In the months leading to India’s local Delhi elections in February 2020, Zhang worked to take down a “politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence the election.” And over the past months, Facebook removed 672,000 “low-quality fake accounts” that sought to manipulate COVID-19-related information on the Spanish Health Ministry’s page and on US pages. Zhang has also revealed in her memo that the company removed 10.5 million fake reactions and fans from high-profile politician pages in Brazil and the US during the elections in 2018.
But perhaps the most haunting part of the memo was her admission that she felt like she “blood on [her] hands” for not prioritizing certain inauthentic activities on the website. Back in 2019, for instance, she found inauthentic activity supporting the opposition presidential candidate in Bolivia but chose not to act on it immediately. Months later, President Evo Morales resigned and mass protests led to dozens of deaths. She wrote:
“I have personally made decisions that affected national presidents without oversight, and taken action to enforce against so many prominent politicians globally that I’ve lost count…
I have made countless decisions in this vein — from Iraq to Indonesia, from Italy to El Salvador. Individually, the impact was likely small in each case, but the world is a vast place. Although I made the best decision I could based on the knowledge available at the time, ultimately I was the one who made the decision not to push more or prioritize further in each case, and I know that I have blood on my hands by now.”
Zhang clarified that she doesn’t think Facebook is run by malicious people with an agenda. It’s just that the higher-ups tend to make decisions motivated by PR and to focus on issues in the US and the West. A mid-level employee like her ended up having to make huge decisions for political issues happening outside those regions, and it took a toll on her health.
When she asked the company for support in stopping malicious activities related to politics and elections, she was reportedly told that “human resources are limited” and was threatened to be let go if she continued focusing on civil work. In addition, she usually had to post on Facebook’s employee message board to get her concerns addressed, because going through the proper channels didn’t work. BuzzFeed News says Zhang was ultimately fired this month and refused a $64,000 severance package to be able to write and send the memo to her former colleagues.
In response to Zhang’s memo, spokesperson Liz Bourgeois told BuzzFeed News in a statement:
“We’ve built specialized teams, working with leading experts, to stop bad actors from abusing our systems, resulting in the removal of more than 100 networks for coordinated inauthentic behavior. It’s highly involved work that these teams do as their full-time remit. Working against coordinated inauthentic behavior is our priority, but we’re also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement. We investigate each issue carefully, including those that Ms. Zhang raises, before we take action or go out and make claims publicly as a company.”
Sega’s Football Manager heads back to Xbox this fall
When it comes out on November 24th, Football Manager 2021 will the first entry in the popular simulation series to make its way to Xbox consoles in more than a decade. Sega plans to release the game on Xbox One, Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, with a single purchase getting you access to both the current and next-generation versions of the game. You’ll also have to chance to buy Football Manager 2021 on PC and Mac, where they’ll be available through Steam and the Epic Games Store.
Sega says the Xbox release of Football Manager 2021 builds on the Touch version of the series — which the company has typically released on iOS and Android devices, as well as Nintendo Switch. But don’t worry, Sega says it’s fully optimized the game for Xbox controllers. The Xbox version will also support Microsoft’s Play Anywhere feature, allowing you to transfer your saves between an Xbox console and Windows PC. If you pre-order the game now through Steam or the Epic Games Store, you can get a 10 percent discount and early access to the game two weeks before its official release date.
Amazon’s Luna cloud gaming service sounds like the cable of video games
Amazon revealed its new cloud gaming service, officially called Luna, at its annual Alexa hardware event today. That makes it an immediate competitor to Google’s Stadia, Microsoft’s xCloud, Sony’s PlayStation Now, and a number of other services from major game publishers all eager to try the code on how to stream video games over the internet.
But in a revealing interview with Protocol published after the event, Amazon’s Marc Whitten, the company’s vice president of entertainment devices and services, clarified one of the most vital questions around Luna that wasn’t answered during the reveal: what’s the business model? And from what we can glean from the interview, it’s looking a whole lot like the cable of video games, for better and for worse.
Whitten tells Protocol that Luna won’t follow the Stadia model, which is free but requires users to pay for individual games to stream on the platform. (You can also pay for Stadia Pro to get 4K streaming, access to a small but growing library of free titles, and other perks.) It’s also not following the xCloud model, which is bundled into Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription as a free add-on for the Ultimate tier. That arrangement lets you stream any of the 100-plus games on the Game Pass platform but only to an Android device right now.
Instead, Luna will offer individual “channels” for partner publishers, modeled similarly to the Amazon Channels platform, which lets Prime subscribers add individual TV streaming service subscriptions as add-ons all bundled into one monthly payment managed by Amazon. These channels will be priced differently and will seemingly come with differences in perks and restrictions, although details are slim at the moment. The service will launch sometime soon in early access for a small number of users with just two channels to start.
The first channel will be an Amazon-branded one called Luna Plus, which sounds a bit like Stadia Pro in that it offers 4K streaming and “unlimited hours of play,” but it goes further by offering access to dozens of games all for $5.99 a month. It’s not clear what that game list looks like beyond the early slate of confirmed titles, including Resident Evil 7 and Control, but the model already gives Luna a slight edge over Stadia by not requiring subscribers to pay for most of the titles they want to play. In fact, it doesn’t appear that Luna will let users pay for any games at all; right now, it looks like you’ll have to subscribe to a channel to access anything on the platform.
