug local businesses with a sticker while they're on trips. Only a small number of creators have access to this option during the initial test, but Facebook hopes to roll out the feature in the near future. It also plans to enable the feature for all short-form videos. Elsewhere, Facebook is bringing mid-roll ads to shorter videos. Until now, ads were only present in videos that were at least three minutes long. You may start to see ads in videos that run for only a minute. Videos lasting between one and three minutes can have ads 30 seconds in. Ads can appear in longer videos after 45 seconds, down from one minute. Pages will only be able to run ads on shorter videos if they meet certain requirements, like having 600,000 minutes of total watch time in the previous 60 days and at least five active video uploads. Live video creators additionally need to have at least 60,000 minutes of live watch time over the same period to qualify for ads in their streams. Facebook Facebook is also expanding paid live events to another 24 countries and switching on fan subscriptions in 10 more regions. In addition, it's spending $7 million to promote the Stars virtual tipping currency. As with Twitch Bits, users can send these to creators. Facebook will be giving away Stars during certain live streams. Comments that users send with Stars will be more prominently displayed on streams. You'll be able to send virtual gifts to creators too. Stars will be available in more markets, and you can check on a creator support site whether your Page is eligible. Soon, Facebook will expand Stars beyond live streams by testing them in on-demand videos. Meanwhile, Facebook has updated the minimum eligibility criteria for gaming creators to become partners and unlock more features and monetization options.

    Facebook files to dismiss FTC antitrust charges

    Facebook says the antitrust lawsuits targeting the company’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp should be dismissed. The company issued its first official response to antitrust charges from the Federal Trade Commission and 46 state attorneys general, saying that the government was seeking a “do-over.” Facebook filed motions to dismiss both cases. In a statement, the company said neither lawsuit had made a credible case for antitrust. “Antitrust laws are intended to promote competition and protect consumers,” Facebook wrote. “These complaints do not credibly claim that our conduct harmed either.” The response comes three months after the company was hit with antitrust charges from the FTC and the state attorneys general. Both cases allege that Facebook has engaged in anti-competitive behavior and that its deals to acquire Instagram and WhatsApp were meant to neutralize companies it saw as a threat. Facebook said this amounted to a do-over as both acquisitions were scrutinized, and approved, by the FTC years ago. In a new court filing, Facebook’s lawyers say that the FTC “has not alleged facts amounting to a plausible antitrust case,” and that the charges come amid a “fraught environment of relentless criticism of Facebook for matters entirely unrelated to antitrust concerns.” Regarding the case from state AGs, Facebook says that the states “lack standing to bring the case” and that they “waited far too long to act.” In its motion to dismiss the state charges, Facebook referred to the states’ case as “afterthought claims.” In addition to its acquisitions, both cases also pointed to Facebook’s platform policies, and how it treated third-party developers. The state case and the FTC lawsuit both called out Facebook’s treatment of Twitter-owned Vine, which saw its access to Facebook’s API cut off in 2013 in a decision that was approved by Mark Zuckerberg. In its motion to dismiss the FTC case, Facebook lawyers said the company “had no duty to make its platform available to any other app.” The FTC and the state AGs have until April to respond to Facebook’s motions to dismiss. As The Wall Street Journal points out, actually getting the charges dismissed before a trial requires Facebook to “meet a high legal standard” that may be difficult to clear. Even if it did, a dismissal would hardly be the end of Facebook’s antitrust woes. The company is also facing an antitrust investigation from Congress and regulators in the European Union.

