Twitter is (finally) cracking down on bots

Twitter is cracking down on bots after it announced changes to its API that will massively reduce the impact of services that allow links and content to be shared across multiple accounts, i.e. the...

Apple could be buying cobalt from mining companies directly

Cobalt is the new oil. Car companies and battery manufacturers are all rushing to secure multiyear contracts with mining companies for their lithium-ion batteries. According to a Bloomberg report, Apple is also participating in this game as the company wants to secure its long-term supplies. The company has never done this before with cobalt. Apple relies on a ton of suppliers for all the components in its devices — including for batteries. And yet, cobalt prices have tripled over the past 18 months. Chances are Apple will secure a contract much more easily than a battery supplier. While an Apple Watch battery is an order of magnitude smaller than a car battery, Apple sells hundreds of millions of devices every year. All those iPhone and Mac batteries represent quite a bit of cobalt. But the issue is that car manufacturers are putting a ton of pressure on cobalt suppliers. BMW and Volkswagen are also looking at signing multiyear contracts to secure their supply chains. And other car manufacturers are probably also paying attention to cobalt prices. As a side effect, buying cobalt straight from the mines makes it easier to control the supply chain. It’s hard to know where your cobalt is coming from when you buy batteries from third-party suppliers. And in that case, it can be a big issue. Amnesty International published a report in January 2016 about cobalt mines, saying that tech companies and car manufacturers aren’t doing enough to prevent child labor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — the country is responsible for 50 percent of global cobalt production. A couple of months ago, Amnesty International published an update, saying that Apple is more transparent than others. The iPhone maker now publishes a list of its cobalt suppliers. But there’s still a long way to go in order to make sure that mining companies respect basic human rights. But let’s be honest. In today’s case, Apple mostly wants to be able to buy enough cobalt at a fair price for its upcoming gadgets. And the company has deep enough pockets to sign this kind of deal.

Amazon expands its TechStars Alexa Accelerator to London, starts search for second cohort

Amazon continues to tap into the developer community to expand the ubiquity of its Alexa voice-based assistant, and it’s taking the strategy international. Today the company opened applications for the Alexa Accelerator, the program for...

Twitter updates its policy on tweets that encourage self-harm and suicide

Twitter, which is constantly criticized for not doing enough to prevent harassment, has updated its guidelines with more information on how it handles tweets or accounts that encourage other people to hurt themselves or...

Mixer, Microsoft’s Twitch competitor, adds game sales

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Spotify job listing hints the company’s ‘first physical products’ are coming

Spotify so far has been content to partner far and wide on hardware, via its Spotify Connect platform, which allows anyone building a connected speaker, mobile device or piece of AV equipment to turn...

Amazon’s Prime Rewards Visa cardholders now get 5% back at Whole Foods if they...

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Update for iOS and Macs negates text bomb that crashed devices

Last week we reported a major bug in Apple operating systems that would cause them to crash from mere exposure to either of two specific Unicode symbols. Today Apple fixes this major text-handling issue with iOS version 11.2.6 and macOS version 10.13.3, both now available for download. The issue, discovered by Aloha Browser in the course of normal development, has to do with poor handling of certain non-English characters. We replicated the behavior, basically an immediate hard crash, in a variety of apps on both iOS and macOS. The vulnerability is listed on MITRE under CVE-2018-4124. If you were curious. Apple was informed of the bug and told TechCrunch last week that a fix was forthcoming — in fact, it was already fixed in a beta. But the production version patches just dropped in the last few minutes (iOS; macOS). Apple calls the magical characters a “maliciously crafted string” that led to “heap corruption.” It seems that macOS versions before 10.13.3 aren’t affected, so if you’re running an older OS, no worries. The iOS patch also fixes “an issue where some third-party apps could fail to connect to external accessories,” which is welcome but unrelated to the text bomb. You should be able to download both updates right now, and you should, or you’ll probably get pranked in the near future.

Fake news is an existential crisis for social media 

The funny thing about fake news is how mind-numbingly boring it can be. Not the fakes themselves — they’re constructed to be catnip clickbait to stoke the fires of rage of their intended targets....

Twitter is killing its Twitter for Mac desktop client

On Friday, Twitter announced that it would abandon its lesser loved Mac app, directing users to Twitter.com instead. The company declared that it will refocus its efforts on “a great Twitter experience that’s consistent...

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