iOS users—and only iOS users—face NSFW content ban on Discord app

Discord didn’t specify why iOS users are being treated differently from those on other platforms, but Apple’s iOS Developer Guidelines say that apps with user-generated content “that end up being used primarily for pornographic content… do not belong on the App Store.” The guidelines allow for “incidental” NSFW content generated by users on web-based services if “the content is hidden by default and only displayed when the user turns it on via your website,” a caveat that apparently isn’t sufficient for Discord’s comfort.

So… if iMessage was used, just for a while, primarily for NSFW content, the Messages app would be kicked from all Apple platform, right? Right?

Discord is using a lighter touch here, identifying and segregating NSFW content from iOS users rather than banning it altogether. Still, preventing adults from accessing adult content on one platform specifically seems like a counterintuitive way to stay in Apple’s good graces in this regard.

The stupidity of such moves is that companies fail to account for humanity’s love of, you know, sex. They’d rather go against human nature than end up in another legal battle or concoct practical ways to deal with illegal content. And when I say illegal, I mean it. What a company thinks may or may not be illegal is as irrelevant as what a lemur thinks may or may not be good aircraft carrier design.

Big Tech Is Pushing States to Pass Privacy Laws, and Yes, You Should Be Suspicious

“The effort to push through weaker bills is to demonstrate to businesses and to Congress that there are weaker options,” said Ashkan Soltani, a former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission who helped author the California legislation. “Nobody saw Virginia coming. That was very much an industry-led effort by Microsoft and Amazon. At some point, if multiple states go the way of Virginia, you might not even get companies to honor California’s [rules].”

Just in case you had been wondering why companies have been insisting they want to be regulated.

In testimony before lawmakers, tech lobbyists have criticized the state-by-state approach of making privacy legislation and said they would prefer a federal law. Tech companies offered similar statements to The Markup.

They’re right to prefer federal law. It’s crazy to have to deal with per state differences for the same reason it would have been crazy if the EU couldn’t have bloc-wide approaches about anything. And the USA are one country. If the EU can and does do it, the USA can too. Though, of course, I understand legal frameworks regulating state and federal law precedence and jurisdiction is very different to the EU’s framework.

In any case, companies seems to be advocating a federal approach as they’re playing the long game, providing weak state laws to provoke federal regulation towards which they can focus their lobbying efforts more efficiently.

But at the same time, the tech and ad industries have taken a hands-on approach to shape state legislation. Mostly, industry has advocated for two provisions. The first is an opt-out approach to the sale of personal data or using it for targeted advertising, which means that tracking is on by default unless the customer finds a way to opt out of it. Consumer advocates prefer privacy to be the default setting, with users given the freedom to opt in to certain uses of their data. The second industry desire is preventing a private right of action, which would allow consumers to sue for violations of the laws.

The industry claims such privacy protections are too extreme.

Yes, yes, of course, why not pretend everyone’s default stance should be giving anyone all their data?

TechNet, another Big Tech industry group that has been deeply engaged in lobbying state lawmakers, said that “enormous litigation costs for good faith mistakes could be fatal to businesses of all sizes.”

Oh, how nice it must be to actively believe private citizens mustn’t have the right to sue a company.

2020 Letter to Shareholders

If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more than you consume. Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with. Any business that doesn’t create value for those it touches, even if it appears successful on the surface, isn’t long for this world. It’s on the way out.

We can talk irony, hypocrisy and Amazon all we want but Jeff Bezos is not wrong. I won’t go on a rant about the appearance and false trappings of success. I’m tired as it is.

Apple’s M1 Positioning Mocks the Entire x86 Business Model

If that doesn’t seem like a fusillade across x86’s metaphorical bow, consider the issue from a different perspective: According to Apple, the M1 is the right CPU for a $699 computer, and a $999 computer, and a $1,699 computer. It’s the right chip if you want maximum battery life and the right CPU for optimal performance. Want the amazing performance of an M1 iMac, but can’t afford (or have no need) for the expensive display? Buy a $699 Mac mini, with exactly the same CPU. Apple’s M1 positioning, evaluated in its totality, claims the CPU is cheap and unremarkable enough to be sold at $699, powerful and capable enough to sell at $1699, and power-efficient enough to power both a tablet and a pair of laptops priced in-between.

