Twitter’s stock plunges as user growth stalls

Enlarge / Traders at the New York Stock Exchange beneath a monitor displaying Twitter’s stock symbol in 2016. (credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Several years ago, Twitter seemed like it would be the social media darling of the decade. Founders had dreams of being the first Internet company to reach one billion users, making it “the pulse of the planet.”

That’s not going to happen, and investors are cluing in. Twitter had 328 million average monthly active users, or MAU, in the three months ending in June, which is unchanged from the previous quarter. The company’s shares were down more than 10 percent this morning on the news.

The news comes despite Twitter’s role in the daily news cycle perhaps being more prominent than ever, given the platform often serves as President Donald Trump’s favored medium of expression.

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Stealthy Google Play apps recorded calls and stole e-mails and texts

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Google has expelled 20 Android apps from its Play marketplace after finding they contained code for monitoring and extracting users’ e-mail, text messages, locations, voice calls, and other sensitive data.

The apps, which made their way onto about 100 phones, exploited known vulnerabilities to “root” devices running older versions of Android. Root status allowed the apps to bypass security protections built into the mobile operating system. As a result, the apps were capable of surreptitiously accessing sensitive data stored, sent, or received by at least a dozen other apps, including Gmail, Hangouts, LinkedIn, and Messenger. The now-ejected apps also collected messages sent and received by Whatsapp, Telegram, and Viber, which all encrypt data in an attempt to make it harder for attackers to intercept messages while in transit.

The apps also contained functions allowing for:

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Feds say they caught a key figure in the massive Mt. Gox Bitcoin hack

(credit: Zach Copley)

Yesterday morning we reported on the arrest of a Russian man suspected of running a $4 billion dollar money laundering scheme. Later in the day, US officials released the indictment against the suspect, Alexander Vinnik.

That indictment reveals that the alleged $4 billion money laundering operation was actually BTC-e, one of the internet’s most popular Bitcoin exchanges. According to the feds, BTC-e didn’t comply with anti-money laundering laws that require financial businesses to collect information about their customers and report suspicious activity to the authorities. As a result, it became popular with ransomware authors looking to cash in their ill-gotten bitcoins and drug traffickers and other criminals looking to move money around the world.

The feds also suggest that Vinnik was a central figure in the massive bitcoin theft that was a major factor in the downfall of Mt. Gox, the Japanese Bitcoin exchange that led the market in Bitcoin’s early years. If

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Judge: Waymo may be in “a world of trouble” if it can’t prove actual harm by Uber

Enlarge / Autodesk VRED Design 2017. (credit: Waymo)

SAN FRANCISCO—At a court hearing on Wednesday, US District Judge William Alsup questioned whether Waymo can really show the harm from Uber’s alleged trade secret theft.

Waymo has been ordered to submit a detailed description of how it has been harmed within a month. The case is rapidly moving ahead towards an October trial date. If the trial actually takes place, it will elevate what has already become the highest-profile lawsuit related to the rapidly accelerating self-driving car industry.

Google’s division sued Uber back in February, alleging that one of its own former engineers, Anthony Levandowski, stole 14,000 proprietary files and took them to his new startup, Otto (which was quickly acquired by Uber). However, Uber says it never received them and so it couldn’t have and didn’t implement them into its own products, services, or prototypes.

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Using a blockchain doesn’t exempt you from securities regulations

Enlarge / Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin. (credit: Techcrunch)

The DAO, a blockchain-based organization created last year, was supposed to demonstrate the potential of Bitcoin competitor Ethereum. Investors pumped $150 million of virtual currency into the project. But then in June 2016, hackers found a bug in the DAO’s code that allowed them to steal $50 million from the organization, creating a crisis for the Ethereum community.

A Tuesday ruling from the Securities and Exchange Commission makes clear that security flaws were not the problem with the DAO. The agency says the DAO’s creators broke the law by offering shares to the public without complying with applicable securities laws. Though luckily for the DAO’s creators, the SEC isn’t going to prosecute the DAO’s creators.

“There’s nothing surprising here,” says Patrick Murck, a legal expert at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center. “It’s very common sensical.”

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Lawsuit seeks Ajit Pai’s net neutrality talks with Internet providers

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai testifying before a Senate subcommittee on May 11, 2016, when he was a commissioner. (credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission was sued today by a group that says the commission failed to comply with a public records request for communications about net neutrality between FCC officials and Internet service providers.

On April 26, a nonprofit called American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request asking the FCC for all records related to communications on net neutrality between Internet service providers and Chairman Ajit Pai or Pai’s staff. The group asked for “correspondence, e-mails, telephone call logs, calendar entries, meeting agendas,” and any other records of such communications.

The group also asked for similar records related to FCC communications with members of Congress, congressional staff, and members of the media. But American Oversight’s lawsuit against the FCC says the commission hasn’t complied

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Verizon accused of violating net neutrality rules by throttling video

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Steven Puetzer)

The Federal Communications Commission should investigate whether Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules by throttling video applications on its mobile network, advocacy group Free Press says.

Free Press is asking people to sign a petition that will be delivered to the FCC.

