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Facebook finally makes it way easier to trash your old posts

Facebook is introducing a new tool to help users batch-delete old posts and shrink their digital footprint on the aging social network.

Called “Manage Activity,” the new feature lets users prune their posts in bulk, making it less of a headache to delete content aging badly or anything else unnecessary that’s built up from years of using the platform. The feature will be available to some users on the Facebook app today and will roll out more broadly in the next few weeks.

“Whether you’re entering the job market after college or moving on from an old relationship, we know things change in people’s lives, and we want to make it easy for you to curate your presence on Facebook to more accurately reflect who you are today,” Facebook wrote in the tool’s announcement.

Anyone who’d like to batch-delete or archive old content will be able search their entire trove of Facebook posts using filters for dates, people tagged, and content type (photo, video, text updates, et cetera). In a preview of the tool, it looked like a vastly more useful way to control aging content without having to manually scroll through years of old posts.

Users skittish about getting rid of content permanently can opt to archive their old posts rather than deleting them outright. Archived posts stick around in a kind of purgatory, remaining viewable to their creator, like the Stories archive feature on Instagram. Deleted posts will hang out for 30 days before being wiped and users can either restore them or manually delete them from there.

In the past, users were stuck either batch-deleting old posts manually or installing third-party browser add-ons, which are notoriously rife with malware.

While it’s actually fairly shocking Facebook didn’t already have this tool, the platform’s privacy controls have a history of being somewhat fussy and difficult to navigate. Facebook has made improvements—not all voluntary—to its user privacy controls in recent years, particularly as more users wake up to the concerns of sharing vast amounts of personal data online. Old content poses similar problems and can also be a goldmine for anyone looking to compromise an account, whether for harassment purposes, identity theft or whatever else.

As social networks age, old posts and tagged content builds up, like a kind of digital plaque. For privacy purposes, scraping that stuff off regularly and cleaning things up is a good idea. And while you can’t really truly pry any information you’ve given up online away from companies like Facebook, getting more control over personal data that’s already out there is probably the next best thing.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Taylor Hatmaker

After Twitter fact-check, Trump threatens to regulate or close down social media platforms


Once again, Trump has doubled down. Following the addition of a fact-checking warning label added to his tweet about mail-in ballots, Trump took to the platform yet again to denounce it. In what may be his strongest words to date against a service that has largely given him free rein to this point, the President suggested that social media services would have to be regulated or shut down. Republicans have long held that social media sites harbor an anti-conservative bias. 

“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices,” he tweeted. “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016.”

That last bit appears to be a reference to the role platforms like Twitter and Facebook played in the 2016 election. Trump then went on to reassert earlier claims about mail-in ballots, accusing a push for easy access to voting amid a pandemic of being a “free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft.”

It was precisely those claims that earned him a Twitter fact-checking label in the first place. As of this writing, however, no such label has been added to the new tweet sent a little after 7AM ET this morning. It’s been a busy couple of days for Trump on his favored social media platform, following the long holiday weekend. Last night he accused the service of “stifling free speech,” in spite of Twitter’s long-standing reluctance to either delete tweets or ban Trump over perceived TOS violations.

This morning the President took to Twitter to once again tie a cable news morning host to an old conspiracy theory about his late-wife host and declare “Obamagate” worse than Watergate.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Brian Heater

US video game sales have record quarter, as consumers stay at home


New numbers from NPD confirm what we’ve known for a while: the first quarter of 2020 was a very good one for gaming companies. The new report notes that sales hit a record $10.86 billion in the States between January and March of this year, marking a 9% increase over a year prior. $9.58 billion of that figure was from video game content.

The primary driver is, you guessed it, COVID-19. As stay at home orders have been enacted on the federal and state levels, people are coping with the on-going daily horror that is life in 2020 by playing video games. Lots and lots of video games.

Here’s NPD’s Mat Piscatella further confirming our suspicions, “Video Games have brought comfort and connection to millions during this challenging time. As people have stayed at home more, they’ve utilized gaming not only as a diversion and an escape, but also as a means of staying connected with family and friends. Whether it was on console or mobile, PC or virtual reality, gaming experienced play and sales growth during the first quarter.”

According to NPD’s Q1 2020 Games Market Dynamics: U.S. report, overall total industry consumer spending on #videogaming in the U.S. reached a record $10.86 billion in the first quarter of 2020 (Jan. – Mar.), an increase of 9 percent compared to the same time period last year.

