Twitter launches Tor service to help Russians bypass censorship – Protocol

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Though Twitter hasn’t been officially banned in Russia, some users are struggling to use the platform.
Twitter’s Tor service will aid Russian users in working around a ban.
Twitter announced a Tor onion service Wednesday, ostensibly to help Russians bypass censorship in the country. Though Twitter has not directly linked the new service to actions by the Russian government, the move comes just days after reports signaled interrupted service.
The feature was created by cybersecurity researcher Alec Muffett, an evangelist for the Tor network who has reportedly been working on the service since around 2014. When announcing the .onion URL, he tweeted, “This is possibly the most important and long-awaited tweet that I’ve ever composed.”
Onion routing refers to when internet activity is encrypted and bounced between servers distributed around the world (Tor originally started as an acronym for “The Onion Router”). This allows users to access content that their ISP throttles or blocks. Twitter’s Tor service was created based on an open-source tool created by Muffett called the Enterprise Onion Toolkit.
BuzzFeed first reported that Russia blocked Twitter last Friday, which the company initially denied. “We’re aware of reports, but we don’t currently see anything significantly different from what we previously shared that would report to a block,” the platform told Protocol.

But in the days since, it’s become obvious that Russians are struggling to access the platform. Twitter confirmed as much to TechCrunch on Monday. Russian communications agency Roskomnadzor has not publicly confirmed a Twitter ban, though it has admitted to a “partial” block of Facebook.
Meta had removed Russian propaganda outlets like Russia Today, and had also began marking Russian disinformation with fact-checking labels and demoting false content. Twitter, on the other hand, has been labeling Russian state accounts and “taking enforcement action” against misleading content. The country announced a draconian new law Friday threatening journalists who share information that Russia deems “fake” about the war with jail time.
Russians have begun to protest the war, inspired by videos from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and from Ukrainians and soldiers on the front line. In addition to Tor workarounds, the demand for VPNs also has spiked in the country, showing that Russians are finding ways around the Kremlin’s narrative.
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Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering breaking news. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.
Oracle has quietly invested almost half a billion dollars over the past several years into server chip startup Ampere Computing, giving it more than a 20% stake in the business run by one of its board members.
The size of Oracle’s stake in Ampere became apparent when Oracle reported a wider-than-expected operating loss for its fiscal third quarter, which it blamed, in part, on Ampere’s losses. According to accounting rules, Oracle’s inclusion of Ampere’s operating losses in its earnings implies that it owns between 20% to 50% of Ampere.
Oracle and Ampere did not respond to a request for comment. In filings prior to its 2021 proxy statement, Oracle had included a note that it owned less than 20% of Ampere. Its most recent proxy statement did not disclose the company’s ownership stake in the startup.
Oracle has bet on Ampere’s server chip business since 2017, when it made an initial $46 million investment, according to SEC filings. Prior to the investment, Ampere CEO Renee James was considered an independent member of Oracle’s board, but the company changed her status after the funding round. James has served on Oracle’s board since 2015 and was formerly president of Intel.

Oracle upped its stake in Ampere by $40 million in 2019, and again in 2020 with a second $40 million investment. It appears Oracle’s ownership stake grew over 20% in March 2021, when it invested $300 million, according to SEC filings. In total, Oracle has invested $426 million. Oracle’s stake could increase in the future: The SEC filing said that Oracle has the obligation to acquire additional Ampere stock “under certain circumstances” from James and other shareholders.
In addition to Oracle’s equity investments, the company also gave Ampere a $25 million prepayment for its processors, and three payments of under $500,000 for hardware used for testing and development, according to filings. Oracle disclosed that it had acquired $3.4 million worth of chips against the $25 million prepayment in fiscal 2021.

Ampere makes server chips powered by Arm designs, and accounts for less than 1% of the server market which is dominated by Intel and AMD, according to Jefferies research. Within Oracle’s cloud server offering, Ampere has an 8% share, Jefferies noted.
Meta will temporarily amend its policy on hate speech, allowing some Instagram and Facebook users to post calls for violence against Russian soldiers in the context of its invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.
The company will allow users in some countries to call for the death of Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the company said in emails to its content moderators, seen by Reuters. The policy changes apply to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Russia and Ukraine.
These types of posts, however, do have limits: They can’t name other targets, and they can’t include multiple indications of credibility, such as where and how those deaths might happen. They can also only be in the content of the invasion of Ukraine.
Meta also will not allow for “credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” Andy Stone, Meta’s policy communications, tweeted on Thursday.
“As a result to the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to Russian invaders,'” Stone tweeted in response to New York Times reporter Ryan Mac.