Perhaps amazingly, this approach positions the CPU/GPU/SoC/whatever as just another deliberate part of a whole, a whole that is governed by informed design. Apple obfuscates the minutiae of silicon, designs according to use and feel and, naturally, this also dictates where it takes things when designing silicon too. It’s a marvelous statement that flies in the face of the number-obsessed approach we’re all used to and really puts design on a pedestal. That, in an age when performance jumps from one architecture to the next are more modest than ever, rings both true and savvy.

European MPs targeted by deepfake video calls imitating Russian opposition

A series of senior European MPs have been approached in recent days by individuals who appear to be using deepfake filters to imitate Russian opposition figures during video calls.

Those tricked include Rihards Kols, who chairs the foreign affairs committee of Latvia’s parliament, as well as MPs from Estonia and Lithuania. Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the UK foreign affairs select committee, has also said he was targeted.

And so it begins. Fun times ahead, people. Fun times.

Microsoft’s DirectStorage Will Support PCIe 3.0, All DX12-Capable Hardware – ExtremeTech

PCs have offered SSDs in at least some segments for over a decade, and support for SSD features like TRIM went in with Windows 7, but the typical PC storage model still assumes a hard drive by necessity. The fly in the ointment where DirectStorage is concerned is that even having an SSD isn’t enough — end-users will need a PCIe 3.0 NVMe drive in order to use the capability.

The goal of DirectStorage is to allow game memory requirements to scale faster than the size of GPU frame buffers. We’ve spent five years at 8GB, and while the demands of ray tracing seem likely to push VRAM buffer size upwards in the next year or two, there’s no sign that we’ll be seeing 16GB cards at the $250 price point any time soon. Streaming data quickly off an NVMe drive is a plausible alternative and there’s no reason PCs can’t take advantage of the feature the way the Xbox Series S|X can. The need to support SATA SSDs will probably keep DirectStorage as an optional feature for the foreseeable future in PC gaming, however.

When I tell fervent PC gamers that we can talk raw performance all we want, the PC can have access to any tech before anyone else etc. But bespoke, purpose-built designs drive efficiencies that can’t easily be emulated in general purpose designs like a PC. Lo and behold, Microsoft is jumping through hoops to help PCs take advantage of DirectStorage, taking a different approach than in console in order to achieve a similar effect.

Remember, GPUs taking up compression is indeed the logical choice here as modern consoles have dedicated compression blocks that aren’t part of the CPU or the GPU, something that just isn’t there in PCs.

This is good design for the console space and what Microsoft is going for in the PC space is also good design, not shoehorning an advance where it doesn’t fit but shooting for the same result in the most feasible and practical way possible.

‘Master,’ ‘Slave’ and the Fight Over Offensive Terms in Computing

The Internet Engineering Task Force eschews voting, and it often measures consensus by asking opposing factions of engineers to hum during meetings. The hums are then assessed by volume and ferocity. Vigorous humming, even from only a few people, could indicate strong disagreement, a sign that consensus has not yet been reached.

For a method picked by a bunch of engineers, voting through humming sounds unexpectedly indeficient.

In June, against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter protests, engineers at social media platforms, coding groups and international standards bodies re-examined their code and asked themselves: Was it racist? Some of their databases were called “masters” and were surrounded by “slaves,” which received information from the masters and answered queries on their behalf, preventing them from being overwhelmed. Others used “whitelists” and “blacklists” to filter content.

From Wikipedia:

For the ancient Egyptians, black had positive associations; being the color of fertility and the rich black soil flooded by the Nile. It was the color of Anubis, the god of the underworld, who took the form of a black jackal, and offered protection against evil to the dead. To ancient Greeks, black represented the underworld, separated from the living by the river Acheron, whose water ran black. Those who had committed the worst sins were sent to Tartarus, the deepest and darkest level. In the center was the palace of Hades, the king of the underworld, where he was seated upon a black ebony throne. Black was one of the most important colors used by ancient Greek artists.