— NPD Games (@npdgames) May 15, 2020

That last bit is, in part, key to many consumers’ choice of game titles. As already noted by the firm, Animal Crossing: New Horizons had its own record setting first quarter. That, in turn, helped drive Switch sales, in spite of Nintendo’s well documented supply issues. The title arrived just in the nick of time for stay at home orders in the U.S., delivering a kind of front-facing social experience that much of the competition lacks. Also, turnips.

Matter of fact, the Switch’s success actually helped supplement losses of other platforms. Microsoft and Sony will no doubt make up gains at the end of the year with their next gen consoles. For now, however, many consumers are likely holding out until their holiday arrives to invest in Xbox or Playstation hardware, in spite of the pandemic. The U.S.’s soaring unemployment rate no doubt also had an impact on the industry’s bottom line.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Brian Heater

Instagram adds new anti-bullying features, including tag controls, comment management tools

As part of its anti-bullying efforts, Instagram today announced a series of new features aimed at helping users better manage negative comments as well as highlight positive ones. It’s also adding new controls to manage who can tag or mention you on Instagram, which can be another source of online bullying.

The first of the new features for managing negative comments is specifically aimed at those who own or help run Instagram accounts with a large following. Being able to manage a surge of negative comments on these accounts can be difficult — especially in the case of a post that’s gone viral or a coordinated attack from online trolls or bots.

Instagram has been testing a new feature that allows account holders to delete comments in bulk and restrict multiple accounts that post negative comments. This could effectively silence those who regularly stalk high-profile accounts with the main goal of leaving negative or trolling remarks. The company says the early feedback from its tests has been encouraging, so it’s opening up the feature to Instagram users on mobile.

On iOS, you can tap on a comment, then the dotted icon in the top-right corner where you’ll choose “Manage Comments.” This will allow you to choose up to 25 comments to delete at once. If you tap “More Options,” you’ll also find a feature that lets you block or restrict commenters’ accounts in bulk. On Android, you’ll instead press and hold on comment, then tap the dotted icon, and select Block or Restrict.

Another new feature, Pinned Comments, will soon launch as a test.

The idea here is to give Instagram users a way to amplify positive comments. This can help set the tone for the community and encourage more positive interactions, as a result. When the feature goes live, users will be able to select and pin a number of comments to the top of their comments thread, where they’re more easily seen.

While these features will put account owners in better control over their community, they may also have the effect of silencing valid criticism or any comments the poster simply doesn’t like. Twitter, by comparison, offers a way for users to hide replies they don’t like — but it doesn’t remove them from its platform. Instead, the replies are hidden behind an extra click, keeping them visible to anyone who knows where to look.

Instagram is also now rolling out a set of expanded controls that allow you to choose who’s allowed to mention or tag you in comments, captions, or Stories. You’ll be able to select from “Everyone,” “Only People You Follow” or “No One,” for both tags and mentions. In addition, you’ll be able to toggle on or off an option that gives you the ability to manually approve tags.

The launch of the trio of new features comes alongside Facebook’s fifth edition of its Community Standards Enforcement Report, which details how well the company has been able to enforce its policies across its suite of apps.

For the first time, the report shared enforcement data for bullying on Instagram, noting that it took action on 1.5 million pieces of content in both Q4 2019 and Q1 2020.

The company also made improvements to its text and image matching technology to find more suicide and self-injury content on Instagram, it said. As a result, it increased the action on this content by 40% and increased its proactive detection rate by more than 12 points since its last report. The technology used to finding and removing child nudity and sexual exploitative content was improved across both Facebook and Instagram, as well.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Sarah Perez

Twitter says staff can continue working from home permanently


Earlier today, Jack Dorsey sent an email to Twitter staff, notifying employees that they will be ale to  continue working from home as long as they see fit. The CEO notes that Twitter was an earlier adopter of a work-from-home model, though — like much the rest of the world — that push has been accelerated by COVID-19 stay at home orders.

Twitter confirmed the decision in an email to TechCrunch, noting,

We were uniquely positioned to respond quickly and allow folks to work from home given our emphasis on decentralization and supporting a distributed workforce capable of working from anywhere. The past few months have proven we can make that work. So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen. If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return. 

Beyond that, the company is also outlining its plans resume in-person working arrangements and meetings, for those who prefer that arrangement. While San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced on April 27 that the city would extend its stay at home orders through the end of May, Governor Gavin Newsom has already signaled the easing of some restrictions.

