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Germany Bans Digital Doppelganger Passport Photos

Thu, 2020-06-04 02:25
Germany will outlaw the morphing of passport photos, in which pictures of two people are digitally combined, making it possible to assign multiple identities to a single document. Reuters reports: Morphing can trick artificial intelligence used at passport control into recognizing different individuals. The government on Wednesday backed a law requiring people to either have their photo taken at a passport office or, if they use a photographer, have it submitted in digital form over a secure connection, spokesman Steffen Seibert said. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics have found that it is possible to morph photos of the faces of different people who are not even related. A certain degree of similarity is sufficient, such as the eyes being aligned. Such manipulation of photos is typically invisible to the human eye, the researchers found.

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Dyson Shares New Photos and Videos of Its Canceled Electric SUV

Thu, 2020-06-04 01:45
Dyson has revealed new photos and information about their failed electric SUV, which the company canceled last October due to high costs. The Verge reports: In a new blog post on his company's website, Dyson shows off some of the first images and videos of the real prototype it made before the project was killed last October, as well as a few more computer renderings. He describes the SUV as "a radical car which was loaded with technology," and says his company "solved lots of problems that are traditionally associated with electric vehicles," though the project was ultimately abandoned for not being "commercially viable." Missing from the post is any substantive explanation of what those problems were, though, or how the company was going to solve them. Dyson touts a "spoke, integrated and highly efficient Electric Drive Unit (EDU) comprising Dyson digital electric motor, single speed transmission and state of the art power inverter," though there's no explanation about what sets those technologies apart from the ones developed by other companies in the electric vehicle space. Other listed design benefits (like a flexible battery pack design, improved interior space, longer wheelbase) and features (like a heads-up display or handle-free doors) are also far from unique. And while Autocar reports that the SUV was supposed to offer somewhere around 600 miles of range using a 150kWh battery, Dyson never got close enough to put that claim to the test. One of the few standout parts of the SUV is the steering wheel, which looks more like a video game controller than anything.

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Frontier Users Must Pay 'Rental' Fee For Equipment They Own Until December

Thu, 2020-06-04 01:02
An anonymous reader writes: Broadband and TV providers can keep charging "rental" fees for equipment that customers own themselves until December 2020, thanks to a Federal Communications Commission ruling that delays implementation of a new law. A law approved by Congress and signed by President Trump in December 2019 prohibits providers from charging device-rental fees when customers use their own equipment, and it was originally scheduled to take effect on June 20. As we've written, this law will help Frontier customers who have been forced to pay $10 monthly fees for equipment they don't use and, in some cases, have never even received. But the law gave the FCC discretion to extend the deadline by six months if the commission "finds that good cause exists for such an additional extension," and the FCC has done just that. The FCC ruling on April 3 (PDF), which we didn't notice at the time, extends the deadline to December 20 and says that providers need more time to comply because of the coronavirus pandemic: "As the nation tackles the COVID-19 pandemic, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) and providers of fixed broadband Internet access service are among the entities that are integral to the Commission's ongoing, nationwide effort to keep Americans informed and connected during this national emergency. So that these service providers may focus their resources on this critical effort, we provide appropriate flexibility for MVPDs and providers of fixed broadband Internet access service to fulfill their obligations under the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 (TVPA)... we find that good cause exists for granting a blanket extension of section 642's effective date until December 20, 2020."

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Canadian Major Telcos Effectively Lock Huawei Out of 5G Build

Thu, 2020-06-04 00:20
Canadian carriers Bell and Telus announced on Tuesday that each of them would not be continuing the use of Huawei equipment in their respective 5G networks, having signed deals with the Chinese giant's rivals instead. ZDNet reports: For Bell, it announced Ericsson would be supplying its radio access network. It added that it was looking to launch 5G services as the Canadian economy exited lockdown. Bell, which in Febraury announced it had signed an agreement with Nokia, said it was maintaining the use of multiple vendors in its upcoming network, as it had for 4G. "Ericsson plays an important role in enabling Bell's award-winning LTE network and we're pleased to grow our partnership into 5G mobile and fixed wireless technology," said Bell chief technology officer Stephen Howe. Meanwhile, the British Columbia-based Telus also chose to go with a combination of Ericsson and Nokia. The company said it had spent CA$200 billion on its network since the turn of the century, and would part with a further CA$40 billion over the next three years to deploy its 5G network. Both Bell and Telus had previously used Huawei equipment in their networks. In February, Telus told the Financial Post it would be using Huawei in its 5G network. The third member of the Canadian major telco triumvirate -- Rogers -- said in January it would be using Ericsson equipment for its 5G rollout. The decisions from Canada's three major carriers now mean Huawei is increasingly isolated from 5G builds within the Five Eyes nations.