Meta did not immediately respond to request for comment from Protocol.
The company had previously made the exception to allow praise of the Azov battalion, a Ukrainian neo-Nazi military unit, which is usually prohibited, according to The Intercept, which Meta spokesman Joe Osborne said would be “strictly in the context of defending Ukraine.”
The move is the latest response by Meta to the war in Ukraine. The company has paused all ads targeting people in Russia, and will no longer run ads anywhere globally from Russian marketers. It’s also restricted access to Russian state-run news outlets RT and Sputnik in the EU, and prohibited state-run media from running or monetizing ads on its platforms. Instagram is also “downranking” posts by Russian state-owned media. Meta has also introduced tools to support Ukrainians, including offering encrypted Instagram DMs in Russia and Ukraine.
In retaliation against Meta for its fact checking and restrictions of Russian context, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, restricted access to Facebook within the country last week.
Peloton’s had a rough year. After bringing on a new CEO, the company’s latest attempt to reverse its downward spiral is to hire someone to fix one of its biggest issues: supply chain management.
Peloton announced Thursday that Andrew Rendich will join the company as its chief supply chain officer.
Rendich, who will start in the position next Wednesday, will oversee distribution, IT and member-support groups. Rendich joins the fitness company from Grove Collaborative, a home goods and products company, where he was the COO and will remain an adviser. Rendich formerly worked with Peloton CEO and President Barry McCarthy at Netflix. Rendich has 30 years of experience in supply chain, operations and customer service.
“Andy deeply understands how to run and execute a subscription model business,” McCarthy said in a statement. “He has always put the customer first while delivering an excellent experience, a superpower that is central to Peloton’s members-first mentality.”

This is a key hire for Peloton, which mismanaged its supply of bikes and struggled to meet demand in the early days of the pandemic, when lockdowns and gym closures forced people to work out at home. The company acquired commercial gym equipment supplier Precor to bolster its manufacturing capabilities, but then produced so many bikes that they began to clutter warehouses as pandemic-induced orders died down.
Rendich steps into his new role as the company is decidedly struggling. The company’s market value tumbled from $50 billion to less than $8 billion in a year as demand declined. The company temporarily halted production of its bikes in January, laid off 2,800 employees and replaced CEO John Foley with McCarthy, a veteran of Spotify and Netflix. Other executives, including Chief Operating Officer Mariana Garavaglia, Chief Business Officer Brad Olson and Chief Supply Chain Officer Jon Adee, have all left the company in recent months.
Rumors had previously swirled that companies such as Nike and Amazon were interested in buying Peloton, which McCarthy stamped out, saying he doesn’t see a sale of the company in the “foreseeable future.
In a move to make its bikes more affordable and drive up demand, Peloton is working on a new subscription model in which customers will get a bike and subscription to classes for between $60 and $100 a month.
Peloton will also promote Shari Eaton from its senior vice president of People to chief people officer.
U.S. inflation rose to 7.9% in the year through February, the biggest spike since 1982, as the war in Ukraine continues to put pressure on the oil and commodity markets. If technology still is a deflationary influence, it’s getting harder to see.
Meanwhile, wages aren’t keeping up, even as the competitive talent market is pushing employers to up worker salaries. Overall wages fell 2.4% on average for all workers last year, and a recent Pew survey found that the majority of workers who quit their jobs in 2021 cited low pay as their top reason for quitting.

Big Tech has been mixed on its response. In December, Google’s VP of Compensation Frank Wagner told employees at an all-hands meeting that the company wouldn’t be raising pay across the board to match inflation.
“As I mentioned previously in other meetings, when we see price inflation increasing, we also see increases in the cost of labor or market pay rate. Those have been higher than in the recent past and our compensation budgets have reflected that,” he said.

For those who are betting on crypto as a hedge against inflation, evergreen reminder that it’s still a risk asset.

After dropping bitcoin in 2018, Stripe is once again supporting cryptocurrencies — this time with broad support for a range of crypto businesses, including exchanges, on-ramps, wallets and NFT marketplaces.
The payments giant’s APIs will let crypto businesses “process payments for fiat currencies globally through a single integration with fraud prevention and authorization optimization built in,” according to its website.
In 2018, Stripe wrote, bitcoin had “evolved to become better-suited to being an asset than being a means of exchange.” But once-high transaction costs have fallen, and Stripe started rebuilding its crypto team last fall.
The toolkit for crypto businesses include API integrations like Stripe Connect, which allows users to pay out fiat currencies in over 45 countries, and Stripe Identity, an identity-verification system to mitigate fraud.
The payments giant partnered with FTX to improve payments processing and build a fiat-to-crypto on-ramp for the crypto exchange. The partnership builds on an existing relationship: FTX had previously integrated Stripe Identity to improve its know-your-customer processes.

FTX saw “greatly increased speed of KYC processing” with Stripe, FTX president Brett Harrison tweeted in November.
Complying with KYC, anti-money laundering, FinCEN’s Travel Rule and other requirements has become an increasing area of focus for the crypto industry this year, as regulators around the world seem determined to bring crypto operations under the same umbrella as other financial firms.
People have been clamoring for the ability to shop on Pinterest — one of the only social platforms where it actually makes sense to buy things — for years, and while the company has been sort of interested in becoming a retail destination since launching Buyable Pins in 2015, the efforts have seemed half-hearted at best.
Now Pinterest seems closer to realizing its ecommerce ambitions. The company is rolling out several new shopping features, it announced at its global advertiser summit, Pinterest Presents.
Pinterest is launching something called Your Shop, which is a customized shopping page that uses an algorithm to feed users brands and content from creators based on their preferences. Rather than needing to leave the platform to make a purchase, Pinterest is also introducing the ability to check out directly on the site. (Finally!)