    Facebook investigated over &#039 reportedly;systemic' racism in hiring

    Facebook has publicly committed to fighting racism, but there are concerns that isn't translating to its recruitment practices. Reuters sources say the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is investigating possible "systemic" racism in Facebook's hiring and job promotions. Facebook program manager Oscar Veneszee Jr. and four candidates have reportedly accused the social network of discriminating against Black applicants and staff through subjective evaluations and pushing racial stereotypes. Three of the people brought the case in July 2020, with a fourth joining in December. The EEOC tapped investigators for systemic cases by August 2020, but they've only received briefings from both sides of the case over the past four months. While the full extent of the alleged violations isn't clear, one of the policies in dispute stems from hiring bonuses. The company hands out up to $5,000 in bonuses if a referred candidate is hired, but those referrals tended to reflect the existing employee demographics and disadvantage Black applicants (who make up 3.9 percent of US employees as of last June). There are no guarantees the EEOC investigation will lead to formal action. The Commission declined to comment, but Facebook said it took discrimination accusations "seriously" and investigated "every case." This isn't the first time Facebook's hiring has come under fire. In 2017, a Bloomberg report pointed out that a handful of executives typically made final hiring decisions and tended to use metrics that favored culturally similar candidates, such as people endorsed by existing staff or those who went to certain schools. Facebook maintained that it had diverse hiring teams that brought in candidates from a wide range of backgrounds, but its incentive system was having problems at the time. If the allegations hold up, they'll suggest that some of those years-old complaints still persist. An EEOC determination could lead to reforms, even if it's just through public pressure.

    Facebook bowed to demands from Turkey to block among its military opponents

    When Turkey launched its Afrin offensive in early 2018 to dislodge Kurdish minorities from Northern Syria, the country ordered Facebook to block the page of a prominent militia group in the area known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG. Forced to make a decision, the company prioritized staying online over objecting to censorship, new internal emails obtained by ProPublica show. Since then, the social media giant has blocked users in Turkey from accessing the YPG’s Facebook page. Facebook complied with the order even though, like the US government, it does not consider the group a terrorist organization. “... We are in favor of geo-blocking YPG content if the prospects of a full-service blockage are great,” the team that accessed the situation wrote to Joel Kaplan, the company’s vice-president of global public policy. “Geo-blocking the YPG is not without risk — activists outside of Turkey will likely notice our actions, and our decision may draw unwanted attention to our overall geo-blocking policy.” The subsequent discussion was short. When Kaplan told Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg he agreed with the recommendation, Sandberg sent a single-sentence response. “I am fine with this,” she said. When asked about the emails, Facebook confirmed it blocked the page after it received a legal order from the Turkish government. “We strive to preserve voice for the greatest number of people. There are, however, times when we restrict content based on local law even if it does not violate our community standards,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told ProPublica. “In this case, we made the decision based on our policies concerning government requests to restrict content and our international human rights commitments. Publicly, Facebook has also said free speech is one of its core tenets. “We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and we work hard to protect and defend these values around the world,” it said in a recent blog post on Turkey. In many ways, the story of Facebook's YPG ban is one of poor transparency. In the same above statement, the company noted it discloses content restrictions in its biannual transparency reports. However, YPG isn’t explicitly mentioned on the section of its website it has dedicated to Turkey. And if you try to visit the group’s page through a Turkish server using a VPN, the only error message you will see is one that says, “the link may be broken, or the page may have been removed.” 

    Instagram says it’s cracking down on harassment in direct messages and will permanently ban accounts that use direct messages to harass or threaten other users. The change comes after several football players in the UK have reported racist attacks on the app.  In a blog post, Instagram acknowledged the “racist online abuse targeted at footballers” and added that direct messages are more difficult for the company to police because the company doesn’t use the same automated technology it uses to detect bullying in comments. But with the new policy, Instagram says it will take “tougher action” when harassment in direct messages is reported.  Previously, Instagram would temporarily limit an account’s ability to use DMs when harassment was reported. Now, the company says that repeated “violating messages” will result in a permanent suspension from its service. “We’ll also disable new accounts created to get around our messaging restrictions, and will continue to disable accounts we find that are created purely to send abusive messages,” Instagram writes.  The company also says that it’s working on making the DM controls that allow users to disable messages from accounts they don’t follow available to everyone.