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Governments and WHO Changed COVID-19 Policy Based On Suspect Data From Tiny US Company

Wed, 2020-06-03 23:40
AmiMoJo shares a report from The Guardian The World Health Organization and a number of national governments have changed their Covid-19 policies and treatments on the basis of flawed data from a little-known U.S. healthcare analytics company, also calling into question the integrity of key studies published in some of the world's most prestigious medical journals. Surgisphere, whose employees appear to include a sci-fi writer and adult content model, provided the database behind Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine hydroxychloroquine studies. Data it claims to have legitimately obtained from more than a thousand hospitals worldwide formed the basis of scientific articles that have led to changes in Covid-19 treatment policies in Latin American counties. It was also behind a decision by the WHO and research institutes around the world to halt trials of the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine. Late on Tuesday, the Lancet released an "expression of concern" about its published study. The New England Journal of Medicine has also issued a similar notice. According to an independent audit by authors not affiliated with Surgisphere, the article includes a list of "concerns that have been raised about the reliability of the database." Some of the main points include: Surgisphere's employees have little or no data or scientific background; While Surgisphere claims to run one of the largest and fastest growing hospital databases in the world, it has almost no online presence; and The firm's chief executive, Sapan Desai, has been named in three medical malpractice suits.

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$350M 'Quant Fund' Played the Stock Market Using Real-Time Data -- Then 2020 Happened

Wed, 2020-06-03 23:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Coatue's $350 million data-driven 'quant fund' made a swift exit from the market in early April -- having realized the coronavirus pandemic had rendered its algorithm unreliable, Business Insider reports. The tech-focused fund, launched by billionaire Philippe Laffont just over one year ago, joins a growing list of "quant funds" to have failed to turn a profit due to 2020's unpredictable nature. Quant funds use complex algorithms to find hidden trade signals in a hyperconnected web of data. While Coatue's quant fund mixes old-school stock picking with quantitative analysis (a method dubbed "quantamental"), execs were reportedly concerned that data farmed in the midst of COVID-19 would confuse its in-house trading program. One example cited by Business Insider's sources highlighted the way Coatue's program interpreted ecommerce data. It reportedly showed surges in website traffic for certain retailers as COVID-19 lockdowns spread across the world -- usually a positive sign for stock -- but failed to consider their dwindling revenues and closed physical stores. But Coatue's quant fund had underperformed long before COVID-19 hit. In February, reports surfaced showing it had posted only 2% returns since its launch in May 2019, and had actually lost money (1.2%) in last year's fourth quarter. On the other hand, Laffont's human-led fund bested the industry average to return 10% profit last year. Bloomberg has since noted that those profits have taken a hit, bringing its losses the year to roughly 6%. While quant funds as a whole have had a really tough year, there were at least two that are doing just fine. "Toronto's Castle Ridge Asset Management, which trades some $100 million in assets, made 2.6% in March with its 'self-evolving' AI system that works with large-cap stocks," reports The Next Web. "Over in Sweden, Volt Capital Management AB (in charge of roughly $30 million in assets) has returned a loin-tickling 24% to investors this year. Volt's fund was also reportedly prepared for those plunging oil prices."

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Global Smartphone Shipments To Fall 12% this Year on Virus Woes

Wed, 2020-06-03 22:25
Global smartphone shipments will fall nearly 12% to 1.2 billion units in 2020, market research firm IDC said on Wednesday, citing lower consumer spending due to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. From a report: The COVID-19 pandemic has not only disrupted business supply chains, with major smartphone makers such as Apple and Samsung Electronics flagging financial hits, but also squeezed consumer spending worldwide. "Nationwide lockdowns and rising unemployment have reduced consumer confidence and reprioritized spending towards essential goods, directly impacting the uptake of smartphones in the short term," said Sangeetika Srivastava, senior research analyst with IDC.