A new Pinterest API will automatically upload and update a retailer’s merchandise availability. For example, if an item is out of a stock, that will be automatically reflected on Pinterest. The same goes for price changes in products.

And the platform will soon let users turn Idea Pins into Idea Ads so creators can make ad revenue off their pins. Currently, creators monetize their Idea Pins through paid partnerships. Brand deals bring in most of a creator’s income, but they look to make money through other sources, too, like advertising revenue and creator funds. Idea Ads is yet another incentive to get creators on the platform to promote products and make both ad revenue and money from partnerships.
Pinterest is also rolling out new tools for retailers. This summer, businesses in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. will gain access to more audience tools and real-time search data through Pinterest Trends, which businesses use to understand what’s popular in categories like beauty or travel.
Pinterest has obviously been interested in shopping for years, and in recent months has invested more effort into becoming a mall. Back in October, the company introduced live, shoppable shows. A couple months later, Pinterest introduced an AR feature that let users see what furniture would look like in their home. But even with these new tools, people still needed to leave Pinterest to complete their purchases on other sites. The company is now making it clear that it never wants users to have to leave Pinterest to shop.
When the Russian military took over the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant following its invasion of Ukraine, one of the primary concerns was whether troop movements and fighting would unleash radiation.
But while no elevated radiation has been reported in the immediate aftermath of the disaster site and nuclear power plant being captured, the International Atomic Energy Agency no longer has data transmission from the sites. In short, it’s even harder to monitor nuclear safety from the outside.
“The Agency is looking into the status of safeguards monitoring systems in other locations in Ukraine and will provide further information soon,” the IAEA said in a statement, referring to technical protocol it takes to deter the spread of nuclear weapons and contamination. The IAEA did not immediately return Protocol’s request for comment.
Monitoring radiation levels has become an increasing concern since the Russian military invasion. Staff and a network of sensors are on site at Chernobyl, a former power plant that’s home to the worst nuclear disaster in history, and Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, to keep track of radiation. But they have been taken hostage and working conditions at the plants have worsened. Workers at Zaporizhzhia are reportedly in “very bad psychological conditions,” according to Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s state-owned atomic energy firm Energoatom. Staff at Chernobyl haven’t left the plant for about two weeks.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said that staff need to be able to rest and work in regular shifts to properly operate nuclear facilities.
“I’m deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing staff at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and the potential risks this entails for nuclear safety,” Grossi said. “I call on the forces in effective control of the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel there.”
Chernobyl also lost power Wednesday morning local time, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine wrote in a Facebook post. Emergency diesel generators were activated, and they can supply electricity for about 48 hours. But disruption in the area “makes it impossible” to control nuclear and radiation security parameters, the agency said. While there’s no risk of a meltdown at Chernobyl, the site still poses a risk if safeguards fail due to lack of power or increased fighting in the area.
“Already two weeks the Chornobyl NPP personnel has been courageously and heroically performing their functions without rotation to ensure the safe operation of the facilities,” the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine wrote.
“Veronica ‘loved’ an image” doesn’t feel as warm and fuzzy as seeing a big heart spring up at the corner of the message or photo you sent.
And yet Android users have been annoyed by these responses from their iPhone-using friends for years. Apple’s iMessage exclusively works between iPhones, and iPhone users can’t download Google Messages from the App Store, which means that iMessage tapbacks (which let you emphasize a message with a heart, exclamation marks and other reactions) show up as texts. Really, really annoying texts.
Until now. Google just announced new messaging features that will translate iPhone reactions into Android emoji, along with a couple other updates.
We knew this was coming when Google teased the update a few months ago and let beta users try it out. But now, it’s official: Heart reactions in iMessage transform into heart-eye emojis on Android, thumbs up and thumbs down become, well, thumbs up and thumbs down, and laughing reactions translate to the laughing with tears emoji.

The update isn’t just about creating “more connection,” as Google’s press release reads. It’s mainly a business move. iMessage has an inherent cool factor, especially among teens, which hurts Android’s ability to sell a phone to young people. If you’ve ever watched an Android user try to keep up in a group chat of all iPhone users, forced to respond to their friends individually in a separate chat, then you know the struggle. Just add the exclusionary dynamics of high school cliques and it makes total sense why kids these days want an iPhone, not an Android.
Making reactions work across texting platforms reduces the very real stigma of being a green bubble. Google also made it easier for Android users to send their Apple counterparts high-resolution photos and videos, so long as they send them as a Google Photos link. And there’s a new autocorrect-like grammar correction, the ability to transcribe audio offline and the ability to turn photos into portraits in the new update, too.
Android users are bound to “love” it.
As part of its sanctions against Russia, the European Union is imposing sweeping new restrictions on search engines and social media companies’ ability to share content from Russian state media outlets RT and Sputnik.
In a notice to Google, the European Commission said it is requiring search engines to remove all search results that contain links to or even “short textual descriptions” of RT and Sputnik content. It’s also requiring social media platforms to block posts linking to or rebroadcasting content from either outlet.
While Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok are already blocking both outlets inside of Europe, forcing Google to remove search results — even to news stories that link to or describe RT and Sputnik stories — is an extreme escalation. The block on RT and Sputnik on search applies to “any link to the Internet sites of RT and Sputnik” and “any content of RT and Sputnik, including short textual descriptions, visual elements and links to the corresponding websites.”

