Watch the first eight minutes of ‘Stranger Things’ season 4

Netflix is trying to build up hype for Stranger Things season 4 in a not-so-subtle way: by letting you watch a significant chunk of it. The service has shared the first eight minutes of the introductory episode in hopes you'll tune in for the rest. We won't spoil the finer points, but we will say that it's mostly a flashback that sets the stage for what's to come.

It's also clear just why the fourth season is split in two — some episodes are exceptionally long. Volume 1, premiering May 27th, includes seven episodes that are conventionally-sized apart from the last, which runs for an hour and 38 minutes. Volume 2, arriving July 1st, is another matter. It consists of just two lengthy episodes, with the last running for nearly two and a half hours. You're effectively watching a feature film.

There are reasons for the long runtime. The Duffer Brothers previously said they'd planned to finish the story in four or five seasons, and this fourth run is the start of that climax. The story is also far-reaching, with scenes in Hawkins, California, Russia and "elsewhere." It's a busy plot, and the creators are apparently determined to tie up every loose end.

Amazon’s latest stunt is beaming a new Prime Video sci-fi show into outer space

Amazon tried a novel marketing strategy to get more eyeballs (or eyestalks) on a new Prime Video show: it beamed the first episode of sci-fi series Night Sky out of Earth's atmosphere. The company pulled off the stunt earlier today for what it's calling "the first-ever intergalactic premiere for a TV series."

Satellite services companies SES and Intelsat used their ground stations and geostationary satellites to send the episode beyond the reach of our planet. Prime Video noted in a press release that the transmission won't be caught by broadcast satellites and sent back to terra firma, as is usually the case. "Theoretically, this makes the broadcast available to anyone open to receiving satellite signals 384,000 kilometers away from Earth and beyond — the equivalent distance from Earth to the Moon," it said.

Prime Video claims it's not only the first streaming service to send its content to space, but it marks the "farthest distance that a TV series has been intentionally distributed." The episode was transmitted using Ku- and C-band frequencies, which are often employed for satellite TV, media distribution and communications. So if there's anyone or anything out there with the right gear, they'll be able to catch the first episode of what sounds like an intriguing series.

Night Sky premiered on Prime Video today. It centers around a couple (played by Sissy Spacek and JK Simmons) who've been hiding a secret for years: there's a chamber buried in their backyard that links to a deserted planet. However, everything changes when a young man (who they believe may be an alien) enters their lives.

Young Obi-Wan Kenobi comes to ‘Fortnite’ to promote his Disney+ series

Yet another major Star Wars character is about to drop onto the Fortnite island. Obi-Wan Kenobi will hit the Fortnite Item Shop on May 26th, just hours before his eponymous series debuts on Disney+.

Along with being able to play as the iconic Jedi Master, you'll be able to snap up some related cosmetics including back bling, a pickax, a Jedi Interceptor glider and an emote. Those will be available to buy separately or as part of a bundle that includes an Obi-Wan loading screen.

You'll have the chance to win the outfit and back bling early if you take part in the Obi-Wan Kenobi Cup. That's a duos event that will take place on Sunday with lightsabers and E-11 blaster rifles making a temporary return to the island.

The six-episode Obi-Wan Kenobi series will premiere on Disney+ on May 27th. Ewan McGregor reprises his role from the prequel movies. Hayden Christiansen also returns to play Darth Vader once again.

Epic Games and Lucasfilm have been working together for several years to bring Star Wars characters to Fortnite. Boba Fett and The Mandalorian, the main characters of other Disney+ Star Wars shows, have joined the fray, as have Rey, Finn, a Stormtrooper, Zorii Bliss and Kylo Ren.

Disney+ is working on a ‘Daredevil’ series

Daredevil fans who were disappointed when Netflix axed the popular show after three seasons now have something to look forward to. Disney+ is moving forward with its own series about the blind lawyer-turned-superhero Matt Murdock, reportedVariety. The streaming service has signed co-writers Matt Corman and Chris Ord to write and executive produce the series. Corman and Ord served as co-showrunners for the NBC military drama The Brave, and the duo also created the spy drama Covert Affairs.

Daredevil is only the latest of a large number of MCU titles that have been revived on Disney+ as shows, starting with last year’s WandaVision. The streamer has since released six other Marvel shows, including Hawkeye, Moonknight and Loki, with many more to follow this year. Meanwhile, the raft of Netflix shows based on Marvel characters all left the streaming platform's library for good earlier this year.