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Game Publisher Cancels Contract With Developer, Then Tries To Poach Its Entire Team

Wed, 2020-06-03 21:45
Three months after losing a deal with Take-Two, Star Theory Games was out of business. From a report: One Friday evening last December, employees of game designer Star Theory Games each received the same unusual recruitment message over LinkedIn. It struck them as bizarre for two reasons. One, it came from an executive producer at the publishing company funding their next video game. Two, it said the game -- in the works for the previous two years -- was being pulled from their studio. "This was an incredibly difficult decision for us to make, but it became necessary when we felt business circumstances might compromise the development, execution and integrity of the game," Michael Cook, an executive producer at Private Division, a publishing label within Take-Two Interactive Software, wrote in the message, which was reviewed by Bloomberg. "To that end, we encourage you to apply for a position with us." It was strange and disconcerting news to Star Theory's employees. Normally, an announcement like this would be delivered in a companywide meeting or an email from Star Theory's leadership team. The contract with Take-Two was the studio's only source of revenue at the time. Without it, the independent studio was in serious trouble. The LinkedIn message went on to say Take-Two was setting up a new studio to keep working on the same game Star Theory had been developing, a sequel to the cult classic Kerbal Space Program. Take-Two was looking to hire all of Star Theory's development staff to make that happen. "We are offering a compensation package that includes a cash sign-on bonus, an excellent salary, bonus eligibility and other benefits," Cook wrote. When employees returned to the office on Monday, Star Theory founders Bob Berry and Jonathan Mavor convened an all-hands meeting. The two men had been in discussions about selling their company to Take-Two but were dissatisfied with the terms, they explained. The game's cancellation was a shock, but the founders assured staff that Star Theory still had money in the bank and could try to sign other deals, according to five people who attended the meeting and asked not to be identified, citing the risk of litigation. Berry and Mavor encouraged employees to stick together and stay at the company. The next few weeks were chaos, employees said. Take-Two hired more than a third of Star Theory's staff, including the studio head and creative director. By March, as the coronavirus pandemic choked the global economy, any hope of saving the business appeared to be lost, and Star Theory closed its doors.

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From RealPlayer To Toshiba, Tech Companies Cash in on the Facial Recognition Gold Rush

Wed, 2020-06-03 21:05
At least 45 companies now advertise real-time facial recognition. From a report: More than a decade before Spotify, and years before iTunes, there was RealPlayer, the first mainstream solution to playing and streaming media to a PC. Launched in 1995, within five years RealPlayer claimed a staggering 95 million users. [...] RealPlayer is still very much alive. Now called RealNetworks, a vast majority of its revenue still comes from licensing media software. But the company has also begun dabbling in an industry that's suddenly attracting hundreds of firms, most of which operate outside public scrutiny: facial recognition. Through a startup subsidiary called SAFR, RealNetworks now offers facial recognition for everything from K-12 schools to military drones. The company even claims to have launched a surveillance project in Sao Paulo, Brazil that analyzes video from 2,500 cameras. SAFR has also licensed its technology to Wolfcom, a body camera company that is currently building real-time facial recognition into its products. As first reported by OneZero, Wolfcom's push to bring live facial recognition to hundreds of police departments represents the first such effort within the United States. Though RealNetworks' earnings reports say SAFR doesn't generate significant revenue yet, RealPlayer's evolution is part of a trend of both large global tech companies and small upstart firms becoming key players in the sprawling facial recognition industrial complex. Over the last decade, Japanese tech firm NEC grew a burgeoning division focused on biometrics, alongside its 100-year-old hardware business. Toshiba, best known for making PCs, claims to be running more than 1,000 facial recognition projects around the world, including identity verification systems at security checkpoints in Russia and for law enforcement in Southeast Asia. Even software contractor Microfocus, one of a handful of companies keeping the aging COBOL language alive, is working on making facial recognition that can scale to thousands of CCTV cameras. While many of these companies sell facial recognition technology to verify people's identities in an app, an increasing number are investing in a burgeoning subset of the industry: real-time surveillance, or the ability to recognize individuals in live video footage. Such systems are being sold for law enforcement, military, and security purposes. Many of these companies operate in obscurity, and have never been profiled or scrutinized before.