The commission said these actions are necessary because “RT and Sputnik have to date gravely distorted and manipulated facts and have repeatedly and consistently targeted European political parties, especially during election periods, as well as civil society, asylum seekers, Russian ethnic minorities, gender minorities, and the functioning of democratic institutions in the Union and its Member States.”
If Google were to continue to surface links to those outlets, the commission wrote, it would “facilitate the public’s access to the content of RT and Sputnik, or contribute to such access.”
The social media restrictions forbid any posts that “broadcast” content from RT and Sputnik, but, unlike in search, journalists do get a limited exemption on social media if they are “informing their readers/viewers objectively and completely.” Even that exemption has limits: “If another media outlet purports to inform its readers/viewers, but in reality its conduct aims at broadcasting Russia Today or Sputnik content to the public or has that effect, it will be in breach of the prohibition laid down in the Regulation.”
The emergency measures underscore a fundamental difference in the regulation of speech online in the EU as compared to the U.S. EU citizens have had the right to remove sensitive information about themselves from search — “the right to be forgotten” — for years.

Google did not immediately respond to Protocol’s request for comment.
The commission acknowledges that these rules may substantially restrict free speech inside the EU, but writes, “the right to free speech can be restricted for legitimate public interests in a proportionate manner.”
Asana shares sank by more than 15% after regular trading closed yesterday, despite co-founder and CEO Dustin Moskovitz reporting better-than-expected revenue.
Moskovitz reported a fourth-quarter loss of $90 million, or 48 cents a share, and a total revenue of $111.9 million. Last year, the company reported a loss of 22 cents a share. Analysts had expected a loss of 28 cents a share with revenue of $105.2 million. Shares promptly dropped in after-hours trading. Moskovitz focused on the revenue growth in a statement.
“Our fiscal year revenue growth accelerated versus the previous year, led by strength in the enterprise and strong demand across the customer base,” he wrote.
Asana went public in 2020, debuting at $27 a share. The productivity app market is increasingly crowded, with more and more companies facing off as unicorns. But tech stocks in general have not been as hot this year, declining from record highs last year.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Asana’s opening price. This story was updated on March 10, 2022.

The company is testing out a new plan in which customers get a bike and subscription for between $60 and $100 a month. Customers who cancel their subscription can return their bike at no charge. Previously, users purchased the stationary bike upfront, then paid a $39 monthly subscription for its workout classes.
Peloton implemented a hiring freeze in November, and just a couple of months later, it hiked the price of its bikes and treadmills. The company’s former CEO blamed a decrease in bike purchases on the allegedly waning COVID-19 pandemic. Peloton later laid off a slew of sales and marketing staff, temporarily stopped production of its bikes and tapped a firm to help cut costs at the start of the year.
Now, the company has a new CEO, Barry McCarthy, and rumors about a potential sale of the company are floating around, although McCarthy swears it won’t happen any time soon.

McCarthy told The Wall Street Journal that higher subscriptions are more profitable over time, and Peloton already does a good job at retaining subscribers. So rather than getting people to make a major Peloton purchase from the start (the cheapest Peloton bike at the moment is $1,495), the new model will slowly draw customers in with no upfront costs and the option to cancel at any point. The new subscription model is currently being tested in Texas, Florida, Minnesota and Denver, Colorado.
McCarthy also plans to reshuffle Peloton’s executive team and look into simpler bikes, according to The Wall Street Journal. He wants to turn the company’s capital spending strategy around by spending more money on Peloton’s digital systems and content rather than investing mostly in equipment like bikes and treadmills.
The company got its Apple Watch integration to work, too. The Peloton watch app will alert users any time they start a class on the Bike, Bike Plus or Tread, and users can start recording their workouts from there.
This story was updated to clarify Peloton’s monthly fee.
Last summer, Twitter launched a shopping tool that let users list a handful of products at the top of their profile. Now, the platform is expanding that shopping feature with a dedicated page where sellers can plug a larger array of products.
The feature is called Twitter Shops, and it allows sellers to link a virtual storefront to their profiles and list up to 50 products. If someone wants to buy a product off that page, customers will be routed to the company’s website. A few companies plan to launch Twitter Shops today, including Verizon, Gay Pride Apparel, Arden Cove, the Latinx In Power podcast and All I Do Is Cook.
All I Do Is Cook is adding a shopping feature. Image: Twitter
The tool feels a bit like Pinterest’s current shopping model, where people can favorite pins of products but can’t actually buy the product on Pinterest. Instead, they’re directed to the company’s website. Letting people buy items right off the platform was a bust for Twitter, anyway: In 2017, Twitter introduced a “Buy” button that allowed people to make purchases directly from a tweet, but it dropped the tool a short time later.

