Media coalition asks the feds to investigate Google’s removal of California news links

The News/Media Alliance, formerly the Newspaper Association of America, asked US federal agencies to investigate Google’s removal of links to California news media outlets. Google’s tactic is in response to the proposed California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), which would require it and other tech companies to pay for links to California-based publishers’ news content.

The News/Media Alliance, which represents over 2,200 publishers, sent letters to the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission and California State Attorney General on Tuesday. It says the removal “appears to be either coercive or retaliatory, driven by Google’s opposition to a pending legislative measure in Sacramento.”

The CJPA would require Google and other tech platforms to pay California media outlets in exchange for links. The proposed bill passed the state Assembly last year.

In a blog post last week announcing the removal, Google VP of Global News Partnerships Jaffer Zaidi warned that the CJPA is “the wrong approach to supporting journalism” (because Google’s current approach totally hasn’t left the industry in smoldering ruins!). Zaidi said the CJPA “would also put small publishers at a disadvantage and limit consumers’ access to a diverse local media ecosystem.” Nothing to see here, folks: just your friendly neighborhood multi-trillion-dollar company looking out for the little guy!

Google described its link removal as a test to see how the bill would impact its platform:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users,” Zaidi wrote. “The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience. Until there’s clarity on California’s regulatory environment, we’re also pausing further investments in the California news ecosystem, including new partnerships through Google News Showcase, our product and licensing program for news organizations, and planned expansions of the Google News Initiative.”

In its letters, The News/Media Alliance lists several laws it believes Google may be breaking with the “short-term” removal. Potential federal violations include the Lanham Act, the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act. The letter to California’s AG cites the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, regulations against false advertising and misrepresentation, the California Consumer Privacy Act and California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL).

“Importantly, Google released no further details on how many Californians will be affected, how the Californians who will be denied news access were chosen, what publications will be affected, how long the compelled news blackouts will persist, and whether access will be blocked entirely or just to content Google particularly disfavors,” News/Media Alliance President / CEO Danielle Coffey wrote in the letter to the DOJ and FTC. “Because of these unknowns, there are many ways Google’s unilateral decision to turn off access to news websites for Californians could violate laws.”

Google has a mixed track record in dealing with similar legislation. It pulled Google News from Spain for seven years in response to local copyright laws that would have required licensing fees to publishers. However, it signed deals worth around $150 million to pay Australian publishers and retreated from threats to pull news from search results in Canada, instead spending the $74 million required by the Online News Act.

Google made more than $73 billion in profits in 2023. The company currently has a $1.94 trillion market cap.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

TikTok is trying to clean up its ‘For You’ recommendations

TikTok is ramping up penalties for creators who post potentially “problematic” content and tightening its rules around what can be recommended in the app. The updates arrive as TikTok is fighting for its future in the United States and trying to convince lawmakers and regulators that its app is safe for teens.

Under its updated community guidelines, set to take effect in May, TikTok has added a long list of content that’s not eligible to be recommended in the app’s coveted “For You” feed. The list includes some obvious categories, like sexually suggestive or violent content, but it also adds topics that have previously been a source of controversy for the app. For example, the new guidelines bar videos showing “dangerous activity and challenges,” as well as many types of weight loss or dieting content. It also prohibits any clips from users under the age of 16 from appearing in “For You.”

There’s also a lengthy section dedicated to a wide range of misinformation and conspiratorial content. From the guidelines:

-Conspiracy theories that are unfounded and claim that certain events or situations are carried out by covert or powerful groups, such as "the government" or a "secret society"

-Moderate harm health misinformation, such as an unproven recommendation for how to treat a minor illness

-Repurposed media, such as showing a crowd at a music concert and suggesting it is a political protest

-Misrepresenting authoritative sources, such as selectively referencing certain scientific data to support a conclusion that is counter to the findings of the study

-Unverified claims related to an emergency or unfolding event

-Potential high-harm misinformation while it is undergoing a fact-checking review

In addition to the eligibility changes, TikTok says it will also begin to penalize creators who repeatedly disregard this guidance by making their entire account ineligible for recommendations, not just the specific offending posts. The company will also make their account “harder to find” in search.

