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Last Week Online #40 – Why watch a movie when you can watch people get killed live on Twitch?

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
3 min read

If you've ever dismissed tech companies impact on politics, today should update your world view.

Apple removed an app possibly used by Hong Kong protesters

On Wednesday, Apple removed the app from its App Store. The crowdsourced mapping app is widely used by Hong Kong residents, and Apple's decision emerged after authorities in Hong Kong said that protesters were using it to attack the police.

The decision comes one day after the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party - People's Daily - blamed Apple for supporting "rioters" in Hong Kong in an editorial. With China being crucial for Apple's business these days, it once again becomes apparent that business and politics are impossible to untangle.

In an email to employees on Thursday, Apple's CEO Tim Cook wrote that the company had removed the app after receiving "credible information" from authorities and people in Hong Kong "that the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence and to victimise individuals and property where no police are present." Therefore, it violated Apple's guidelines and local laws.

Twitch broadcasted shooting that killed two and failed to remove the content for 30 minutes

On Wednesday, a shooting outside a synagogue and in a kebab shop in Halle, Germany, was broadcasted on Twitch. The shooter had a head-mounted camera and live-streamed his attack. Two people were killed, and two more were injured.

Twitch, owned by Amazon, is mostly known for its video game content, but it's gathering a reputation as the platform for footage of mass shootings. While Twitch said on Twitter that only 5 people had watched the live stream of the attack, 2200 people viewed the recording that was available on the platform for 30 minutes. It's unclear how many copies of the footage may have been archived at Twitch, or on other sites.

"Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously. We are working with urgency to remove this content and permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act," said a spokesperson on Wednesday.

The streaming of mass shootings has increased with easy access to technology. New Zeeland politicians heavily criticised Facebook – urging them to act against the possibility to broadcast violence – after a terrorist attack in Christchurch was streamed live on the platform.

Facebook has lost 5 out of 6 payment partners participating in its cryptocurrency collaboration Libra

Last week we reported that PayPal dropped out of Facebook's cryptocurrency Libra. On Friday, Stripe, Mastercard, Visa and eBay all said they are no longer backing the effort, creating a new backlash for Facebook. The exits hit just as the "Libra Association" prepares for its first meeting - with the purpose of members formalising their participation in the project - taking place in Geneva tomorrow (Monday).

The reasons vary. Mastercard claims to focus on their own strategic initiatives "and our own significant efforts to enable financial inclusion around the world." Stripe and Visa are not closing the door entirely. Visa says they might participate in the future if Libra is able "to fully satisfy all requisite regulatory expectations." Stripe just said, "We will follow its progress closely and remain open to working with the Libra Association at a later stage."

When Facebook launched Libra back in June, the payments companies spoke positively of having a seat at the table. They viewed it as a way to guide technology that could either become a threat or, potentially, a profitable option in the future of payments – getting access to 2.4 billion Facebook users worldwide. But now the Libra Association has lost all payments partners except one, PayU, owned by South Africa-based Naspers.

Tool of the week: Speechify

It's not only Google Home, Alexa and Siri that can sound almost human these days. Speechify is an app that can read you any text in an (almost) natural human voice. Very convenient, if you - like me - get car sick if you read on busses and trains but have a text you need to read for work.

Text to speech has made vast improvements due to the recent advances within machine learning. Speechify now brings the technology to you, and it works really well for what it is – an app that reads text. But sometimes that's just what you need.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

Thinker and doer. Loves running, wine, and human behaviour.

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