Currently on Twitter profiles, users can add a link to a website at the top of their profile or use Twitter’s Shopping Module — both of which require customers to make purchases on a separate site.
Twitter Shops marks yet another feature people can use to make money off its platform. Twitter most recently launched a Creator Dashboard where people can keep track of how much they’re making. Prior to that, Twitter added monetization tools like Super Follows, Ticketed Spaces and a Tip Jar, which let creators earn money from a mix of paid events and their own followers.
Platforms including TikTok, Instagram and YouTube have all introduced their own shopping tools, too. But when it comes to ecommerce, the name of the game seems to be live shopping. Every social platform from Twitter to TikTok are getting into it after Chinese social media companies proved it can be successful.
Come June 6, if you owned one share of Amazon stock, you will own 20. And those shares will be worth one-twentieth what they were the previous day. In other words, nothing is changing, but people are excited anyway!
Amazon’s board approved a 20-1 stock split Wednesday, which will reduce the price of Amazon shares by issuing a bunch of new shares to existing shareholders, making Amazon worth exactly the same as it was previously, just with more shares worth less money. Amazon’s shares nonetheless jumped 6% on the news, because investors have collectively convinced themselves that stock splits are a reason to pay more for a stock.

A long time ago, when retail investors were a more significant factor in stock trading, companies split their stocks to make single shares more affordable. Amazon did this three times in the ’90s as its shares ran up during the dotcom boom. It stopped doing splits in the dotcom bust, when the stock market took care of reducing the value of Amazon shares for it.

Now that you can buy fractional shares of just about any publicly traded companies, this is pointless, but companies still split their shares anyway, perhaps because it seems like bad form to have four- or five-digit share values.
Amazon is also authorizing a $10 billion share buyback. Investors like this, too, even though it could be taken as a sign that a company has no idea how to invest its cash. Amazon used to just build more warehouses and data centers when this happened, but, hey, sure, a buyback, why not.
In theory, Amazon could split the stock and see shares skyrocket back up to its pre-split levels. That would be wild, but consider that its shares are up almost 500-fold from its 2001 low point and people think dogecoin is worth something. Of course, if we time-traveled back to 1999, the last time Amazon split its stock, and told people Amazon would run the internet’s infrastructure, be a major Hollywood studio, and have Star Trek-like communicators in people’s homes, they would regard that as equally strange. Perhaps we are in the best of all possible worlds.
Update: This story has been corrected on March 9, 2022, to note the correct date of Amazon’s stock split and clarify the status of its stock buyback.
Sony is joining a chorus of fellow video game companies and will halt sales of PlayStation software and hardware in Russia as the war in Ukraine continues.
The company said it is suspending shipments of new hardware and boxed game products and suspending operations for the PlayStation Store in the country, as well as canceling the launch of its upcoming racing game Gran Turismo 7. Sony is donating $2 million to humanitarian efforts to support Ukraine. The news was first reported on Wednesday by Axios.
A number of the industry’s largest video game publishers — including Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Epic, Take-Two Interactive and Ubisoft — have already announced a suspension of sales of physical and digital games and in-game content in Russia.
Microsoft was the first of the console-makers to say it would also be halting software sales, as well as suspending sales of Xbox consoles and other hardware in Russia, as part of a broader shutdown of its entire Azure, Windows and Office businesses in the country. Nintendo has also halted eShop purchases in Russia, and on Wednesday the company said it would delay the release of a remake of the Advance Wars series of tank combat games, citing “recent world events.”

The game industry’s protest of Russia is in conjunction with similar responses from large swaths of the tech industry. Many software and platform companies have either suspended operations in Russia or, like Meta and Twitter, faced bans by the Russian government.
A number of social media platforms have straddled a line by banning Russian news outlets — or, like TikTok, any and all uploads from Russian users — in an effort to cut down on misinformation and propaganda, while remaining operational in the country to support Ukrainian activists and journalists. As it stands, YouTube and Telegram are currently still running in the country without widespread disruption.
Tesla claims its self-driving features are entirely safe. But some senators are skeptical.
Rohan Patel, senior director of Public Policy at Tesla, defended the safety of the company’s Full Self-Driving and Autopilot features in a letter on March 4, first reported by Reuters. In the letter to Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey, Patel claimed that the features give its users the capability to drive “to drive safer than the average driver in the U.S.,” as they require constant attention from the driver.
In a previous joint letter to Tesla on Feb. 8, the senators wrote that Tesla “repeatedly releases software without fully considering its risks and implications” for drivers. In a statement to Reuters, the senators said Patel’s letter is “just more evasion and deflection from Tesla” as the company looks to “carry on with business as usual.”
Last April, the duo called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take “corrective actions” against Tesla following a fatal accident in which a Tesla Model S crashed and killed two people.