The second channel will belong to major game publisher Ubisoft, which is offering the same perks as Luna Plus (although Ubisoft is restricting users to one stream per account instead of the two allowed on Amazon’s channel) and presumably access to most, if not all, of the company’s vast library. Amazon won’t say what the Ubisoft channel will cost, but it may be priced higher than Luna Plus and more in line with UPlay Plus, the $14.99 subscription service Ubisoft introduced last year.
“You’ll see other channels over time,” Whitten told Protocol. He added that game publishers “are pretty excited about the idea.” It’s unclear how, say, indie games or titles from midsized publishers that may not be able to support a full-fledged Luna channel will be added, or if that’s why Luna Plus exists. It’s also unclear how companies with competing cloud priorities, like Microsoft and Sony, will be treated. That said, Electronic Arts, which is working on its own cloud gaming platform, did earlier this month partner with Microsoft for Xbox Game Pass, which suggests we could see EA’s Play subscription arrive on Luna.
But more generally, why wouldn’t publishers be excited? Luna’s format sounds like a lucrative format for cloud gaming, mostly because it’s structured similarly to the current streaming TV landscape. Just like how Amazon Prime gives you access to Prime Video for free with your monthly or annual payment, Luna Plus will give you access to whatever games Amazon can acquire the cloud gaming rights to in exchange for its monthly fee, which it may raise after the early access period.
Meanwhile, if you want to pay for additional games from other publishers, you’ll buy access to that publisher’s Luna channel, just as you would subscribe to HBO or Netflix separately through the Amazon Channels platform. Amazon will handle all the billing and subscription logistics, and presumably Amazon gets a cut of all monthly subscription revenue in exchange for managing account sign-ups and, more importantly, powering the entire Luna service on its AWS cloud computing platform. The whole thing feels a lot like a basic cable package with add-ons you pay for separately or the cord-cutter equivalent of paying for a half-dozen streaming services alongside a Sling TV or YouTube TV subscription for your cable access.
This all seems great for the game publishers eager to monetize a new distribution channel, but it may be a bit of bad news for gaming fans hoping models more like Nvidia’s GeForce Now would become the norm. Nvidia’s model lets you play games you already own via Valve’s Steam marketplace on a number of screens, including a Mac or Android phone.
But the service was initially met with fierce opposition from game publishers when it exited beta and Nvidia began charging for it earlier this year, mostly because some publishers didn’t appear to give express permission to Nvidia to stream their intellectual property from a cloud server. Many publishers have since opted back into Nvidia’s platform, following some high-profile departures like Activision Blizzard and Take-Two Interactive. But the GeForce Now situation illustrated how the biggest game makers in the industry see the benefit of cloud gaming as primarily a way to sell games to new customers (or access to games via a subscription), and less of a way to give existing ones more ways to play the titles they already own.
Cloud gaming is still in its infancy, of course, and every major player is experimenting with the business model to find out what sticks. With the introduction of Luna and Amazon’s channel-based approach, we’re seeing yet another gamble on how the future of game distribution will be structured. Although this time, Amazon is following a successful template in how much of television is bundled and sold on the internet today. Whether that’s a savvy move will depend on whether consumers see enough benefit in Luna and what it has to offer to add yet more fees to the ever-growing list of monthly subscriptions.
Call of Duty: Warzone subways are the fastest way to travel in season 6
Call of Duty: Warzone season 6 is coming next week, and Infinity Ward has given players the first real information about the it’s new additions. The biggest features this time around are subways, which were originally shown in season 6’s first trailer. It seems they’ll be an important part of how players get around Verdansk going forward.
According to a new post on the subway system released by Infinity Ward on Thursday, the underground rail will be called the Metro in-game. The Metro service will have several stations that players can enter to board the train. Each of these Metro stations will be basically identical, which means that you should always know how to navigate when you’re inside.
Each one will descend below Verdansk and have areas where players can board the trains going either clockwise or counterclockwise around the map. There’s even a ticker in the station that will let you know where each train is currently stopped. But, Infinity Ward is careful to remind players not to go on the tracks, as it will mean a quick and certain death. These stations will also have small ladders that players can use for a quick escape if the Metro station is no longer a safe place to be.
Once players are onboard their chosen train, they’ll be treated to the fastest mode of transportation in all of Verdansk. On top of being a quick way to get from one side of the map to the other, the subway also has a few other nice features. For instance, it won’t travel to an area of the map that’s outside of the circle.
As an added safety precaution the train is a no-fighting area. That means that it won’t start moving until all the shooting in and around it has finished. So if there’s a shootout on-board, or even between players in the station and on the train, the Metro is staying put until someone wins and the fighting stops.
Infinity Ward’s post also mentions that there will be a few other surprises for players to discover once the season 6 patch goes live on Sept. 29, but that’s all the developer is willing to reveal right now.
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