The Daredevil Disney+ show is still in the very early stages — Variety notes that Marvel has yet to announce anything formally. Charlie Cox, who played the lead character in the Netflix series, returned to his old role in this year’s Spider-Man:No Way Home and Vincent D'Onofrio reprised his Daredevil role of Kingpin in Disney’s Hawkeye. Both actors seemed optimistic about a Disney+ revival of the series, but there's no telling if they'll return to the new series.

In an interview with Marvel News Desk, D'Onofrio shed some light on the Netflix show’s sudden cancellation, which shocked its many fans. The actor said the show’s departure in 2018 likely had to do with Marvel paving the way for Disney’s nascent streaming service. “You know, at the same time the group #SaveDaredevil started to rise, we started to learn the reasons why that happened and so we understood what Marvel was doing because Disney+ coming out.”

Facebook is still struggling to remove videos of the Buffalo mass shooting

Facebook is still struggling to contain the video of last weekend’s horrific mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. Now, not only are clips of the shooting accessible on the platform, reposted clips of the attack are sometimes appearing alongside Facebook ads, The New York Timesreports.

The Times notes that it’s not clear how often ads are appearing alongside clips of the shooting, but the paper said that “searches for terms associated with footage of the shooting have been accompanied by ads for a horror film, clothing companies and video streaming services,” in their own tests and tests conducted by the Tech Transparency Project.

While this isn’t a new problem for Facebook — the platform has made similar missteps in the wake of a 2019 shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand — the company is apparently in some cases actually recommending search terms associated with videos of the shooting, according to The New York Times, which said Facebook suggested some searches as being “popular now.”

As with previous mass shootings and violent events, footage originally streamed to Twitch by the gunman in Buffalo has proved difficult for social media platforms to contain. Facebook previously told Engadget that it had designated the event a terrorist attack, and that it was working to automatically detect new copies that are shared to its service.

But videos are still falling through the cracks. And the fact that Facebook is surfacing ads near those videos is likely to raise further questions about whether the company prioritizes profits over safety as a whistleblower has alleged.

In a statement, a company spokesperson told The Times it was trying to “to protect people using our services from seeing this horrific content even as bad actors are dead-set on calling attention to it.”

‘Blade Runner’ composer and electronic music pioneer Vangelis dies at 79

The music world just lost one of its more influential figures. Deadlinereports Vangelis, the composer behind the scores for Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire, has died in France at the age of 79. He broke ground in music by blending synthesizers with jazz, orchestral work and other styles normally seen at odds with each other. He helped the movie business break away from its dependence on classical or pop soundtracks, and joined artists like Brian Eno and Jean-Michel Jarre in defining both electronic music as a whole as well as sub-genres such as ambient and new-age.

Vangelis is synonymous with sci-fi thanks to his iconic Blade Runner soundtrack, but he was also a proponent of space exploration who produced multiple albums in tribute to major missions. He helped score Carl Sagan's 1980 Cosmos TV series, wrote Mythodea to celebrate NASA's Mars Odyssey mission in 2001 and produced a tribute to the Rosetta comet probe in 2016. His last full album, 2021's Juno to Jupiter, honored its namesake spacecraft right as it was shedding more light on the gas giant. He received NASA's Public Service Medal in 2003.

The musician was born in Greece in 1943 as Evangelos Odessey Papathanassiou. He started his music career in pop and soundtracks in the mid-1960s, but it was his 1970s forays into electronic music that helped develop his signature style. Cosmos, Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner cemented his reputation, while high-profile projects like 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Alexander drew further attention.

Vangelis leaves a strong legacy. On top of his role in Hollywood, you can hear his influence in electronic artists like Robert Rich and Steve Roach. Even modern performers outside of his core genre, such as Armin van Buuren and Run the Jewels' El-P, cite him as a hero. He'll be missed, but you may hear echoes of his sound for decades to come.

Netflix rolls out a new discovery feature for kids

Picking out something new to watch from Netflix’s slew of kid’s titles can be overwhelming, for both parents and children. And sometimes kids are just indecisive. But the streaming service’s new “Mystery Box” feature on Netflix Kids — available today — can leave the decisions up to the algorithm. Similar to the “Play Something” option for the adult set, the Mystery Box feature will pick a new title that viewers haven’t watched before. Rest assured, the new show or film that Mystery Box selects won’t be a complete wildcard pick — the titles will be similar to shows that viewers have already deemed their favorites.