Tesla’s self-driving features have not rolled out without incident. The EV maker recalled close to 54,000 Model S, Model X, Model Y and Model 3 sedans for a software update that allowed Full Self-Driving users to do rolling stops — passing through stop signs without coming to a complete halt — in late January. The recall was one of nearly a dozen that the company has had to release in the past five months as the NHTSA increases scrutiny of Tesla’s releases.
“[Tesla] seem[s] to like to ask for forgiveness rather than permission a lot,” said Michael Brooks, acting executive director for The Center for Auto Safety, in a February interview with Protocol.
Update, 3/9/22 at 6:05 p.m. ET: This story has been corrected to reflect the circumstances of the Tesla Model S accident.

Facebook will now allow group administrators to automatically block posts flagged as false by third party fact-checkers before they’re shared to the group. Administrators can also mute or suspend repeat offenders from posting in group chats and automatically approve or deny member requests based on predesignated criteria.
Today’s new features are rolling out as Meta continues to prioritize content moderation. In a welcome move — and one which happened later than critics say it should have — Facebook started demoting Russian disinformation about the war in Ukraine last month. This, in turn, led Russia to block access to the platform.
Groups have perpetuated many of the misinformation movements on the platform. Parenting and natural medicine groups have at times become hubs of vaccine misinformation, for example, while much of the momentum behind the Jan. 6 insurrection came from “Stop the Steal” groups. Facebook has publicly attempted to slow the spread of misinformation in groups with various moderator and administrator tools since last year.

Zuckerberg has said he doesn’t want to be the “arbiter of truth,” but allowing moderators to block content that has been fact-checked by third parties seems like a hands-off workaround. This might allow Facebook to allow messy situations in which misinformation foments violence in private areas of the platform. The question, of course, is why these features took so long to roll out, given that content shared in Facebook groups has been a known issue since 2018, when Zuckerberg announced that he intended to help people make “meaningful relationships” on the platform.
Now, Facebook is putting (at least, marginally) more moderation power in the hands of individual users.
AMD, Arm and Intel issued security advisories and recommendations Wednesday, warning of an exploit that bypasses the some of the defenses developed to shore up one of the most notorious vulnerabilities in modern chips.
Researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam said in a post they had developed a method to circumvent some security measures developed since the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities were disclosed in January 2018. Using a novel attack method, the researchers said that they were able to get a core part of the Linux OS to leak critical system data, such as the root password.
“The attack, as demonstrated by researchers, was previously mitigated by default in most Linux distributions,” Intel said in a statement to Protocol. “The Linux community has implemented Intel’s recommendations starting in Linux kernel version 5.16 and is in the process of backporting the mitigation to earlier versions of the Linux kernel. Intel released technical papers describing further mitigation options for those using non-default configurations and why the LFENCE; JMP mitigation is not sufficient in all cases.”

AMD did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but issued a security advisory, and Arm also pointed Protocol to its security update.
The vulnerabilities the security researchers outlined center around a technique called speculative execution that many modern chips use to increase performance. Using spare resources, a chip will perform some processing ahead of when the task is actually needed in order to improve overall performance, but savvy attackers can exploit that technique using precise timing to read data that’s unprotected before it is actually executed.
Security researchers discovered in 2017 that it was possible to exploit chips that used speculative execution, which was widely used in modern processors, and disclosed their findings in early 2018. The vulnerability, called Spectre, affected computers using Intel or AMD chips as well as Arm-based designs and forced the industry to quickly develop a series of fixes. Another vulnerability involving memory management called Meltdown was disclosed at the same time.
Women make up the majority of paid influencers and creators. But the paychecks they make pale in comparison to those of their male counterparts.
A report on equality in the creator economy release by Izea, an influencer marketing and research firm, found that female creators made up 83% of influencer marketing deals in 2021, while male creators made up 15%. But across platforms, women made on average $2,289 per post while men made about 30% more at an average rate of $2,978 per post last year.
“Female dominance in influencer marketing may not yet be at risk, but the widening pay gap and shrinking share of deals is worth noting,” the report reads.
The only platform to buck this trend was Instagram for its Story sponsorships. On average, women were paid $962 per story in 2021, roughly 60% more than the average $609 that men made per story, which the report claims is driven by women getting higher engagement rates on their posts.

The pay gap increased from last year, when men made 24% more on average. In 2019, there was a 47% gap between average payment per post; women made $1,138 on average compared to men’s average of $2,152 per post.
Platforms are competing to lure in creators with promises of payment: Instagram and Facebook are paying people for short-form reels, TikTok has the Creator Fund and Twitter jumped into the monetization fray with Ticketed Spaces, Super Follows and Tip Jars. But brand deals still reign as the best way for creators to get paid, with the market forecasted to reach over $4 billion in 2022, according to Insider Intelligence.
Lyft is ditching its mandatory hybrid work plans. The ride-hailing giant told employees on Wednesday that almost all of them can work from the office, from home or “any combination of the two.”
“We’ve been flexible and successful for two years, working efficiently out of basements, bedrooms and Lyft offices,” Lyft’s president of Business Affairs, Kristin Sverchek, wrote in a blog post. “Our team values this flexibility and top talent expects it.”
Lyft sees its “flexible workplace” as distinct from remote-first models because of its “strong support for in-office gatherings and office life,” Sverchek wrote.
Lyft had been planning to require its employees to spend part of their time in the office starting next January. “This is where we felt hybrid models failed,” Sverchek said. “Specific required days in-office are often arbitrary and overly prescriptive to distributed teams with different needs.”
Amazon and LinkedIn have both made similar moves away from requiring employees to spend part of their week in the office. And while there are plenty of tech companies with offices that also say employees can work from anywhere — including Slack, Twitter and Yelp, to name a few — much of Big Tech is still planning on a hybrid work week for most employees. That includes Google, Meta, Microsoft and, yes, Uber.

