Author Archives: Nouri

Billy Porter talks to Billy Eichner about homophobia and transphobia in the Black community

In early June, Billy Porter shared a “message to America” on Instagram Live, in which he addressed homophobia and transphobia in the Black community.

On Thursday, Billy Eichner — guest-hosting for Jimmy Kimmel— asked the Pose actor what inspired him to post it. 

“Growing up gay in the Black community, it’s a very homophobic community across the board,” Porter says. “With that said, as the world has changed and as the world has shifted, the Black community is changing and shifting.”

Porter goes on to say that he was talking about this as an addendum to his Instagram post, saying, “The language in this moment has to be more specific,” and telling Eichner he is talking to homophobic and transphobic people in general, specifically members of the Black community. Porter draws attention to the levels of violence against Black transgender women as a reason why this conversation is so important to have. Read more…

More about Jimmy Kimmel Live, Billy Eichner, Billy Porter, Entertainment, and Celebrities

How 'The Last of Us Part II' fails its women protagonists


This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us, The Last of Us Part II, and Left Behind.

With two daughters starring as the lead protagonists, you’d think The Last of Us Part II would be a game about daughters. But it isn’t. Instead, it only purports to be about Ellie and Abby, all while reducing both women’s lives to revolving entirely around their fathers. 

Far from revolutionary, Last of Us II reads more like a veiled retread of the dad game — an old trend from 2013 that often stripped its daughter characters of their agency and personhood. 

At the time several aging game designers (often experiencing new fatherhood) started trying to tell more mature stories, leading to a slew of titles about dads and their daughters that released to near-unanimous praise. But unlike BioShock Infinite, Walking Dead Season 1, or Dishonored, the original Last of Us was different, subverting expectations by actually giving its daughter some autonomy. Ellie wasn’t just a non-playable mechanic used to make her father’s decisions more narratively interesting. She was a playable character in her own right, with her own interiority, abilities, worldview, and convictions independent of her father figure. Read more…

More about Entertainment, Feminism, Video Games, Naughty Dog, and The Last Of Us 2

Explore the IoT and work on DIY projects with these hands-on courses

TL;DR: Jump into the robotics world with the Complete IoT and Hardware e-book and video course bundle for $29.99, a 96% savings as of July 10.

Devices are getting smarter. From home automation systems, to speakers that can answer your questions, to fully-functional robots, the Internet of Things revolution is fully upon us. And in order for us to keep up, we need to educate ourselves. This Complete IoT and Hardware e-book and video course bundle is designed to help you explore today’s fastest-growing tech field and get to work on real IoT projects of your own. That way, when the robots take over, you’ll be able to overthrow them – or something like that. Read more…

More about Robotics, Programming, Engineering, Online Learning, and Mashable Shopping

Jon Stewart chats to Desus and Mero about the worst kind of Zoom people

Mastering your Zoom background on a video call can be a fine art. Obviously you can go for the custom option (here are 15 we made specially, and here are some strange stock images if you’re feeling particularly edgy), but if you’re in a professional setting you may have to go down a more traditional route.

The thing is, as Jon Stewart discusses with Desus and Mero in the video above, people pay attention to your Zoom background — and there are plenty of ways people get them wrong all the time.

“For me, it’s angles. Sometimes you’ll get somebody who’ll give you one of these,” Stewart says, leaning in creepily-close to the camera. “Or they’ll have that weird angle where they’re down like this, and there’s only darkness around them, and you’re like, ‘Are you in Buffalo Bill’s cellar?'” Read more…

More about Jon Stewart, Zoom, Desus And Mero, Entertainment, and Talk Show

U.S. government may finalize ban on federal contractors using equipment from Huawei this week

The Trump administration is set to finalize regulations this week that ban the United States government from working with contractors who use technology from five Chinese companies: Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, Dahua and Hytera Communications, according to a Reuters report.

The ban was first introduced as a provision in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that prevents government agencies from signing contracts with companies that use equipment, services and systems from Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Hikvision and Dahua, or any of their subsidiaries and affiliates, citing national security concerns.

Contractors were given until August 13, 2020 to comply, but immediately began voicing concerns over the ambiguity of the law.

More recently, the National Defense Industrial Association, a trade group, asked the government to extend the deadline because it said many contractors are currently dealing with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, reported Defense News.

Another challenge for federal contractors is that the companies on the blacklist are global market leaders in their respective categories, making it harder to find alternatives. For example, Huawei and ZTE are two of the largest telecom equipment providers in the world; Dahua and Hikvision are two of the biggest providers of surveillance equipment and cameras; and Hytera is a market leader for two-way radios.

The ban is one of many entanglements Huawei has had with the U.S. government since it was first identified as a national security threat, along with ZTE, in a 2012 Congressional report.

In May 2019, Huawei filed a legal motion against the provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, with the company’s chief legal officer stating that “politicians in the U.S. are using the strength of an entire nation to come after a private company.”