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Snapchat To Stop Promoting Trump's Content

Wed, 2020-06-03 20:25
Snapchat said Wednesday it would no longer promote President Donald Trump's content in its Discover section, a move that brings the messaging company closer to Twitter's approach in the ongoing debate over political speech. From a report: The company said in a statement that it would not "amplify voices who incite racial violence." Snapchat's Discover section typically features content from news organizations, brands, celebrities and sometimes politicians. The president's account remains visible on the platform, and anyone can follow the account for updates. Snapchat's change will remove Trump from the Discover section. "We are not currently promoting the president's content on Snapchat's Discover platform," the company said. "We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover. Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America."

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New Cold Boot Attack Affects Seven Years of LG Android Smartphones

Wed, 2020-06-03 19:45
South Korean phone manufacturer LG has released a security update last month to fix a vulnerability that impacts its Android smartphones sold over the past seven years. From a report: The vulnerability, tracked under the identifier of CVE-2020-12753, impacts the bootloader component that ships with LG smartphones. In March this year, US software engineer Max Thomas discovered a vulnerability in the bootloader component that had been added to LG smartphones starting with the LG Nexus 5 series. In a technical breakdown of the vulnerability published on Tuesday, Thomas says the bootloader component's graphics package contains a bug that lets attackers sneak in their own code to run alongside the bootloader's graphics under certain conditions, such as when the battery dies out and when the device is in the bootloader's Download Mode. Thomas says that threat actors who perfectly time an attack can gain the ability to run their own custom code, which could allow them to take over the bootloader, and inherently the entire device.

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Stanford Lab Envisions Delivery Drones that Save Energy by Taking the Bus

Wed, 2020-06-03 19:04
Researchers from Stanford University have devised a way for hundreds of drones to use the bus or trams in an effort to redesign how packages are distributed in cities. Should such a solution ever scale, it could reduce delivery van congestion and energy usage while extending the distance a drone can travel to deliver a package. From a report: There's a reason most delivery drones we've seen thus far are dropping packages off in the suburbs. Urban centers can be dynamic environments, full of unexpected obstacles, and drones are still not permitted to fly freely through cities. But researchers say using public transportation can increase a drone's range up to 360% beyond travel with flight alone. "Our approach strives to minimize the maximum time to complete any delivery," the team writes in a paper published this week at the online 2020 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). "By combining the strengths of both, we can achieve significant commercial benefits and social impact." This approach, which involves the drones hitching a ride on the outside of buses and trams, could help overcome the limited travel capacity of drones today. The popular DJI Mavic 2, for example, is able to fly a maximum distance of 18 kilometers, or about 11 miles round trip.

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Google Removes Viral Chinese-App Scanner From the Play Store

Wed, 2020-06-03 18:25
Remove China Apps, the viral Android app for flagging software made in China, has been removed from Google's Play Store. From a report: Before its demise, the app had reached the coveted number-one free download spot on the Play Store. The app was removed for violating Google's "Deceptive Behavior Policy," which states that apps cannot incentivize users to disable or remove other applications. Though Remove China Apps did not remove apps automatically, it did prompt users to do so. It had been downloaded more than 5 million times before its removal. Google is notoriously bad at policing its own Play Store, so the swift removal here is something of an outlier. The app's quick rise to fame made waves, especially in its home market of India, which likely led to a faster-than-usual investigation on Google's part.

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Microsoft's New Edge Browser Now Rolling Out via Windows Update

Wed, 2020-06-03 17:45
Microsoft is starting to roll out its new Edge browser through Windows Update. The new Chromium-based version of Edge launched in January, but Windows users had to specifically download it. From a report: A Microsoft support article notes that it's now available on Windows Update, meaning it will soon arrive on the more than 1 billion Windows 10 devices in use. It appears that Edge will be automatically installed through Windows Update on Windows 10 version 1803 and higher. That covers the vast majority of versions of Windows 10 that are currently supported, meaning it should start showing up in Windows Update for everyone soon. As always, this is a gradual rollout, so you might not see it immediately on Windows Update just yet.

