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By Usama Jawad96
Twitter is making it easier to identify personal accounts of heads of state
by Usama Jawad
Back in August 2020, Twitter introduced new labels to make it easier for users to quickly identify state-affiliated media accounts as well as those belonging to certain government officials. After receiving feedback from stakeholders, the company will now be adding these labels to accounts held by key officials from all Group of Seven (G7) countries and those which have previously participated in "information operations".
The plan to accomplish this task has been divided into two stages. Phase one actually began in August 2020 when Twitter starting applying labels to accounts China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and the United States. The second phase will begin from February 17 when these labels will be iteratively expanded to accounts held by officials from Canada, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Twitter stated that:
Labels will primarily be applied to verified accounts of senior government officials and central political leaders. Lastly, they will also be visible on the personal accounts of all heads of states of the aforementioned countries. This effort is being undertaken so that the public has better context when viewing content from key state-affiliated accounts and engaging with them.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft's Surface Duo is coming to the UK, France, Germany, and Canada next week
by Rich Woods
Back in December, Microsoft announced that after four months on the U.S. market, it was finally going to bring its Surface Duo handset to other markets in early 2021. Now, pricing and availability is here, and the dual-screen device is coming to the UK, France, Germany, and Canada on February 18. To be clear, those were the four markets that were announced in December, so if you're in another region in Europe, it's unclear when you'll be able to get your hands on this.
In France and Germany, the price of the 128GB model is €1,549, while it's going to be £1,349 in the UK. For comparison, the Surface Duo starts at $1,399 here in the United States, although it's currently on sale for as low as $949. The 256GB model costs $100 more, and that's it's a similar model for other countries; for example, it's €1,649 in France and Germany.
The Surface Duo was originally announced back in October 2019, heralding Microsoft's return to the smartphone business. The company doesn't often actually call it a phone, but it was introduced to the world in a promo video where the device was revealed by it ringing from inside of a bag, and yes, the user answering a phone call. It wasn't supposed to arrive until holiday season 2020, and it was going to arrive alongside the Surface Neo.
But things changed. The Surface Neo was delayed, as was the Windows 10X operating system, and Surface Duo shipped early.
It comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, which was the company's flagship chipset two generations ago now, and as has been widely criticized, it's a 4G phone. It also comes with an 11MP f/2.0 camera and 6GB of RAM. As for the two displays, which is really the selling point, it has dual 5.6-inch 1800x1350 screens, which are 4:3. They combine for an 8.1-inch 2700x1800 display, and of course, the device has Surface Pen support.
You can check out the Surface Duo on the UK Microsoft Store here, for France here, Germany here, and Canada here.
Facebook will soon show less political content on your News Feed
by João Carrasqueira
Facebook is responding to feedback from users complaining about the amount of political content they see on the social network. The company has announced that it's about to begin tests on how to reduce the political content that shows up on the News Feed, which is the main page you see when opening Facebook.
Starting this week, a small subset of users in Brazil, Canada, and Indonesia will start seeing less political content on their feeds, and over the next few weeks, that will expand to the United States. Facebook will then test a variety of different approaches to how it should rank political content in the News Feed by testing different signals. Facebook will be sending out surveys to its users to measure the effectiveness of its different approaches during the testing period.
Exempt from these tests will be content regarding the COVID-19 pandemic when posted by official agencies and entities, both national and regional. Content from official state agencies and services will also be unaffected. And, naturally, political content isn't being removed from Facebook altogether, and users can still choose to engage with it in groups or pages they visit.
These tests will likely take some time, and so most users around the world will likely have to wait for any changes to their own experience. Regardless, this should be good news if you've felt like political content has negatively impacted your time on Facebook.
Amazon Future Engineer programme lands in Canada
by Paul Hill
Amazon has announced the launch of its Future Engineer programme in Canada. With Amazon Future Engineer, the tech firm hopes to invest in over a million students and teachers in deprived communities to give them free computer science lessons, tutorials, online resources and workshops.
Amazon said that over three years it will invest $3 million (CAD) in those who are under-served and under-represented, and one day, it could have some of those students working at the firm in the future.. The resources being offered will focus on programming, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, ensuring that students have the skills for the jobs of tomorrow.
Commenting on the announcement, Head of Amazon Future Engineer Canada Susan Ibach said:
Amazon highlighted women and indigenous peoples as some of those it wanted to reach with the new programme. According to TD Economics, only 1 in 5 engineering and 1 in 4 computer science undergraduate degrees are earned by women and an ICTC report shows that just 0.3% of information and communications technology roles in Canada are held by indigenous peoples.
To deliver the programme, Amazon said it’ll be partnering with Canadian charities including Canada Learning Code, Kids Code Jeunesse and TakingITGlobal. The latter charity is a vital component in the plans as it will provide the resources for teachers to educate themselves in computer science so they can deliver effective lessons to their students. To learn more about the project, head over to Amazon Future Engineer Canada.
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft confirms it has halted PAC donations
by Usama Jawad
A Political Action Committee (PAC) is a private body that funds political campaigns via donations. Under U.S. laws, a PAC cannot give more than $5,000 to a candidate committee per election, and the amount is funded purely based on voluntary donations. Most Fortune 500 companies have a PAC which typically donates money to campaigns which support their interests.
One such company is Microsoft, whose PAC came under the magnifying glass following the attack on the Capitol earlier this month. As a result, the firm has now publicly confirmed that it has suspended PAC donations until it completes its assessment of the situation. The matter was first internally discussed a few weeks ago, but has now been made public.
In an employee meeting on January 21, Microsoft president Brad Smith highlighted that although 80% of the donations had gone to members of Congress who voted to uphold the Electoral College, 20% of its PAC donations in the last four years went to Congress members who voted against the certification of Electoral College votes.
Consequently, there have been some internal discussions at Microsoft as to whether it should pause PAC donations to these Congress members and take stricter action against "members who led that effort or who fed disinformation, in our view, to the American public". Now, the firm has confirmed that it is suspending PAC donations until at least February 15, saying that:
It remains to be seen what "consequences" Microsoft has in mind for Congress members who voted against the Electoral College, but we'll learn more in a few weeks. It is also important to note that other big tech organizations such as Google and Facebook have also paused PAC donations for now in light of the Capitol siege.