The United States, however, is not the only country with national security concerns about Huawei. On Thursday, for example, Reuters reported that Telecom Italia (TIM) decided to exclude Huawei from its tender for 5G equipment in Italy and Brazil, as the Italian government deliberates whether to bar Huawei’s tech from the country’s 5G network. Huawei told Reuters that “the security and development of digital Italy should be based on an approach grounded in facts and not baseless allegations.”

The United Kingdom is also reportedly considering a similar ban on Huawei in its 5G network.


Google reveals first official image of new, portable Nest smart speaker after photo leak

Here’s our first official look at Google’s new Nest smart speaker.

As first spotted by Android Police, leaked images of the unit show it’s about 22cm (8.66in) tall and the fabric covering extends around most of its area. It’s slimmer than the Google Home Max, and the form factor is, let’s say, in portrait rather than landscape. 

After Mashable reached out to Google, we were provided the above promotional image of the unit and the below video showing it being used in a home environment. Or to be more precise, showing two of the units placed on a shelf behind a couch, as well as being moved around the home, emphasising portability.  Read more…

More about Google Home, Google Nest, Smart Speakers, Tech, and Consumer Tech

Whether or not the Trump administration bans TikTok, it’s already helping Facebook

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. is “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including the Chinese-owned company TikTok, comparing it to other Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE that have been deemed national security threats by the current administration. “With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you that the United States will get this one right, too,” Pompeo said.

The fear is the app could be used to surveil or influence Americans, or else that TikTok parent ByteDance could be made to provide the Chinese government with TikTok’s data on its U.S.-based users — of which there are at least 165 million. India, calling TikTok a “threat to sovereignty and integrity,” decided to ban the app late last week, saying it had similar concerns.

Though security experts disagree over how concerned the U.S. should be about TikTok, the move would would undoubtedly hobble what has become one of the fastest-growing social media businesses on the planet, with 800 million monthly active users worldwide, half of whom are under age 24. In the meantime, the mere suggestion of a ban is proving a boon to TikTok’s biggest rival, Facebook — and notably at a time when the U.S. company faces growing scrutiny over its decision not to take action on multiple controversial posts from Donald Trump.

The threat is already prompting some to speculate that Pompeo’s warning was politically motivated. In a new interview with Axios, for example, L.A.-based talent manager John Shahidi observes that TikTok users have said they were partially responsible for a Trump rally in Oklahoma two weeks ago that failed to deliver huge crowds.

Shahidi — whose agency currently oversees nine “channels” on TikTok that collectively enjoy than 100 million followers — doesn’t doubt the two are related. “I’m on TikTok a lot,” Shahidi says, and “there are no Trump supporters, no official Trump account; no one who is from his team is on TikTok.” Is it “just coincidence that we’re heading toward [the election], and the one app that doesn’t support him — with everything happening in the world — we’re going to talk about taking down TikTok?” he adds.

A shifting landscape

Either way, TikTok influencers are more actively promoting their other social media channels, including Facebook’s Instagram, to their followers as a kind of contingency plan. Soon to join them is rising social media star Pierson Wodzynski, a 21-year-old who ran track in high school and was taking a break from studying communications in college when, in January, a friend invited her to participate in a show on AwesomenessTV, a YouTube channel that has more than 8 million subscribers.

The show’s set-up centered around nabbing a date with social media star Brent Rivera, who has 13 million YouTube subscribers, 19.8 million Instagram followers, and more than 30 million TikTok fans. But afterward, Wodzynski found herself with the L.A.-based talent agency that Rivera cofounded two years ago called Amp Studios and in recent months, aided by special guest appearances by Rivera, she has built a substantial fanbase herself, with 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, 455,000 Instagram followers, and a stunning 4.1 million fans on TikTok.

Wodzynski says her followers seem to like the comedy bits she develops, such a recent series on the “things that go wrong when you’re running late,” and another on the “Appdashians,” wherein each character she plays is a different social media company. (Notably, Facebook is the old grandmother character.)  Says Wodzynski, who comes across as both confident and affable, “I’m so unbelievably myself [on social media], it’s crazy.”

Little wonder that she’s concerned about the TikTok’s future in the U.S. Partly, she simply enjoys it. (“It’s just a great app to escape, and it’s so different, with a vast music library and editing software that other apps don’t have.”) But it’s also the source of most of her income, she says, explaining that she helps promote the brands with which Amp Studios works, including Chipotle. (“A lot of times, it’s me dancing to a popular song and holding the product, or developing a creative advertisement so it looks enjoyable.”)

Wodzynski says she is “ready for anything,” and that if the U.S. bans the platform, she trusts it will do so for legitimate reasons. Besides, she says, “There are many other roads to take your content.”

It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by Max Levine, who cofounded Amp with Rivera, and who advises all of the firm’s talent to diversify across social platforms. “Diversify is a good mantra for life,” says Levine, who learned this lesson early when Vine — the once-popular video app that Twitter acquired, then subsequently shut down — “fizzled and died.”