Additionally, the app is getting a new “account status” feature, which will help users track if they are running afoul of these rules. Much like the feature of the same name in Instagram, TikTok’s account status will alert creators to strikes on their account and posts that run afoul of the app’s rules. And an “account check” feature will allow users to track if they are currently being blocked from recommendations or otherwise unable to access features like messaging or commenting as a result of breaking the app’s rules.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Nintendo emulator Delta hits the iOS App Store, no sideloading required

It hasn't been long since Apple started allowing retro game emulators on the App Store. We've already seen one notable controversy after the company pulled Game Boy emulator iGBA from the storefront. It turned out that iGBA, which hit the top of the download charts, was a near carbon copy of another emulator submitted for review.

GBA4iOS developer Riley Testut claimed that iGBA was a "knock-off of GBA4iOS" that was packed with ads and trackers. As it turns out, Testut's Delta, a successor to GBA4iOS, is now available for free in the App Store.

The original emulator picked up some buzz a decade ago after Testut found a way for iPhone users to sideload the Game Boy Advance emulator without having to jailbreak their device. Apple eventually closed the iOS loophole and, of course, Nintendo was none too happy about the emulator. However, you can now download Delta free from the App Store directly without having to worry about sideloading.

Along with GBA titles, the app supports NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color and Nintendo DS games, with the promise of more platforms to come. The app supports third-party controllers, as well as quick saves, cheat codes and data syncing between devices using Google Drive or Dropbox. There's even local multiplayer for up to four players, though you'll probably want to use an iPad or mirror your phone to your TV in that case.

You'll need to supply any games you want to play on the emulator. To stay on the right side of the law, you'll need to dump games that you already own into ROM files.

While iPhone and iPad users outside of the EU can snag Delta from the App Store directly, the process is a little different for those who live in the bloc. Testut is also behind a third-party app marketplace called AltStore, which iPhone users in the EU can now more easily install a version of.

AltStore PAL is an open-source marketplace that includes Delta as well as another app that Testut developed called Clip, which is a clipboard manager. The latter requires a small donation of at least one Euro to use. Testut noted that he and his business partner Shane Gill plan to open up AltStore PAL to other third-party apps after making sure that everything runs smoothly.

That said, AltStore PAL costs users €1.50 per year. That covers the Core Technology Fee Apple charges for each download of an app marketplace, as well as payment processing. Alternatively, you can use the previous version of AltStore, but you'll still need to use a computer to sideload apps and refresh them once per week.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Amazon says a whopping 140 third-party stores in four countries use its Just Walk Out tech

Amazon published a blog post on Wednesday providing an update about its Just Walk Out technology, which it reportedly pulled from its Fresh grocery stores earlier this month. While extolling Just Walk Out’s virtues as a sales pitch to potential retail partners, the article lists a startlingly minuscule number of (non-Amazon) stores using the tech. There are now “more than 140 third-party locations with Just Walk Out technology in the U.S., UK, Australia, and Canada.”

Mind you, that isn’t the number of companies or retail chains licensing the tech; that’s the total number of locations. Nor is that the tally in one state or even one country. In four countries combined — with a total population of about 465 million — Just Walk Out is being used in “more than 140 third-party locations.”

On average, that means there’s one third-party Just Walk Out store for every 3.3 million people in those four countries. (They must be busy!) By contrast, there are over one million retail locations in the US, and, as of 2019, Starbucks had 241 locations in New York City alone, and there are over one million

Amazon had reportedly already planned to remove Just Walk Out tech from its Fresh grocery stores for roughly a year because it was too expensive and complicated for larger retail spaces to run and maintain. The company now pitches its tech as ideal for smaller convenience stores with fewer customers and products — like its own Amazon Go stores, which it has been busy shutting down over the last couple of years.

A medical workers scans a badge at an Amazon-powered Just Walk Out kiosk in a hospital.