    Facebook will start paying UK publishers for news stories

    Toby Melville / Reuters Facebook’s dedicated News tab, first seen in the US, will launch in the UK with a promise to pay UK news sites to license articles, the social media giant announced. It’ll arrive in January 2021 with partner sites including The Guardian, The Economist and The Mirror, along with lifestyle sites owned by Conde Nast, Hearst and others. “With Facebook News, we will pay publishers for content that is not already on the platform, help publishers reach new audiences and bring more advertising and subscription opportunities,” Facebook wrote in a blog post. As with the US News section, the UK tab will offer a mix of personalized and curated top stories. Facebook will normally show top headlines and stories, but will add news digests with original and “authoritative” reporting during major news cycles. The tab will build on the success of the US site, Facebook said, “where we’ve found more than 95 percent of the traffic Facebook News delivers to publishers is new audiences that have not interacted with those news outlets in the past.” Stepping Up Our Investment in News in the UK https://t.co/fvtAhbE4os — Facebook Newsroom (@fbnewsroom) December 1, 2020 Facebook didn’t say how much it would pay publishers, but some expect millions of pounds each year from multi-year details, The Guardian reported. That means Facebook could be paying tens of millions in the UK alone, much-needed revenue for struggling news outlets. It may also feature smaller local sites that have not struck deals, provided they meet certain standards, and Facebook plans to add more major news providers down the road. Along with Google, Facebook has been heavily criticized for drawing ad dollars away from dedicated news sites. That has contributed to the failure of a quarter of US news sites over the last 15 years, according to Poynter. In the UK, 198 local newspapers have shuttered since 2005, the Press Gazette reported in 2016. Meanwhile, the professional journalism vacuum has often been filled by false or misleading news on Facebook. Facebook has attempted to stem that criticism in the UK and ward off potential government regulation with several measures. For instance, it spent £4.5 million ($6 million) training 80 journalists to cover smaller communities and recently extended that program for a year with an additional £2.3 million ($3.1 million). Last month, Google also pledged $1 billion for publishers to curate content for a new product called the Google News Showcase. Google has taken even more heat than Facebook, with publishers in Australia, France and elsewhere saying it has contributed to the decline of local journalism and should be forced to pay to show news “snippets.” However, both sites will be under further pressure and scrutiny in the UK from a new regulatory agency called the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). That body will set new limits on tech’s biggest platforms and create rules that level the playing field for smaller rivals.  In this article: Facebook, UK, media, content, stories, payments, news, gear All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