“Late last week Verizon Wireless customers started to notice something suspicious: Videos from Netflix and YouTube were slow,” the call for signatures says. “Verizon Wireless couldn’t explain why. When reporters asked the wireless giant to comment, the company first said it was just a temporary network test with no impact on user experience. But Verizon later admitted that, temporary test or not, it was indeed ‘optimizing’ video streams.”

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Apple must pay $506M for infringing university’s patent

Enlarge / Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation will be able to collect more than $500 million in royalties on Apple products that used the A7, A8, and A8X chips. That includes the iPad Air, pictured here in 2013. (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A judge has ordered Apple to pay $506 million to the research arm of the University of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF, sued Apple in 2014, accusing its A7, A8, and A8X chips of infringing US Patent No. 5,781,752, which claims a type of “table based data speculation circuit.” The following year after a trial, a Wisconsin jury found (PDF) that Apple had infringed the ‘752 patent and that it should pay $234 million in damages.

Yesterday’s order (PDF), signed by US District Judge William Conley, more than doubles that amount. Conley awarded WARF $1.61 per unit for many of the iPad and iPhone

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Travelers’ electronics at US airports to get enhanced screening, TSA says

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Aviation security officials will begin enhanced screening measures of passengers’ electronics at US airports, the Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday.

Travelers must remove electronics larger than a mobile phone from their carry-on bags and “place them in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. This simple step helps TSA officers obtain a clearer X-ray image,” the TSA announced amid growing fears that electronic devices can pose as homemade bombs.

“Whether you’re flying to, from, or within the United States, TSA is committed to raising the baseline for aviation security by strengthening the overall security of our commercial aviation network to keep flying as a safe option for everyone,” TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia said. “It is critical for TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep

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Democrat asks FCC chair if anything can stop net neutrality rollback

Enlarge / US Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Penn.). (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

US Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Penn.) yesterday accused Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai of pursuing an agenda that harms both consumers and small businesses.

“Chairman Pai, in the time that you have been head of this agency, we have seen an agenda that is anti-consumer, anti-small business, anti-competition, anti-innovation, and anti-opportunity,” Doyle said during an FCC oversight hearing held by the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Doyle pointed to several of Pai’s decisions, including ending a net neutrality investigation into what Doyle called “anti-competitive zero-rating practices” by AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Doyle criticized Pai moves that made it more difficult for poor people to get broadband subsidies and made it easier for large TV broadcasters to merge. The latter decision would “enable an unprecedented merger between Sinclair and Tribune that would give the

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Olive Garden apologizes to AllOfGarden blog, offers $50 gift card

Enlarge (credit: Mike Mozart)

The man behind the AllOfGarden.com blog wrote Tuesday that he has been granted a “total pardon”—as he described it in a four-stanza limerick.

Said blogger, Vincent “Vino” Malone, is the proprietor of AllOfGarden.com, a website that chronicles a quest to eat as much Olive Garden pasta as possible (via the Never Ending Pasta Pass).

Last week, Malone announced that he had received what appeared to be a legal demand e-mail from Darden, Olive Garden’s parent company, claiming alleged trademark infringement, because he used the phrase “Olive Garden” on his website. Malone ridiculed the demand in a response that he posted publicly, in which he accurately described the concept of “nominative fair use”—the trademark equivalent of fair use in copyright law.

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Officials arrest suspect in $4 billion Bitcoin money laundering scheme

(credit: fdecomite)

Police in Greece have arrested a man wanted in the United States for allegedly running a massive Bitcoin-based money laundering operation, according to the Associated Press. Authorities say the 38-year-old Russian man was responsible for converting $4 billion in illicit, conventional cash into virtual currency.

The suspect hasn’t been publicly named, but Reuters got a picture of him being arrested. According to Reuters, he was arrested in the “Greek region of Chalkidiki on Monday on a US warrant.”

The news is a reminder that—like ordinary cash—Bitcoin has a wide variety of uses, both legitimate and illicit. Bitcoin boosters like to focus on potential applications like international remittances, micropayments, and conventional retail sales. But Bitcoin has become the payment network of choice for “dark web” markets for drugs and other illicit merchandise, from the original Silk Road—shut down in 2014—to the recently-busted Alphabay.

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Who owns Snopes? Fracas over fact-checking site now front and center

Enlarge / David Mikkelson, the founder of Snopes, seen here at the US Embassy in Vienna, in June 2017. (credit: US Embassy Vienna)

As of Tuesday evening, Snopes.com, one of the Internet’s most longstanding fact-checking websites, successfully raised over $600,000 in less than 48 hours—an effort to stay afloat while an ugly legal battle is underway.

Snopes’ founder, David Mikkelson, told Ars in a lengthy phone interview that a Web development company, Proper Media, and two of its founders have essentially held the website “hostage” for months, keeping both data and money that should have gone to Snopes’ parent company, Bardav.

Bardav and Proper Media, which also runs other websites including TVTropes.org, made a business deal together that Bardav then cancelled in March 2017. Proper Media sued in May, alleging breach of contract, among other allegations. Mikkelson and Bardav countersued in June 2017.

