Facebook still has trouble removing white supremacists, study says

Facebook's crackdown on hate speech apparently has room for improvement. As The Washington Postexplains, the non-profit watchdog Tech Transparency Project (TTP) has published a study indicating that white supremacist groups still have a significant presence on the social network. Over 80 of these racist organizations have a presence on Facebook, some of which the company has already labeled as "dangerous organizations" it normally bans. Researchers found 119 pages and 20 groups, including 24 pages Facebook auto-generated when users listed white supremacist groups as employers or interests.

Searches were also problematic, according to the watchdog. Facebook displayed ads next to searches for white supremacist groups, even when those outfits were on the social site's blocklist. Recommendations steered visitors to other hate pages, and Facebook's tactic of redirecting users to pro-tolerance groups was only effective for 14 percent out of 226 searches. Some searches for supremacists displayed ads for Black churches. This could effectively identify targets for extremists, TTP said.

In a statement to Engadget, Meta said it "immediately" began removing ads from searches linked to banned groups. It also said it was fixing the issue with a "small number" of auto-generated pages. The company further vowed to keep working with outside experts to "stay ahead" of hate and other extremist content. You can read the full statement below.

The survival of these groups on Facebook isn't completely surprising. University of Michigan associate professor Libby Hemphill told The Post that hate groups are increasingly aware of how to dodge content restrictions. Online platforms are frequently scrambling to adapt, and the TTP study suggests they're not always successful.

Even so, the findings add to Meta's headaches. They come just weeks after GLAAD accused Meta brands of doing too little to protect LGBTQ users, and relatively soon after whistleblower Frances Haugen said Facebook's algorithmic content filtering only caught a "tiny minority" of hate speech. There's plenty of pressure to ramp up anti-hate measures, and it's not yet clear how well the latest fixes will help.

"All 270 groups that Meta has designated as white supremacist organizations are banned from our platform. We invest extensively in technology, people, and research to keep our platforms safe. We immediately resolved an issue where ads were appearing in searches for terms related to banned organizations and we are also working to fix an auto generation issue, which incorrectly impacted a small number of pages. We will continue to work with outside experts and organizations in an effort to stay ahead of violent, hateful, and terrorism-related content and remove such content from our platforms."

Spotify’s online music studio now offers live collaboration

Spotify's Soundtrap is now more useful for artists who want to make music with distant friends. The online digital audio workstation (DAW) now has an opt-in beta for a live collaboration feature that lets multiple people make and see changes to a tune in real time. If you want to add a sick beat, you don't have to tap a sync button to ensure everyone hears it.

Another opt-in beta adds an (arguably overdue) auto-save feature to preserve your work. If you'd rather not participate in any tests, you can now leave Google Docs-style comments on tracks to guide your fellow composers.

Soundtrap starts at $10 per month, or $8 per month if you pay yearly. That's not as affordable as a collab-friendly alternative like Soundation ($5 per month when paid yearly), but it could make the DAW more compelling if you crave unlimited projects (Soundation's entry paid tier is limited to 10) or simply want Spotify's resources at your disposal.

‘Sonic the Hedgehog 3’ will hit theaters in the 2024 holiday season

The first two Sonic movies were solid hits for Paramount. So much so, the studio has confidence the previously announced third movie can be successful even during the competitive holiday season. As such, it gave Sonic the Hedgehog 3 a release date of December 20th, 2024.

Few details have been revealed about the third entry in the series as yet. It's unclear whether Jim Carrey will return as Dr. Robotnik after the actor said he was considering retiring from acting. Meanwhile, a spin-off series focused on Knuckles (Idris Elba) is coming to Paramount+ next year.

Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2 were released in February 2020 and April 2022, respectively, with the latter becoming the highest-grossing video-game film in the US. It's also the ninth highest-grossing movie of the year so far after raking in just over $400 million worldwide. Sonic 3 will be competing against the likes of Avatar 3 and a movie version of the Broadway show Wicked.

Elsewhere, a Sonic-themed Fall Guys event starts on Thursday and runs until Monday. In the new Bean Hill Zone level, you'll be tasked with collecting rings to earn rewards such as Sonic sneakers. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Super Sonic and Dr. Robotnik outfits will be available in the store during the event, as will a Sonic foot tap emote. A Sonic skin was previously available in the game soon after it launched in August 2020. A Knuckles outfit appeared in the store last year too.

The Morning After: Netflix’s slow start in gaming

Netflix’s entry into the gaming market has been quiet. According to analysis by Apptopia, Netflix games have been downloaded 23.3 million times and have an average 1.7 million daily users. Framed against the 221 million customers paying for the streaming service, it’s not a great number — just one percent of them. The company indicated it didn’t expect its gaming division to be profitable immediately. “We’re going to be experimental and try a bunch of things,” Netflix COO Greg Peters told investors during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings calls last year.

But given that Netflix is not afraid to cut well-regarded shows after a few seasons, how long will it be willing to run a gaming arm before it’s successful? And what does success look like for Netflix? Earlier this year, the company paid $72 million to acquire Next Games, the studio behind Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales. More recently, it secured exclusive mobile rights to beloved indie titles like Spiritfarer and Into The Breach.