Even so, Twitter appears to be taking an understandably cautious approach toward returning to work — a luxury afforded to the company by the flexibility of remote work. Chief HR Officer Jennifer Christie lays out Twitter’s plans thusly,

  • Opening offices will be our decision, when and if our employees come back, will be theirs. 
  • With very few exceptions, offices won’t open before September. When we do decide to open offices, it also won’t be a snap back to the way it was before. It will be careful, intentional, office by office and gradual. 
  • There will also be no business travel before September, with very few exceptions, and no in-person company events for the rest of 2020. We will assess 2021 events later this year.

Obviously things are subject to change, though Twitter seems much more likely to push it back, if anything, based on the language. Other major tech firms, including Facebook and Google, have extended their work from home policies through the end of the year. Twitter’s approach is particularly accommodating for a company of its size. What that means for the future of Twitter’s San Francisco HQ and other offices, however, remains to be seen. 

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Brian Heater

Firefox gets a better password manager

Mozilla today launched version 76 of its Firefox browser, and with that, it’s launching a couple of new features that you’ll likely notice if you’re already using the open-source browser.

The highlight of today’s release is the enhanced password manager. Firefox Lockwise, as it is called these days, will now ask you for your device password when you try to copy and paste credentials from your “Logins and Passwords” page in the browser. After you’ve confirmed your device password, you can see and copy your credentials for five minutes. This should make it a bit harder for others to access password-protected sites on your machine, especially if you’re on a computer you regularly share with others.

Also new to Lockwise are alerts for vulnerable passwords that are identical to those that have been stolen in a known breach (but you would never reuse a password, right?), as well as warnings when a website you use has been breached and your logins and passwords were likely stolen.

In addition, Lockwise’s password generator now works with more sites and will help you find 12 random letters, numbers and symbols for you to use as your password.

With version 76, Firefox now also includes an improved picture-in-picture mode for video sites like YouTube. With this, you can keep watching a video in the corner of your screen while you continue with other tasks (though you can’t browse away from YouTube, for example, while you’re watching in the pop-out window). I wish I could have more control over the size of that picture-in-picture window because it’s pretty large, but that’s just how it is for now. New in version 76 is the ability to double-click on the popped out video to make it fullscreen. A small but welcome new feature.

Update: we clarified that PiP mode itself is not new. Only the double-click to fullscreen is.

If you’re an avid Zoom user, you’ll be happy to hear that Firefox has now made a few changes that allow you to use it in Firefox without the need for any additional downloads, and WebRender, which uses the GPU to render websites faster, is now enabled on even more machines.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Frederic Lardinois

DJI’s latest industrial drone has 55 minute flight time, 15 km video range

DJI took the wraps off its latest drone today. Targeting industrial users, the Matrice 300 builds on the company’s Matrice platform, and sports a host of improvements from longer battery life, object detection sensors on all six sides and a 15 km video transmission range.

The Matrice line has long been DJI’s all-in-one industrial product offering. These models are much larger and more utilitarian than its consumer or prosumer line and feature capabilities than align with those markets. Where consumers use drones for photography, industries and public service operations are increasingly looking to drones to gather data.

The Matrice 300 is designed for data collection and aerial surveys. The drone is available with two different camera modules. The H20 features a 20MP camera with a 23x hybrid optical zoom, a 12MP wide-angle camera, and a laser range finder that can read distances from 3m to 1200m. The H20T adds a radiometric thermal camera to the sensor array, giving the drone additional functions.

Integrated functions give the drone automated features such as the ability to automate routine photos — just mark the item on the controller’s screen, and when instructed, the drone will return to the area and take another photo of the object in the same location and angle. Other functions include the ability to track items while they’re moving.

Like some of DJI’s other high-end drones, the Matrice 300 has a dual operator mode allowing two people to control the drone. Or, if needed, operators can switch control to another pilot located on the other end of the Matrice 300’s range, which should dramatically improve its range and safety.

DJI stuffed this latest drone with additional improvements. Collision detection sensors are located on all six sides of the drone giving it 360 degrees of protection. A new controller ships with the Matrice 300, too, that’s loaded with updated flight software that appears to improve pilot control.

Battery life is greatly improved too. DJI says the Matrice 300 has a flight time of 55 minutes, which is up from the Matrice 200’s 38-minute battery life and the 27-minute life found on the prosumer Inspire 2. Dual batteries power the device and allow for hot-swapping packs while the drone is on the ground, but not powered off.