In order to try out the Mystery Box, select a kid’s profile on Netflix on any platform of your choice. Then go to the “Favorites Row” on top of the homepage. Finally, hover over the “Mystery Box” option to see a selection of new titles. According to a Netflix spokesperson, the new discovery mechanism will surface one new viewing option per day.

When it comes to children’s programming, Netflix has more competition than ever before. Its main rival in the space — Disney+ — is planning on a $32 billion content spend for the 2022 fiscal year. Hulu, HBOMax and Apple TV+ all offer children’s programming. Netflix last year acquired some high-profile IP, including the Roald Dahl Story Company. But given its current commitment to trim costs in light of a historic drop in subscribers earlier this year, we’re likely to see Netflix be more cautious moving forward. A number of kids titles that were in production recently got the chopping block, including an animated series by Meghan Markle and Ava DuVernay’s Wings of Fire.

Update 5/19/22 6:23pm ET: The headline has been changed and additional information on the frequency of "Mystery Box" options has been included to better reflect how the feature operates.

Netflix to expand audio descriptions and subtitles in 10 additional languages

Netflix will expand its accessibility features in 10 additional languages, part of an effort to accommodate users who are hearing and vision-impaired. Starting this month and through early 2023, Netflix will roll out Audio Descriptions (AD), Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH) and dubbing for its entire library of original content, in languages including French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Italian. Eventually, the streamer plans to add even more languages from the Asia-Pacific region and local European languages. The expansion will be available to all Netflix users globally and only apply to Netflix Originals. 

The streamer said its aim was to allow even more viewers to watch content that is not in their native language. “For decades, the entertainment you had access to was determined by where you lived and what language you spoke, meaning people who needed AD or SDH could not enjoy stories made outside of where they were from,” wrote Netflix’s director of accessibility Heather Dowdy in a blog post.

For those who are deaf or vision-impaired, watching a new show or film on a streaming platform means turning on assistive technologies like subtitles or audio descriptions. But such accessibility features aren’t widely available across all platforms. Advocacy groups for the deaf and blind such as the National Federation of the Blind and the National Association for the Deaf have pushed streaming services to include more accessibility features over the years. Thanks to a 2012 settlement with the NAD, Netflix makes closed captioning available for all of its content. Netflix began rolling out audio descriptions for the blind and visually impaired in 2015, with the release of the show Daredevil. But the entertainment industry has been slow to embrace the newer technology, at the expense of its vision-impaired audience.

Currently, there are over 11,000 hours of audio description available globally on Netflix, and the streaming service plans to keep adding more. Netflix is also adding new badges for subtitles and audio descriptions on iOS and the web version.

“Our ambition is to entertain the world, and by increasing our SDH and AD language availability to now cover over 40 languages we hope to give all of our members the ability to see their lives reflected on screen,” wrote Dowdy.

It’s still really easy to game Facebook’s algorithm

Meta’s accounting of the most popular content on Facebook continues to be a confusing mess to untangle. The company released the latest version of its “widely viewed content report,” which details some of the most-viewed Facebook posts in the United States.

And, once again, the latest report raises questions about the company’s ability to limit the spread of what Meta euphemistically refers to as “lower-quality posts.” Between January and March of this year, six of the top 20 most popular links on Facebook were from a spammy website that has since been banned by the company for inauthentic behavior.

“In this report, there were pieces of content that have since been removed from Facebook for violating our policies of Inauthentic Behavior,” the company wrote in a blog post. “The removed links were all from the same domain, and links to that domain are no longer allowed on Facebook.”

The links all came from a Vietnam-based “news” site called Naye News. Unfortunately, Facebook didn’t share details about the actual URLs that went viral and were later removed, so there’s not much we can glean about the actual content. What we do know is that Naye News, which as Bloomberg reporter Davey Alba points out has never before appeared in a widely viewed content report, was able to reach a vast number of Facebook users before the company banned it. Links to Naye News appeared six times on the list of the top 20 URLs, including the two top spots. Together, these links got more than 112 million views, according to the report.

This website wasn’t the only source of questionable content that made it into the top most-viewed list. The fourth-most popular link on the list was a YouTube clip from a town hall meeting with Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, featuring a nurse making provablytly false claims about COVID-19 treatments.