For what it’s worth, Poinpy is a pretty wonderful game worthy of your smartphone gaming time.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

US imposes sanctions on cryptocurrency mixer that may have laundered over $7 billion

Tornado Cash helped North Korea, according to the Treasury.

The Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on Tornado Cash, a mixer that allegedly helped launder more than $7 billion in stolen crypto funds since its inception in 2019. Like a previous sanctions target, Blender, Tornado Cash is accused of "indiscriminately" helping thieves by hiding transaction details while failing to institute meaningful anti-laundering safeguards. Tornado Cash runs on the Ethereum blockchain. North Korea's state-sponsored Lazarus Group hackers are believed to have funneled $455 million through the mixer so far.

Continue reading.

Lucid Air will soon have a Stealth Look trim option

The $6,000 theme gives the EV a 'darker and overtly sporting personality.'

TMA
Lucid

Lucid is adding a new trim option to its Air electric vehicle. The idea behind Stealth Look is to give the car a "darker and overtly sporting personality," according to the automaker. Lucid is swapping out 35 exterior components that have a platinum finish for versions with a darker appearance, with black gloss and satin graphite accents. Lucid plans to introduce the $6,000 option early next year, though whether you'll actually be able to get your hands on an Air at all anytime soon is another matter. Earlier this month, Lucid once again revised its production target for 2022, this time from 20,000 to between 6,000 and 7,000 units.

Continue reading.

A live-action Pac-Man movie is the video-game adaptation no-one asked for

No Adam Sandler though.

Bandai Namco is developing a live-action Pac-Man film, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The Japanese gaming giant has reportedly tapped Wayfarer Studios, best known for its work on 2019’s Five Feet Apart, to produce the project. The film was reportedly pitched by Sonic the Hedgehog producer Chuck Williams. In 2020, Sonic the Hedgehogbroke the record for a US video game movie debut. So it’s all Sonic’s fault.

Continue reading.

HBO Max finishes rolling out its much-needed app redesign

Just in time for Discovery to make it obsolete.

TMA
HBO

Warner Bros. Discovery has finished rolling out its redesigned app on desktop, Android and iOS, delivering a more intuitive interface, a performance boost and some overdue features. You'll also find a dedicated video download page, split-screen support and SharePlay — at least for Apple devices in the US. The timing isn’t great. Warner Bros. recently confirmed it's merging HBO Max and Discovery+ into one service next summer. The app you see today won't last long.

Continue reading.

Nintendo will dedicate a 30-minute Direct stream to 'Splatoon 3'

The event happens on August 10 at 9 AM ET.

Splatoon 3 will arrive on September 9th, and Nintendo is setting the table with a dedicated Direct showcase. The stream will get underway at 9 AM ET on August 10th and have around 30 minutes of updates. Expect a deep dive into one of Nintendo's tentpole Switch releases of the year, encompassing multiplayer changes and in-game mechanics.

Continue reading.

WhatsApp’s latest privacy features include the ability to hide your online status

WhatsApp just introduced several important privacy features including the online status blocking option it recently showed in beta, TechCrunch has reported. The aim is to eventually make WhatsApp "as private and secure as face-to-face conversations," Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post

The new "online presence control" feature allows you to send messages while appearing to be offline. That offers another level of privacy over the ability to hide your "last seen" status from specific contacts, a feature introduced earlier this year. 

You can control the feature in a granular way, deciding which contacts can view your online status and which can't. There are no limits, and you can swap people in and out at any time. The feature will roll out to all users across desktop and mobile, later this month. 

WhatsApp is also testing screenshot blocking for view once messages that disappear after a single view. When those messages were introduced last year, Meta said that you should still take caution as you wouldn't know if someone screenshotted them. A new feature that lets you block such screenshots is now in testing, but the company hopes to get it to all users "soon." 

With the final change, you can leave leave groups privately without sending out a mass notification to everyone else that you're gone — though group admins will still be notified. That should save some awkwardness when it rolls out to the desktop and mobile apps, also later this month. 

Bandai Namco is reportedly making a live-action Pac-Man movie

Bandai Namco is developing a live-action Pac-Man film, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The Japanese publisher has reportedly tapped Wayfarer Studios, best known for its work on 2019’s Five Feet Apart, to produce the project. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film was pitched by Sonic the Hedgehog producer Chuck Williams.

The movie does not have a release date yet and Bandai Namco could decide not to move forward with the project. That said, the involvement of Williams says a lot about the company’s aspirations. In 2020, Sonic the Hedgehogbroke the record for a US video game movie debut after earning $57 million at the domestic box office during its opening weekend. Despite the pandemic, the film went on to earn $319 million. Two years later, Sonic 2 beat the previous high watermark set by its predecessor with a $71 million US debut. Clearly, Bandai Namco wants a similar outcome. Here’s hoping Pac-Man doesn’t have to go through an ugly CGI phase to get there.