The company reportedly gutted the team of developers working on Just Walk Out tech earlier this month. (You get one guess as to how the laid-off workers were instructed to leave the office.) As part of recent layoffs from Amazon’s AWS unit and Physical Stores Team, the company allegedly left only “a skeleton crew” to work on the tech moving forward. A skeleton crew to maintain a skeleton sounds about right.

In fairness, some of those locations are at high-traffic venues. That includes nine merch stores at Seattle’s Lumen Field (home to the Seahawks and Sounders), near Amazon’s headquarters. Delaware North, a large hospitality and entertainment company, has opened “more than a dozen” stores using the tech. Amazon says stores adopting Just Walk Out have reported increased transactions, sales and customer satisfaction.

Despite the reported gutting of Just Walk Out’s development team, Amazon says it “continues to invent the next generation of this technology to improve the checkout experience for large-format stores.” Its next steps include improving latency for “faster and more reliable receipts,” new algorithms to recognize customer actions and new sensors better.

If the reports about layoffs are accurate, the handful of remaining Just Walk Out developers will have their work cut out for them.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

There’s a TV show coming based on Sega’s classic arcade game Golden Axe

Comedy Central just greenlit a cartoon based on the classic Sega arcade cabinet Golden Axe, further proving we are in something of a gilded age of video game adaptations. The animated show is getting a ten-episode first season and features a voice cast filled with comedic heavy hitters, like Danny Pudi from Community and Carl Tart from Grand Crew (RIP) and the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast universe.

It also stars Matthew Rhys, from The Americans and Perry Mason, and comedian Lisa Gilroy. The pilot is being written by Mike McMahon, the creator of Star Trek: Lower Decks and Solar Opposites, and Joe Chandler, a regular writer for American Dad. Chandler is the showrunner and McMahon is on board as the executive producer. Interestingly, several big Sega names are also involved with the show, including Haruki Satomi, Shuki Utsumi and Toru Nakahara, the latter being largely responsible for shepherding the Sonic the Hedgehog cinematic universe.

The plot looks appropriately zany, as there wasn’t too much story in those old arcade cabinets. The show bills itself as a “hilarious and loving homage to Sega’s 1989 video game series” and follows several warriors as they attempt to save the realm from franchise antagonist Death Adder. It does look to be doing a deep dive on the franchise, as one of the characters is the panther/man hybrid beast from Golden Axe III. Comedy Central promises “plenty of exciting cameos” from the fictional world. There’s no release date yet and the show is still in the script-writing stage. Animation takes a long time, so hold your horses.

We’ve really gone from zero to sixty when it comes to game adaptations, right? In just the past year, we’ve had shows based on The Last of Us, Fallout, Twisted Metal and more. There’s also a little-known movie about two Italian plumbers that may or may not have set the box office on fire. A TV show based on another Sega property, Knuckles, premieres April 26 on Paramount+

As for Golden Axe, there hasn't been a franchise installment since 2008, though that's about to change. Sega recently announced that its rebooting the property, alongside other classics like Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Cheaper Evercade retro consoles will arrive in July

Blaze Entertainment has made a bunch of announcements regarding its Evercade retro gaming consoles. Among other things, the company has revealed refreshed and less expensive hardware.

The Evercade -R range updates the VS and EXP with a new look. Each of the new consoles, which will arrive in July, comes with a bundled cartridge (more on that in a moment). The previous consoles have been discontinued but will be available while stocks last.

Blaze redesigned the handheld Evercade EXP-R with the aim of reducing costs. To that end, Blaze has removed two features: 18 Capcom games that were built into the EXP and the Mini-HDMI out port. On the plus side, that means the latest version of the console is $100 (£100 in the UK and €120 in Europe), $30 less than the previous system.

The EXP-R has a new textured grip on the back that seeks to improve comfort for longer gaming sessions. The system is charcoal grey and there are turquoise accents on the power, menu, start and select buttons. Like its predecessor, the EXP-R includes Wi-Fi and a TATE button, which allows you to switch to vertical play while maintaining an accurate screen ratio.