Land and expand

Levine points to early Vine stars like Logan Paul and Rivera himself who “were smart and focused on building platforms on Instagram and YouTube” and who not only emerged unscathed when Vine was shuttered but whose popularity ballooned afterward. He says that Amp’s clients have always “promoted other socials on TikTok,” and that he’d prefer that they not start becoming too aggressive on this front. “I think if every other TikTok mentions [a call to action], it could be a lot.”

Yet it’s starting to happen, and with the threat of a ban in the air, Wodzynski — who says she saw her view count go down with India’s recent ban of TikTok — isn’t immune to the impulse. “Actually, later today I will be posting something on Tiktok about this whole banning thing and reminding people that if they want to follow my Instagram and Youtube that ‘this is what I post there,’” she says.

“I do that pretty regularly, but I’m going to step it up in more in the coming days and weeks.”

In the meantime, Facebook will be ready. Yesterday in India, Instagram rolled out a video-sharing feature called Reels to fill the void left by TikTok that sounds very much like a clone. The in-app tool invites users to record 15-second videos set to music and audio, then upload them to their stories.

As CNN notes, Facebook began testing the feature in Brazil last November. The feature is now available in France and Germany, too.

Indeed, though Tiktok was not India’s sole target  — it also indefinitely banned 58 other apps and services provided by Chinese-based firms, including Tencent’s WeChat — the country’s government enjoys a good relationship with Facebook, which recently nabbed a 10% stake in local telecom giant Jio Platforms. In fact, in February, before a trip to India, Donald Trump talked about Facebook and the ranking that both he and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoy on the platform.

He said Modi is “number two” on Facebook in terms of followers, and that he is number one as told to him directly by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

As reported in the Economic Times, Trump said at the time: “I’m going to India next week, and we’re talking about — you know, they have 1.5 billion people. And Prime Minister Modi is number two on Facebook, number two. Think of that. You know who number one is? Trump. You believe that? Number one. I just found out.”


Daily Crunch: Apple releases public beta of iOS 14

A beta version of Apple’s latest mobile operating system is available to the public, Coinbase may go public and researchers discover a frightening smartwatch vulnerability. Here’s your Daily Crunch for July 9, 2020.

The big story: Apple releases public beta of iOS 14

Developers are no longer the only ones who can try out the newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system — beta versions of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 are now available to the general public.

Romain Dillet has already been playing around with the new iOS, and he said the biggest change is a rethinking of the home screen, with widgets that can be stacked and flipped, along with an App Library that groups all the apps on your phone by category.

The tech giants

WhatsApp Business, now with 50M MAUs, adds QR codes and catalog sharing — The Facebook-owned messaging app is introducing new tools for businesses to connect digitally with their customers.

Apple says it’s ‘committed’ to supporting Thunderbolt on new Macs after Intel details latest version — “We remain committed to the future of Thunderbolt and will support it in Macs with Apple silicon,” Apple said.

Amazon’s Alexa heads Toni Reid and Rohit Prasad are coming to Disrupt — Two of the main executives behind Amazon’s leading smart assistant are coming to Disrupt 2020, which will run (virtually) from September 14 to 18.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Coinbase reported to consider late 2020, early 2021 public debut — The cryptocurrency exchange platform may be considering a direct listing instead of a traditional IPO, according to Reuters.

Kernel raises $53 million for its non-invasive ‘Neuroscience as a Service’ technology — The startup says it has created non-invasive technology for recording brain activity.

TikTok likes and views are broken as community worries over potential US ban — As of this afternoon, the company said a fix was in progress.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

VCs are cutting checks remotely, but deal volume could be slowing — In a new survey from OMERS Ventures, 69% of VCs said they were willing to make a fully remote investment, but most of them haven’t actually done so.

As the pandemic drags on, interest in automation surges — Brian Heater looks at some of the ways COVID-19 may permanently alter the job market.

K Fund’s Jaime Novoa discusses early-stage firm’s focus on Spanish startups — The firm officially unveiled its €70 million second fund earlier this month.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Smartwatch hack could trick patients to ‘take pills’ with spoofed alerts — The vulnerabilities were found in SETracker, a cloud system that powers smartwatches and vehicles.

Coronavirus impact sends app downloads, usage and consumer spending to record highs in Q2 — Mobile app usage grew 40% year-over-year, according to App Annie.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.


TikTok stop showing users likes, and everyone melted down

TikTok temporarily stopped displaying likes, and users thought the U.S. government actually went through with banning the app. 

Videos on the platform, which is own by Beijing-based ByteDance, stopped showing like counts on Thursday afternoon. It followed days of speculation that the Trump administration would try to shut down the app, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the government was “looking at” banning it. 

A glitch has appeared on TikTok where videos have 0 likes, fueling more rumors that the app could be getting shut down.

— Pop Base (@PopBase) July 9, 2020 Read more…

More about Glitch, Tiktok, Culture, and Web Culture