Less than 1 percent of Netflix’s subscribers are playing its games

Netflix’s entry into the gaming market is off to a slow start. According to an analysis performed by Apptopia on behalf of CNBC, the streaming giant’s games have been downloaded a total of 23.3 million times and average about 1.7 million daily users. Put another way, less than one percent of Netflix’s 221 million customers are taking advantage of the games included in their subscriptions.

Netflix did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment. In the past, the company indicated it did not expect its gaming division to be profitable immediately. “We’re going to be experimental and try a bunch of things,” Netflix COO Greg Peters told investors during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings calls last year.

Still, the question that’s probably on everyone’s mind is how long Netflix is willing to wait to see if it made the right bet, especially after it lost nearly one million subscribers during its most recent quarter. Other lofty bets — like the company's in-house fan blog, Tudum — were the subject of cutbacks after only a few months of spending.

The company has shared precious few details on how much it has spent expanding its portfolio beyond TV shows and movies, but most signs point to a significant investment. Earlier this year, the company paid $72 million to acquire Next Games, the studio behind Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales. More recently, it secured exclusive mobile rights to beloved indie titles like Spiritfarer and Into The Breach. The company is unlikely to make similar investments in the future if its current ones don’t pan out.

SNK is making its first new Fatal Fury game in 23 years

Many classic fighting game series have a reasonably consistent stream of sequels, but not Fatal Fury — the last title (Garou: Mark of the Wolves) made its appearance on the Neo Geo in 1999. SNK is ready to make amends after 23 years, however. The developer has confirmed work on a new Fatal Fury game. The teaser trailer below reveals nothing about the gameplay, plot, platform support or release date, but the company claimed the sequel would represent a "new turning point" in fighters — don't expect much humility, then. 

The franchise played an important role in SNK's history, and by extension fighting games as a whole. The first game, 1991's Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, made a splash at a time when Street Fighter II dominated the genre. It was designed by the original Street Fighter's Takashi Nishiyama, and focused more on story and special moves than SF2's combos. It showed that there was room for multiple games in the upper pantheon of fighting games, and ultimately spawned the still-active King of Fighters series.

The challenge, of course, is persuading gamers to revisit Fatal Fury. The fighting game world has evolved considerably in the past two decades, ranging from 3D series like Tekken through to many-character extravaganzas like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It's a crowded arena, and there's no certainty that nostalgia will give SNK an edge.

Netflix to pay $42 million in dispute over screenwriter compensation

Netflix will have to shell out a hefty sum in a fight over screenwriter pay. As Deadlinereports, the Writers Guild of America has won an arbitration ruling that will have Netflix pay 216 theatrical movie writers an extra $42 million in unpaid residuals. The WGA is also seeking another $13.5 million in interest for late payment.

The WGA accused Netflix of "self-dealing" that helped it skimp on writer pay. Residuals for theatrical releases are supposed to be paid on revenues earned in a given market, according to the guild, and licenses like Netflix's (where it's both the producer and distributor) demand fees based on more conventional relationships — a Sony movie licensed to Netflix, for example. Netflix, however, reportedly negotiated deals with the Directors Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) that let it pay residuals on its own movies for "significantly less" than the cost of the film.

The win was helped by an earlier victory over the Sandra Bullock movie Bird Box, the WGA claimed. An arbitrator found that Netflix significantly underpaid a screenwriter using a formula like that from the most recent dispute. The officiator told Netflix to pay the writer $1.2 million in residuals and interest.

We've asked Netflix for comment. The WGA wasn't shy about its criticism, however. It characterized Netflix as one of the "worst violators" of the guild's basic agreements for residuals, and saw the arbitration as a pushback against media companies trying to "depress" pay through streaming services. Don't be surprised if there are more battles like this across the industry.

Netflix to pay $42 million in dispute over screenwriter compensation

Netflix will have to shell out a hefty sum in a fight over screenwriter pay. As Deadlinereports, the Writers Guild of America has won an arbitration ruling that will have Netflix pay 216 theatrical movie writers an extra $42 million in unpaid residuals. The WGA is also seeking another $13.5 million in interest for late payment.

The WGA accused Netflix of "self-dealing" that helped it skimp on writer pay. Residuals for theatrical releases are supposed to be paid on revenues earned in a given market, according to the guild, and licenses like Netflix's (where it's both the producer and distributor) demand fees based on more conventional relationships — a Sony movie licensed to Netflix, for example. Netflix, however, reportedly negotiated deals with the Directors Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) that let it pay residuals on its own movies for "significantly less" than the cost of the film.

The win was helped by an earlier victory over the Sandra Bullock movie Bird Box, the WGA claimed. An arbitrator found that Netflix significantly underpaid a screenwriter using a formula like that from the most recent dispute. The officiator told Netflix to pay the writer $1.2 million in residuals and interest.

We've asked Netflix for comment. The WGA wasn't shy about its criticism, however. It characterized Netflix as one of the "worst violators" of the guild's basic agreements for residuals, and saw the arbitration as a pushback against media companies trying to "depress" pay through streaming services. Don't be surprised if there are more battles like this across the industry.