Read

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UK government wants to ban sale of gas and diesel cars starting in 2040

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All new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from UK roads from 2040, the government will announce on Wednesday in a revised “controversial bomb” air pollution plan.

The Tory government published a draft air pollution plan in May, but it faced criticism from environment lawyers and clean air campaigners for being too floppy at curbing the nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollution that causes thousands of premature deaths in the UK each year. The High Court demanded that a final version of the plan be published by the end of July—and so here we are.

In addition to following in France’s footsteps with an internal combustion engine ban by 2040, the plan mostly focuses on empowering local councils to make major changes to their road systems. Reprogramming traffic lights, removing or redesigning speed bumps (!) and roundabouts, and retrofitting buses are all

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Whistleblower calls out problems with military drone accuracy and ethics

Ars Technica Live #15, produced by Jennifer Hahn and filmed by Chris Schodt.
(video link)

Lisa Ling served almost two decades in the Air National Guard, working on communications technology and drones. After an honorable discharge, she discovered her work had led to the deaths of hundreds of people. On our latest episode of Ars Technica Live, she tells Ars editors Annalee Newitz and Cyrus Farivar how that experience turned her into a whistleblower.

Civilians know almost nothing about military drone programs, and Lisa told us that it wasn’t much better on the inside. She joined the National Guard to be a nurse, but her technical skills quickly got her moved into a role working with computers and comms equipment. After a few years of that, she was reassigned to work on drones. But she didn’t realize, at first, what she was building.

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US Energy Secretary takes 22-minute prank call from “Ukrainian Prime Minister”

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 19: Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice as Secretary of Energy, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Capitol Hill January 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

Last week, US Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry took a phone call from two men he thought were the Ukrainian Prime Minister and his translator. But the 22-minute-long phone call was actually two Russian pranksters, Vladimir “Vovan” Kuznetsov and Alexei “Lexus” Stolyarov, otherwise known as the “Jerky Boys of Russia,” in the style of an American prank call duo from the 1990s, according to Bloomberg.

The Washington Post confirmed the conversation with the Department of Energy. In audio originally posted on a Russian website and reposted elsewhere, the dialogue touched on a Baltic Sea pipeline that

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Patent-holder that sued EFF for defamation won’t show up in court

A blog post by EFF attorney Daniel Nazer about his selection for the “Stupid Patent of the Month” resulted in an Australian lawsuit and a $750,000 damage demand. EFF has challenged the Australian order in US federal court. (credit: EFF)

An Australian patent-holding company that’s filed dozens of federal lawsuits can’t seem to find its way into court, now that it’s facing off with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Global Equity Management SA, or GEMSA, spent much of 2016 filing lawsuits against big companies in the Eastern District of Texas. It claimed various major websites—including Expedia, Zillow, and Airbnb—infringe its patents on “virtual cabinets.”

The company’s intensive campaign of lawsuits won it a special place in the pantheon of patent-holders, when GEMSA became the subject of EFF’s long-running series, “Stupid Patent of the Month.”

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Democrats slam EPA head, want to understand his climate inquiry

Enlarge / Texas’ Eddie Bernice Johnson. (credit: Getty Images/Tom Williams)

Lamar Smith, head of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, has a penchant for releasing letters in which he complains about issues related to climate change. He has targeted everyone from state attorneys general who are investigating fossil fuel companies to NOAA scientists (and their e-mails).

But Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), the ranking Democrat on the committee, has released a letter or two herself, including one in which she sharply questioned whether Smith was appropriately overseeing scientific research. Now, Johnson and two other Democrats on the committee have turned their attention to Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The subject? Pruitt’s plan to have the EPA engage in a show debate over our understanding of climate science.

For the letter, Johnson was joined by Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), fellow

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Google tells judge: Don’t let Canada force us to alter US search results

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images/Ulrich Baumgartgen)

Google is taking legal action in the US to stop Canada’s Supreme Court from controlling its search results worldwide.

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered Google to remove links to webpages owned by a company called Datalink Technologies on all of its search websites, worldwide. Canadian courts had previously found that Datalink was illegally re-labeling products and infringing the intellectual property of a Vancouver tech firm called Equustek.

Yesterday, Google filed a lawsuit (PDF) in California, asking a judge to rule that the Canadian order is unenforceable in the US. Google lawyers argue that the order violates both the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents online platforms from being held responsible for most user behavior.

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India’s transport minister vows to ban self-driving cars to save jobs

Enlarge / Nitin Jairam Gadkari, minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping of India at the India Economic Summit 2016 in New Delhi, India. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell (credit: World Economic Forum)

Companies in the United States, Germany, Japan, and other countries are racing to develop self-driving cars. But India’s top transportation regulator says that those cars won’t be welcome on Indian streets any time soon.

“We won’t allow driverless cars in India,” said Nitin Gadkari, India’s minister for Road Transport, Highways, and Shipping, according to the Hindustan Times. “I am very clear on this. We won’t allow any technology that takes away jobs.”

In recent years, new technology has mostly created jobs for drivers. In India, the leading ride-sharing services, Ola and Uber, completed 500 million rides in 2016, creating work for Indian drivers. But Uber’s ultimate goal is to introduce fully self-driving

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