    Another generation of wearables is a privacy minefield

    Facebook recently gave us our best glimpse yet into its augmented reality plans. The company will be piloting a new set of glasses that will lay the groundwork for an eventual consumer-ready product. The “research project,” called Project Aria, is still in very early stages, according to Facebook. There’s no display, but the glasses are equipped with an array of sensors and microphones that record video, audio and even its wearer’s eye movements — all with the goal of helping scientists at Facebook’s Reality Labs “figure out how AR can work in practice.” Though the project is in its infancy, Facebook is clearly enthusiastic about its potential. “Imagine calling a friend and chatting with their lifelike avatar across the table,” the company writes. “Imagine a digital assistant smart enough to detect road hazards, offer up stats during a business meeting, or even help you hear better in a noisy environment. This is a world where the device itself disappears entirely into the ebb and flow of everyday life.” But if you’re among those who believe Facebook already knows too much about our lives, you’re probably more than slightly disturbed by the idea of Facebook having a semi-permanent presence on your actual face.  Facebook Facebook, to its credit, is aware of this. The company published a lengthy blog post on all the ways it’s taking privacy into consideration. For example, it says workers who wear the glasses will be easily identifiable and will be trained in “appropriate use.” The company will also encrypt data and blur faces and license plates. It promises the data it collects “will not be used to inform the ads people see across Facebook’s apps,” and only approved researchers will be able to access it.  But none of that addresses how Facebook intends to use this data or what type of “research” it will be used for. Yes, it will further the social network’s understanding of augmented reality, but there’s a whole lot else that comes with that. As the digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) noted in a recent blog post, eye tracking alone has numerous implications beyond the core functions of an AR or VR headset. Our eyes can indicate how we’re thinking and feeling — not just what we’re looking at. As the EFF’s Rory Mir and Katitza Rodriguez explained in the post: How we move and interact with the world offers insight, by proxy, into how we think and feel at the moment. If aggregated, those in control of this biometric data may be able to identify patterns that let them more precisely predict (or cause) certain behavior and even emotions in the virtual world. It may allow companies to exploit users' emotional vulnerabilities through strategies that are difficult for the user to perceive and resist. What makes the collection of this sort of biometric data particularly frightening, is that unlike a credit card or password, it is information about us we cannot change. Once collected, there is little users can do to mitigate the harm done by leaks or data being monetized with additional parties. There’s also a more practical concern, according to Rodriguez and Mir. That’s “bystander privacy,” or the right to privacy in public. “I'm concerned that if the protections are not the right ones, with this technology, we can be building a surveillance society where users lose their privacy in public spaces,” Rodriguez, International Rights Director for EFF, told Engadget. “I think these companies are going to push for new changes in society of how we behave in public spaces. And they have to be much more transparent on that front.” In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said that “Project Aria is a research tool that will help us develop the safeguards, policies and even social norms necessary to govern the use of AR glasses and other future wearable devices.”  Facebook is far from the only company to grapple with these questions. Apple, also reportedly working on an AR headset, also seems to be experimenting with eye tracking. Amazon, on the other hand, has taken a different approach when it comes to the ability to understand our emotional state.  Consider its newest wearable: Halo. At first glance, the device, which is an actual product people will soon be able to use, seems much closer to the kinds of wrist-worn devices that are already widely available. It can check your heart rate and track your sleep. It also has one other feature you won’t find on your standard Fitbit or smartwatch: tone analysis.  Opt in and the wearable will passively listen to your voice throughout the day in order to “analyze the positivity and energy of your voice.” It’s supposed to aid in your overall well being, according to Amazon. The company suggests that the feature will “help customers understand how they sound to others,” and “support emotional and social well-being and help strengthen communication and relationships.” Amazon If that sounds vaguely dystopian, you’re not alone, the feature has already sparked more than one Black Mirror comparison. Also concerning: history has repeatedly taught us that these kinds of systems often end up being extremely biased, regardless of the creator’s intent. As Protocol points out, AI systems tend to be pretty bad at treating women and people of color the same way they treat white men. Amazon itself has struggled with this. A study last year from MIT’s Media lab found that Amazon’s facial recognition tech had a hard time accurately identifying the faces of dark-skinned women. And a 2019 Stanford study found racial disparities in Amazon’s speech recognition tech.  So while Amazon has said it uses diverse data to train its algorithms, it’s far from guaranteed that it will treat all its users the same in practice. But even if it did treat everyone fairly, giving Amazon a direct line into your emotional state could also have serious privacy implications.  And not just because it’s creepy for the world’s biggest retailer to know how you’re feeling at any given moment. There’s also the distinct possibility that Amazon could, one day, use these newfound insights to get you to buy more stuff. Just because there’s currently no link between Halo and Amazon’s retail service or Alexa, doesn’t mean that will always be the case. In fact, we know from patent filings Amazon has given the idea more than a passing thought. The company was granted a patent two years ago that lays out in detail how Alexa may proactively recommend products based on how your voice sounds. The patent describes a system that would allow Amazon to detect “an abnormal physical or emotional condition” based on the sound of a voice. It could then suggest content, surface ads and recommend products based on the “abnormality.” Patent filings are not necessarily indicative of actual plans, but they do offer a window into how a company is thinking about a particular type of technology. And in Amazon’s case, its ideas for emotion detection are more than a little alarming. An Amazon spokesperson told Engadget that “we do not use Amazon Halo health data for marketing, product recommendations, or advertising,” but declined to comment on future plans. The patent offers some potential clues, though. Google Patents/Amazon “A current physical and/or emotional condition of the user may facilitate the ability to provide highly targeted audio content, such as audio advertisements or promotions,” the patent states. “For example, certain content, such as content related to cough drops or flu medicine, may be targeted towards users who have sore throats.” In another example — helpfully illustrated by Amazon — an Echo-like device recommends a chicken soup recipe when it hears a cough and a sniffle.  As unsettling as that sounds, Amazon makes clear that it’s not only taking the sound of your voice into account. The patent notes that it may also use your browsing and purchase history, “number of clicks,” and other metadata to target content. In other words: Amazon would use not just your perceived emotional state, but everything else it knows about you to target products and ads.  Which brings us back to Facebook. Whatever product Aria eventually becomes, it’s impossible now, in 2020, to fathom a version of this that won’t violate our privacy in new and inventive ways in order to feed into Facebook’s already disturbingly-precise ad machine.  Facebook’s mobile apps already vacuum up an astounding amount of data about where we go, what we buy and just about everything else we do on the internet. The company may have desensitized us enough at this point to take that for granted, but it’s worth considering how much more we’re willing to give away. What happens when Facebook knows not just where we go and who we see, but everything we look at?  A Facebook spokesperson said the company would “be up front about any plans related to ads.” “Project Aria is a research effort and its purpose is to help us understand the hardware and software needed to build AR glasses – not to personalize ads. In the event any of this technology is integrated into a commercially available device in the future, we will be up front about any plans related to ads.” A promise of transparency, however, is much different than an assurance of what will happen to our data. And it highlights why privacy legislation is so important — because without it, we have little alternative than to take a company’s word for it.  “Facebook is positioning itself to be the Android of AR VR,” Mir said. “I think because they're in their infancy, it makes sense that they're taking precautions to keep data separate from advertising and all these things. But the concern is, once they do control the medium or have an Android-level control of the market, at that point, how are we making sure that they're sticking to good privacy practices?” And the question of good privacy practices only becomes more urgent when you consider how much more data companies like Facebook and Amazon are poised to have access to. Products like Halo and research projects like Aria may be experimental for now, but that may not always be the case. And, in the absence of stronger regulations, there will be little preventing them from using these new insights about us to further their dominance.  “There are no federal privacy laws in the United States,” Rodriguez said. ”People rely on privacy policies, but privacy policies change over time.” In this article: Amazon, wearables, Augmented reality, privacy, Facebook, news, gear All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Comments 193 Shares Share Tweet Share