Rather than being a handheld, the Evercade VS-R plugs into your TV. It has the same color scheme as the EXP-R, with a turquoise power button and front LED light. Like the VS, it has a dual cartridge slot and four USB ports for controllers. 

The console now supports the TATE screen rotation function and there's Wi-Fi connectivity for firmware updates. The console comes with a controller and power cable, but you'll need to supply your own HDMI cable. The Evercade VS-R will also drop support for the Namco Museum Collection 1 & 2. That said, with these changes, Blaze has also been able to drop the price of the VS-R to $100, the same as the new handheld.

You might want some games to play on those systems. To that end, Evercade has announced a new cartridge format. The Giga Cart is able to store larger games (such as ones that were originally available on CDs) and it will typically cost $25, compared with the $18 of regular Evercade cartridges.

Blaze is planning to release two titles on the Giga Cart format this year, and we now know what one of those is: a collection of the first three Tomb Raider games. This isn't the so-so remastered bundle with upgraded visuals that hit other platforms earlier this year. Tomb Raider Collection 1 includes the original versions of the three games with the OG character models and textures. While you'll be able to buy the cart separately and play it on existing Evercade and Super Pocket devices, Blaze is bundling it in with the Evercade EXP-R and VS-R.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

LG’s S95TR soundbar with wireless Dolby Atmos is now available for $1,500

In typical LG fashion, the company is following up its CES soundbar announcement with pricing and availability info a few months later. The company's latest Dolby Atmos model, the S95TR, is now available from LG and other retailers for $1,500. That's pricey for sure, but the company has bundled the soundbar with a subwoofer and a pair of rear surround speakers. That means completing your setup won't require additional purchases. 

Inside, the S95TR houses 17 speakers, including five up-firing drivers. LG says this soundbar is the first to feature a center-positioned, up-firing speaker, which enhances dimensional audio and helps with dialog clarity. LG explains that it also upgraded the tweeters in the S95TR and it integrated passive radiators. This combo keeps high frequencies clear while also delivering 120Hz low-frequency response in a 9.1.5-channel setup. 

The company's Wowcast tech allows the S95TR to connect to compatible LG TVs wirelessly, including the transmission of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X without a cable. Wow Orchestra can utilize the speakers of an LG TV with the soundbar for "a harmonious fusion of audio channels." There's also the company's 3D Spatial Sound Technology that analyzes audio channels with a three-dimensional engine to make things as immersive as possible. AI Room Calibration is here as well, which will include the rear surround speakers in its room tuning for the first time this year. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Apple renews For All Mankind and announces a spinoff series set in the Soviet Union

For All Mankind is coming back for a fifth season of space-based alt-history hijinks on Apple TV+. This is unsurprising news, given the near-universal critical acclaim heaped on season four. However, the company also surprise-announced a spinoff series called Star City that will follow the Russian space program.

Original series creators Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi are all onboard for Star City, though there’s no cast yet. The plot synopsis calls it a “robust expansion” of the universe and refers to it as a “propulsive, paranoid thriller.” It also looks to be taking viewers back to the events of season one of For All Mankind, chronicling the Russian moon landing that started the story.

“This time, we explore the story from behind the Iron Curtain, showing the lives of the cosmonauts, the engineers and the intelligence officers embedded among them in the Soviet space program, and the risks they all took to propel humanity forward,” Apple wrote in a press release.

The company didn’t say if the show would rely on frequent time jumps, like its forebear. To that end, Apple hasn't released any casting information for season five of For All Mankind. Given the show’s propensity toward expansive time skips, it’s highly possible series regulars like Joel Kinnaman and Krys Marshall are on their way out. After all, their characters were really getting up there in age and stretching credulity in season four. 