Pricing wasn’t released. The Matrice 300 will ship from DJI dealers in the second half of 2020.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Matt Burns

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch review

With the new MacBook, Apple closes one of the more unfortunate product chapters in its history. The upgraded 13-inch mercifully marks the end of the failed five-year experiment that was the butterfly switch.

I won’t go into too much detail here. If you’ve purchased a MacBook in the past several years, you almost certainly know what I’m talking about — the keys that stuck, the others that seemed to fire at random. I had at least one compressed air emergency myself, while setting up to liveblog at a competitor’s press event.

After a few attempts to salvage the technology, Apple finally scrapped it, going back to basics and returning to the trusty old scissor switch. I’m typing on it now, and it’s seriously making me reconsider upgrading my four-year-old machine. Honestly, the laptop is in perfect shape otherwise, but man, those keys. It always felt too much like typing on a flat surface.

With this week’s news, the 13-inch becomes the third and final member of the MacBook family to get the new keyboard. It’s not “Magic” as the name implies (Apple really does love the M-word), but improvements are immediate and vast. The experience is considerably softer to the touch and quieter than previous versions, and the one millimeter of key travel is much easier on the hands.

There are other nice touches, here, including the addition of a dedicated Escape key. It’s a small but welcome consolation that the Touch Bar can’t do everything.

I realize I’ve just spent the first several paragraphs focusing on the keyboard. Silly, I know, but why bury the lede? After all, without it, the new MacBook would be a fairly standard MacBook upgrade (nothing wrong with that, but that’s just how these things work). With it, it’s a far more compelling invite for those who have been on the fence about an upgrade.

The system is visually identical to earlier models. Same familiar unibody metal design in silver or space gray. Same 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600 Retina display. It’s also, for that matter, same as you’ll find on the Air, though the 13-inch’s is 500 nits vs. the Air’s 400. It’s brighter and easier on the eyes, if a bit tougher on battery life. Rumors had the company upgrading the device to a 14-inch, inline with the larger 16-inch model and further distinguishing it from the Air, but that was not to be this generation.

Same ports (4x Thunderbolt 3/USB and headphone jack). It’s a solid laptop that’s become a daily driver for so many of us. Really, the only complaint I would level against it is that the company hasn’t done a lot to distinguish the outside of the machine from the $300 cheaper Air (the Air starts at $999, the Pro at $1,299), beyond port count.

Of course, it’s what’s inside that counts. That’s what my mom tells me, at least. Curiously, the Air ships with a 10th-gen Core i7, which the entry-level pro has an 8th gen, upgradable to 10th gen. Of course, the Pro’s processor is quad-core by default (versus the Air’s dual) and 1.7GHz (to the Air’s 1.2). Our system as configured sported the 2 GHz 10th-gen quad-core i5. 

That’s $500 more than the entry-level model, at $1,799. For another $200, you can bump that up to 2.3GHz. Our  system clocked 5520 and 18228 on GeekBench 4’s single and double-core tests. That’s a nice bump over the Air’s 5244 and 14672. 

The system also sports 16GB of RAM and 500GB of storage. The lines are a bit more blurred between the Air and the 13-inch Pro on this front, with both systems starting at 8GB and 256GB. The Pro, however, goes all the way up to 32GB and 4TB, while the Air stalls out at 16GB and 2TB.

In a lot of ways, the systems start from a similar place, but the the Pro can be specced out for better performance more befitting the Pro moniker. If you’re opting for the Pro over the Air, it’s likely you need more processing power for things like video editing or perhaps some gaming, so you’ll want to upgrade over the base-level to make sure you’re covered. The Pro’s battery life is rated at up to 10 hours, to the Air’s 11. Out of the box, I got several hours of life, doing work and listening to music, but like the Air’s claims, 10 hours is definitely a stretch here with everyday usage.

Again, the biggest drawback of the 13-inch Pro is that the improved Air blurs the product lines in a number of ways. But that device is thinner, lighter and $300 cheaper. The case for choosing the pricier device isn’t as clear as, say, the decision between the 13-inch and 16-inch models.

For most users, the Air should be plenty for most tasks. For those who need more power without breaking their backs or banks, however, the 13-inch model is still a strong and safe bet that’s now much easier on the fingers.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Brian Heater