    Day political ads google reportedly plans to ban post-election

    Sponsored Links Joaquin Corbalan via Getty Images Google will not run any election-related ads after polls for the US presidential election close on November 3rd, according to Axios. In an email obtained by the publication, the search giant warns advertisers they won’t be able to run ads “referencing candidates, the election or its outcome, given that an unprecedented amount of votes will be counted after election day this year."  In the same email, Google says it will likewise ban ads that target people using election-related terms, including the names of specific candidates. Axios reports the policy applies to all of the platforms where the company runs advertisements, including YouTube. We’ve reached out to Google for comment, and we’ll update this article with the company’s response. If the email is accurate, it would follow a similar announcement from Facebook. The company recently clarified its stance on election day ads, saying it would not accept new ones in the week leading up to November 3rd. It also stated it plans to reject ads from political campaigns that declare victory before official results are available. In this article: Google, election, ads, internet, Facebook, trump, Biden, advertising, Political ads, news, gear All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Comments 109 Shares Share Tweet Share

    Facebook wants users in order to set Messenger because the default on iOS

    Sponsored Links NurPhoto via Getty Images Facebook wants you to be able to choose Messenger as the default messaging app on iOS, The Information reports. Apparently, Facebook has been trying to convince Apple to let users swap the default messaging app to Messenger for years. Now that iOS 14 lets users select alternative web browser and email apps, Facebook is renewing its Messenger push.  “We feel people should be able to choose different messaging apps and the default on their phone,” Stan Chudnovsky, a Facebook VP, told The Information. “Generally, everything is moving this direction anyway.” Messenger probably isn’t the greatest option for your main messaging app, but being able to reset the default could let you choose apps that offer a better experience than Messenger or Apple’s Messages. Android’s mobile OS already lets users choose their preferred messaging app. Sadly, Apple is probably not going to give users that choice. Apple’s Messages app is still one reason that people buy Apple hardware, and Apple uses the encrypted messages to brag about its privacy practices.  But not allowing users to choose their default messaging app could add to the argument that Apple practices “monopolist behaviors.” The company is facing increased criticism over its App Store fees, and it is the target of multiple antitrust investigations. Today, Epic Games, Spotify and others announced the Coalition for App Fairness, an alliance to pressure both Apple and Google to change their app store rules and other restrictive policies.  In this article: facebook, messenger, messaging, app, default, ios, apple, antitrust, monopoly, news, gear All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Comments 330 Shares Share Tweet Share

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