Joel Kinnaman looking old in a spaceship.
Apple TV+

This is some seriously good news for sci-fi fans, but still doesn’t take away the brutal sting of Star Trek: Lower Decks getting canceled. Paramount should probably just sell Star Trek to Apple already, since the latter actually seems to care about science fiction.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

X’s AI bot is so dumb it can’t tell the difference between a bad game and vandalism

Last night, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson had a rough outing shooting 0 for 10 in a loss against the Sacramento Kings, ending the team’s chances of making the NBA playoffs. But then, almost as if to add insult to injury, X’s AI bot Grok generated a trending story claiming Thompson was vandalizing homes in the area with bricks.

Now at this point, even casual basketball fans may be able to see what went wrong. But Grok isn’t very smart, because it seems that after seeing user posts about a player simply missing a bunch of shots (aka shooting bricks), the bot took things literally resulting in a completely fictitious AI-generated report.

After misinterpreting user posts about Klay Thompson's poor shooting during an NBA game, X's AI bot Grok created a fictitious story on the social media platform's trending section.
After misinterpreting user posts about Klay Thompson's poor shooting during an NBA game, X's AI bot Grok created a fictitious story on the social media platform's trending section. 
Screenshot by Sam Rutherford (via X)

In the event this fabrication — which was the #5 trending story at the time of writing — gets corrected or deleted by Elon Musk, Grok originally wrote “In a bizarre turn of events, NBA star Klay Thompson has been accused of vandalizing multiple houses with bricks in Sacramento. Authorities are investigating the claims after several individuals reported their houses being damaged, with windows shattered by bricks. Klay Thompson has not yet issued a statement regarding the accusations. The incidents have left the community shaken, but no injuries were reported. The motive behind the alleged vandalism remains unclear.” Amusingly, despite pointing out the unusual nature of the story Grok went ahead of put out some nonsense anyway.

Granted, in fine print beneath the story, X says “Grok is an early feature and can make mistakes. Verify its outputs.” But even that warning seems to have backfired, as basketball fans began memeing on the AI with posts sarcastically verifying the AI’s erroneous statement.

After Grok created an erroneous story about Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, users began memeing on the situation.
After Grok created an erroneous story about Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, users began memeing on the situation. 
Screenshot by Sam Rutherford (via X)

For most people, Grok’s latest gaff may merely be another example in an ongoing series of early AI tools messing up. But for others like Musk who believes that AI will be smarter than humans as soon as the end of next year, this should serve as a reminder that AI is still in desperate need of regular fact-checking.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Creepy monitoring service sells searchable Discord user data for as little as $5

A data scraping service is selling information on what it claims to be 600 million Discord users. A report from 404 Media details Spy Pet, an online service that gathers, stores and sells troves of information from the social platform. But have no fear: It markets its services to totally trustworthy paying clients like law enforcement, AI model trainers or your average person curious about “what their friends are up to.” Why ask them when you can simply purchase and download a copy of their Discord activity?

For as little as $5 in cryptocurrency, Spy Pet lets you access data about specific users, such as which servers they participate in, what messages they’ve sent and when they joined or left voice channels. It claims to have information on an alleged 600 million users across 14,000 Discord servers and three billion messages.

As for what inspired Spy Pet, its creator suggested it’s a classic case of doing what one enjoys and pushing personal boundaries. “I like scraping, archiving, and challenging myself,” the creator told 404 Media. “Discord is basically the holy grail of scraping, since Discord is trying absolutely anything to combat scraping.”

Some people run a 5K, set a weight-loss goal or take up pickleball. Others start a social scraping service that sells data to the feds, AI companies and creepy exes. To each their own!

404 Media says the database lets you search for specific users. For each search result, a page shows the servers the user has joined (at least among those Spy Pet monitors), their connected accounts, a table showing their recent messages (including the server name, time stamps and the message itself) and their voice channel entry and exit times. Paying customers can conveniently export their prey’s — or “friend’s” — chats into a CSV file.

Discord says it’s investigating Spy Pet and weighing its options. “Discord is committed to protecting the privacy and data of our users,” a company spokesperson wrote in an email to Engadget. “We are currently investigating this matter. If we determine that violations of our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines have occurred, we will take appropriate steps to enforce our policies. We cannot provide further comments as this is an ongoing investigation.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at