Anything and everything you hold dear is at risk of being converted into a Web3 cash grab, even the nostalgia-inducing music-piracy platforms of our youth. Take LimeWire, which has been bought up by an entrepreneurial duo in Austria with the intention of transforming it into an NFT marketplace, of all things.
Brothers Paul and Julian Zehetmayr are hoping the name still carries enough weight among millennials to attract waves of users to their crypto music platform, which will traffic in music-based NFTs like “exclusive songs, merchandise, graphical artworks and experiences like backstage content,” according to Bloomberg. The company, which will retain the LimeWire name and branding, will also sell a crypto token of its own before the platform’s launch in May. They have slowly been buying up various parts of the company and its trademarks using their own money, though they may raise outside investment at some point.
“It’s a very iconic name. Even if you look on Twitter today, there’s hundreds of people still being nostalgic about the name,” Julian Zehetmayr, who will be the startup’s co-CEO alongside his brother, told Bloomberg. “Everybody connects it with music and we’re launching initially a very music-focused marketplace, so the brand was really the perfect fit for that with its legacy.”

The irony of resurrecting a music-piracy site as an NFT marketplace — at a time of arguably peak skepticism around the viability and mainstream appeal of Web3 technologies — is not lost on the brothers. They think LimeWire’s name will be more inviting to crypto skeptics thanks to its storied history as a haven for young internet pirates eager to expand their musical horizons.
“After about 12 years of the platform being down, all the controversy that might have been in the past with the music industry has turned into nostalgia,” Paul told Bloomberg. The duo hopes the platform will also attract musicians by promising more equitable payouts to artists; the company said 10 “really big mainstream” artists are on board for the launch.
For those of us who think fondly of LimeWire and its contemporaries like BearShare and Kazaa as not-so-legal gateways to endless music discovery, it’s bittersweet. Those brands are obviously toxic in the music industry, and the websites and platforms they represented were litigated into nonexistence. But to see one rear its head so many years later as a way to hawk NFTs doesn’t feel like the right way to honor internet history.
It does, however, make perfect sense for the Web3 movement, which appears immune to shame and dead set on making us believe in a crypto future, one brand takeover at a time.
TikTok has a unique ability to drive music trends. Because short, catchy sections of a song can be isolated for video remixing, unfinished hits like Doja Cat’s “Boom” or SZA’s “Shirt” can still go viral. Emmy Meli, the singer behind “I Am Woman,” went from unknown to mainstream in a matter of days thanks to the platform.
But audio clips of an artist’s song don’t appear any differently than a voiceover narrating a DIY crafting video. Anyone can upload audio to Tiktok for remixing, and thousands of users can dance along to a song without a musical artist cashing in. Sure, the platform does pay royalties to some artists — but those royalties are dictated by market share, not views, and not everyone knows how to capitalize on them.
TikTok changed that Wednesday, with the announcement of a music marketing and distribution service called SoundOn. The service will allow musicians to upload songs directly to the app and receive royalties for plays, managed through a designated artists’ platform. The platform also includes analytical tools to help artists leverage virality.

TikTok is essentially taking out a loan on the feature, paying musicians 100% of royalties for the first year, but then splitting royalties 90:10 every year after. SoundOn was already released in beta last year, but is open to all music-makers as of today.
The response from musicians has been muted (pun slightly intended) so far. As much as many streaming artists love to point out the low payouts in online listening, it would be surprising if the SoundOn rollout isn’t taken as mostly good news. Sure, it’s more of all the good and bad that comes with streaming — low pay, high exposure — but it’s been hard for musicians to make good money off TikTok at all.
The move also brings to mind the mission of early SoundCloud, designed to revolutionize music-making by integrating social networking with music distribution and creator autonomy. And if the rise and fall of that company’s hopes for profitability are any lesson — well, maybe TikTok should start shaving away some sliver of royalties now.
After all, no matter how large a portion TikTok takes, creators will likely still scramble to make their music popular on the platform. Making music in the 21st century means cooperating with streaming platforms and social media, no matter how unbalanced the relationship may be. Just Google “How to make a song go viral on TikTok” and you’ll find dozens of videos and blog posts made by creatives who have supposedly cracked the code — and that’s under the current royalties format.
One can only assume they’re editing those posts now.
Dating app Bumble is the latest to exit Russia as the war in Ukraine continues.
The company, which owns its eponymous app, as well as Badoo and Fruitz, reported fourth-quarter results today and announced that it’s discontinuing operations in Russia and removing all of its apps from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store in Russia and Belarus.
It joins a growing list of tech companies including AWS, Microsoft, Samsung, Spotify and WeWork that announced changes to business practices and, in some cases, complete exits from the country.