During a call with reporters, head of Facebook Integrity Anna Stepanov, said that links to the YouTube video were demoted in News Feed after it was debunked by fact checkers. The company also added warning labels to discourage it from being reshared. “Without these features, this link would likely have received even more reach,” Stepanov said.

But even with those measures, the link was still viewed more than 22.1 million times on Facebook. That’s more than the number of views on the original YouTube video, which currently has about 6.5 million views.

Meanwhile, another URL on the report, which got 12.3 million views, is a link to a website called “heaveemotions.com,” that now redirects to a website that appears to be meant to trick visitors into installing malware. On Facebook though, the link originally rendered a preview with meme-style text that reads: “They told me the virus is everywhere. I told them so is God. Can I get an Amen? I Bet you won’t repost.”

This looks like a typical meme but it now links to a website that appears to be filled with malware.
Screenshot/ Facebook

It’s not the first time overtly spammy content has appeared in one of these reports. In the last version of this report, the top Facebook Page was one later removed by the company for breaking its rules. Reporter Ryan Broderick later identified the page’s origins as a Sri Lankan content farm.

The reports, which Meta began releasing in part to rebut data suggesting far-right personalities consistently dominate the platform, are one of the only windows the company offers into what’s popular on Facebook. That’s been a key question for researchers trying to study the platform and how information, and misinformation, spreads across it. But researchers have also raised questions about how Meta was compiling these reports, which in the past have surfaced bizarre results.

Notably, Meta now says it’s changing the way it evaluates what content is the most “widely viewed” on its platform. Previous reports identifying the top links on Facebook were based on any public post that contained a URL, even if the was just appended to the body of a text post. This meant that popular Pages could effectively spam their followers with random links — like to a website representing former Green Bay Packers football players — embedded in a text or photo post.

Researchers had widely criticized this approach as a widely distributed text post with a link at the end is a lot different than a link post in which the linked content is fully rendered as a preview. Now, Meta is reversing course. “Moving forward, links will need to render a preview in order to be counted as a view, as that more accurately represents what people are seeing.”

Even so, these reports are still only a limited look at what’s most popular on Facebook. The company says the list of the top 20 most-viewed links — the list that included Naye News and COVID-19 misinformation — “collectively accounted for 0.03% of all Feed content views in the US during Q1 2022.” But as always with Facebook, its sheer size means that even a fraction of a percent can equate to millions of views. At the very least, these reports show that it’s still relatively easy to game Facebook’s algorithms and spread “low quality” content.

CNN is making a documentary about the fall of HQ Trivia

Which of these has greenlit a documentary about HQ Trivia?

  • Netflix

  • CNN

  • Quibi

If you read the headline and correctly chose CNN, congratulations! You've won some internet points, I guess.

An untitled documentary about the trivia app that everyone seemed to be playing a few years ago is scheduled for a 2023 release. As Deadline reports, CNN has lined up a director, Salima Koroma (Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street). 

HQ Trivia, which was built by the creators of Vine, debuted in August 2017 and it initially ran two live trivia games per day. The concept was pretty simple. Answer several questions correctly in a row and you'd split the prize pot. Along with the chance to win cash through a mobile app, charismatic main host Scott Rogowsky helped turn HQ Trivia into a phenomenon. At one point, more than 2.3 million people were playing the game simultaneously.

The good times didn't last, however. Co-founder Colin Kroll died in 2018, while Rogowsky departed in 2019 to host a baseball show on DAZN. The app ran out of money in early 2020 and shut down, though it returned a month later thanks to the help of an anonymous investor.

HQ Trivia is still around, though it now runs just one game per week. The latest edition had a commendable 21,000 players. However, at $1,500, the prize was a far cry from the $300,000 the app offered at one point when Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was a guest host.

The Ringer also told the story of the app in a podcast called Boom/Bust: The Rise and Fall of HQ Trivia. A CNN spokesperson told Engadget that the documentary is being developed independently.

It also emerged during Warner Bros. Discovery's upfront presentation that Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico is moving to CNN. The docuseries was initially a CNN+ exclusive, but the high-profile streaming service was killed less than a month after its debut.

Update 5/18 3:07PM ET: Clarifying that the documentary is being developed independently and that it's not based on The Ringer's podcast.