In the social hierarchy of ancient Rome, purple was the color reserved for the Emperor; red was the color worn by soldiers (red cloaks for the officers, red tunics for the soldiers); white the color worn by the priests, and black was worn by craftsmen and artisans.

In Latin, the word for black, ater and to darken, atere, were associated with cruelty, brutality and evil. They were the root of the English words “atrocious” and “atrocity”.
Black was also the Roman color of death and mourning.

The German and Scandinavian peoples worshipped their own goddess of the night, Nótt, who crossed the sky in a chariot drawn by a black horse. They also feared Hel, the goddess of the kingdom of the dead, whose skin was black on one side and red on the other. They also held sacred the raven. They believed that Odin, the king of the Nordic pantheon, had two black ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who served as his agents, traveling the world for him, watching and listening.

In the early Middle Ages, black was commonly associated with darkness and evil.

Black symbolized both power and secrecy in the medieval world.

While black was the color worn by the Catholic rulers of Europe, it was also the emblematic color of the Protestant Reformation in Europe and the Puritans in England and America.

In the 20th century, black was the color of Italian and German fascism.

Elsewhere on Wikipedia:

The English dramatist Philip Massinger used the phrase “black list” in his 1639 tragedy The Unnatural Combat.

Meanwhile, during the Athenian Democracy:

For a small category of votes, a quorum of 6,000 was required, principally grants of citizenship, and here small coloured stones were used, white for yes and black for no.

Still on Wikipedia:

The word slave is derived from the ethnonym (ethnic name) Slav. It arrived in English via the Old French sclave. In Medieval Latin the word was sclavus and in Byzantine Greek σκλάβος.[11] Use of the word arose during the Early Medieval Period, when Slavs from Central and Eastern Europe (Saqaliba) were frequently enslaved by Moors from the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa. An older interpretation connected slave to the Greek verb skyleúo ‘to strip a slain enemy’.

At this point, you either understand what irony is or you don’t.

Still there (emphasis mine):

The IETF started out as an activity supported by the federal government of the United States, but since 1993 it has operated as a standards-development function under the auspices of the Internet Society, an international membership-based non-profit organization.

This is an international affair that touches on every programmer and engineer in existence but failure in taking into account anything that goes against US perception seems to be as comical as it is absolute. I’m consistently stunned by the USA’s basic inability to fathom what it means to be an economic, cultural, political and military force with worldwide influence and, hence, responsibility. For a nation hellbent on bringing up empathy at every chance it gets, its inability to act like the modern empire it is goes above and beyond.

But let’s get back to the article:

On an email list, responses trickled in. Some were supportive. Others proposed revisions. And some were vehemently opposed. One respondent wrote that Ms. Knodel’s draft tried to construct a new “Ministry of Truth.” Amid insults and accusations, many members announced that the battle had become too toxic and that they would abandon the discussion.

The pushback didn’t surprise Ms. Knodel, who had proposed similar changes in 2018 without gaining traction. The engineering community is “quite rigid and averse to these sorts of changes,” she said. “They are averse to conversations about community comportment, behavior — the human side of things.”

In July, the Internet Engineering Task Force’s steering group issued a rare statement about the draft from Ms. Knodel and Mr. ten Oever. “Exclusionary language is harmful,” it said.

Somehow, while more descriptive indeed, “blocklist” is to be considered less exclusionary than “blacklist”. And, yes, I understand the whole issue isn’t about exclusion in semiological terms. It is about potentially loaded terms that can act as deterrents for those that contemplate entering a field. At which point one has to wonder how Greeks survived an age of their ethnonym being used with derogatory connotations (even amongst themselves!) or how Slavs can even get up every morning knowing the nigh universal word “slave” is (most likely) derived from their own ethnonym.

As a bonus, I’ll just mention that the Greek word for “work” is itself derived from the Greek word for “slavery”. Imagine that keeping Greeks from ever doing any work.