Bumble shares are up by more than 40% today after posting stronger than expected earnings, prompting an analyst upgrade from BMO Capital.
Bumble wasn’t the only U.S. company to leave behind its operations in Russia today. Lumen, a U.S. firm that provides essential internet services, also announced it’s discontinuing service in the country.
Lumen has no consumer customers in Russia and only an “extremely small number of enterprise customers” for whom they will no longer be providing local Lumen services, according to the company website. The impetus for the decision was due to increased security risk inside Russia: “… given the increasingly uncertain environment and the heightened risk of state action, we took this move to ensure the security of our and our customers’ networks, as well as the ongoing integrity of the global Internet.”

Despite the good press that companies have been receiving for their exits, the economic impact has been minimal, at least for the tech sector. Combined revenue from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus was about 2.8% of Bumble’s total annual revenue, almost all due to the Badoo app. It totaled less than 0.1% of the Bumble app’s annual revenue in 2021.
This tracks with what the rest of the industry’s seeing as well. According to one analyst’s estimates, Apple, Google, Meta and Netflix combined would only lose between 1% to 2% of their revenue if they were to exit Russia completely.
The financial loss, meanwhile, pales in comparison to the gain in public sentiment these companies receive for pulling out of the country. A staggering three out of four Americans support U.S. companies cutting business ties with Russia, according to a recent Morning Consult survey.

A new Glassdoor survey in collaboration with The Harris Poll reveals 85% of employed women believe they deserve an increase in compensation. 63% of U.S. employees said they prefer to work at a company that discloses pay information, though only 19% say their employers actually share pay ranges.
The numbers come ahead of Equal Pay Day on March 15, which, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity, represents the number of days a woman in the U.S. would have to work into the year to earn what men made in the prior year.
Glassdoor found that not only do working women still feel underpaid, but some feel comfortable talking about it. Of those surveyed, 45% of employed women said they feel comfortable sharing their pay with a co-worker, though it should be noted only 29% said they’ve actually done so.
There’s been a larger push across industries for pay transparency as the pay gap persists. And while women have begun to share their salaries with each other by word of mouth and through whisper networks, some are encouraging more men to share their salaries with women. Men in tech received job offers about 3% higher on average than women, according to 2020 data tracked by Hired.

The number of companies sharing salary ranges is expected to increase in the coming months as cities like New York City begin to enforce pay transparency laws.
The House Judiciary Committee has asked the Justice Department to look into whether Amazon illegally obstructed Congress as part of the panel’s probe of competition in the tech industry, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, who chairs the subcommittee on antitrust and led the panel’s investigation, tweeted Wednesday that “Amazon’s misconduct demonstrates the need for both accountability and change” and echoed the call for the Justice Department to look into “chargeable obstruction of Congress.”
Cicilline and others had previously suggested Amazon officials misled the committee about the company’s practice of examining the data of third-party sellers on its site in the creation of Amazon’s own offerings.
Now, the panel argues Amazon has resisted providing evidence of the company’s denials, according to the report. Amazon has previously said its policies ban such data uses.
In testimony before the House lawmakers, then-CEO Jeff Bezos even promised an internal report on practices and the rules, but the company then refused to give it, according to the Journal.

Amazon said in a statement to CNN: “There’s no factual basis for this, as demonstrated in the huge volume of information we’ve provided over several years of good faith cooperation with this investigation.”
Updated: This article was updated March 9, 2022, to include Amazon’s response.

As pandemic-related restrictions continue to roll back, Uber Eats is adding new group ordering features.
The company will now let people split their bills on its website and set checkout deadlines for group orders. Uber Eats is also adding auto reminders for people to get their orders in on time if they’re with a group. Once one person selects a restaurant, they can invite others to join the order, and can decide whether to pay for everyone or divide the bill among others. The host can also set a checkout deadline up to seven days in advance.

Uber Eats is adding new group ordering features.Image: Uber
This is basically a perfect feature for office workers, so Uber’s timing is on the nose. Now that people are returning to offices (either full-time or on a hybrid schedule), a tool that makes it possible to order lunch together in a less annoying way is useful.

The bill-splitting feature is a natural step for Uber Eats, given that Uber’s ride-hailing arm has a built-in feature for riders to divvy up the fare. Uber and Uber Eats have also let users split the bill through Venmo since 2018, allowing people who don’t use Uber to chip in on the bill. But the company has increasingly shown that it wants to be the app you use for everything, from calling a car to ordering a last-minute gift, and adding more features is another way to convince people to stay on the platform (and to get others to join it, too).
Group ordering never exactly stopped, but it never got a chance to pick up, either. Uber Eats introduced group ordering at the end of 2019, but people presumably didn’t use it much when the COVID-19 pandemic hit a few months later. At the time, the company said both consumers and restaurants showed a lot of interest in group ordering.
Uber Eats followed DoorDash, Postmates and others in rolling out a group ordering feature. DoorDash’s group ordering tool has been around since around 2015, and Postmates launched group ordering on its app just a few months before Uber Eats.

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