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AMC Theatres Has 'Substantial Doubt' it Can Remain in Business

Wed, 2020-06-03 17:04
AMC Theatres, the world's biggest movie theater chain, said on Wednesday that it has "substantial doubt" it can remain in business after closing locations across the globe during the coronavirus pandemic. From a report: The theater chain, which closed its theaters earlier this year, expects to have lost between $2.1 billion and $2.4 billion in the first quarter. The company also said that its revenue fell to $941.5 million, which was down roughly 22% from $1.2 billion in the same quarter last year. This quarter, the situation has gotten substantially worse. "We are generating effectively no revenue," the company said in a regulatory filing Wednesday. AMC will continue to monitor the "potential lifting of various government operating restrictions," but added that the chain has serious challenges even if restrictions are lifted. That includes studios holding back new films from being shown. "Even if governmental operating restrictions are lifted in certain jurisdictions, distributors may delay the release of new films until such time that operating restrictions are eased more broadly domestically and internationally, which may further limit our operations," the company said. The company said that it had a cash balance of $718.3 million as of April.

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Huawei Hid Business Operation in Iran After Reuters Reported Links To CFO

Wed, 2020-06-03 16:21
China's Huawei acted to cover up its relationship with a firm that had tried to sell prohibited U.S. computer gear to Iran, after Reuters in 2013 reported deep links between the firm and the telecom-equipment giant's chief financial officer, newly obtained internal Huawei documents show. From the report: Huawei has long described the firm -- Skycom Tech -- as a separate local business partner in Iran. Now, documents obtained by Reuters show how the Chinese tech titan effectively controlled Skycom. The documents, reported here for the first time, are part of a trove of internal Huawei and Skycom Iran-related business records -- including memos, letters and contractual agreements -- that Reuters has reviewed. One document described how Huawei scrambled in early 2013 to try to "separate" itself from Skycom out of concern over trade sanctions on Tehran. To that end, this and other documents show, Huawei took a series of actions -- including changing the managers of Skycom, shutting down Skycom's Tehran office and forming another business in Iran to take over tens of millions of dollars worth of Skycom contracts. The revelations in the new documents could buttress a high-profile criminal case being pursued by U.S. authorities against Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of Huawei's founder. The United States has been trying to get Meng extradited from Canada, where she was arrested in December 2018. A Canadian judge last week allowed the case to continue, rejecting defense arguments that the U.S. charges against Meng do not constitute crimes in Canada. A U.S. indictment alleges that Huawei and Meng participated in a fraudulent scheme to obtain prohibited U.S. goods and technology for Huawei's Iran-based business via Skycom, and move money out of Iran by deceiving a major bank. The indictment alleges that Skycom was an "unofficial subsidiary" of Huawei, not a local partner.

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Latest Satoshi Nakamoto Candidate Buying Bitcoin No Matter What

Wed, 2020-06-03 15:40
Adam Back's name has surfaced again in the crypto community's favorite guessing game: Who is the anonymous creator of Bitcoin who went by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. From a report: In mid-May, YouTube channel Barely Sociable, with nearly 400,000 subscribers, released a 40-minute video claiming that 49-year-old Back is Satoshi. The video has since raked up nearly 300,000 views. Back does check off a lot of the boxes: He is a British cryptographer with a PhD in computer science, who, back in the 1990s, invented Hashcash, a system of verification that Bitcoin uses. He is also the first person Satoshi contacted online in 2008, asking about Hashcash. So is he Satoshi? "No, I am not," Back said in a June 1 phone interview from Malta. But he also pointed out it's better for the creator of the world's largest cryptocurrency to remain a mystery. "It's generally viewed at this point as better that the founder of Bitcoin is not known, because a lot of people have a hierarchical mindset," Back said. "If you read about a technology, you try to figure out who is the CEO of a company, and people want to ask questions. Because Bitcoin is more like a digital gold, you wouldn't want gold to have a founder. For Bitcoin to keep a commodity-like perception, I think it's a very good thing that Satoshi stays out of the public."

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Zoom Won't Encrypt Free Calls Because it Wants To Comply With Law Enforcement

Wed, 2020-06-03 15:00
If you're a free Zoom user, and waiting for the company to roll out end-to-end encryption for better protection of your calls, you're out of luck. From a report: Free calls won't be encrypted, and law enforcement will be able to access your information in case of 'misuse' of the platform. Zoom CEO Eric Yuan today said that the video conferencing app's upcoming end-to-end encryption feature will be available to only paid users.

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DEA Authorized To Conduct Surveillance On Protesters

Wed, 2020-06-03 14:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed News: The Drug Enforcement Administration has been granted sweeping new authority to "conduct covert surveillance" and collect intelligence on people participating in protests over the police killing of George Floyd, according to a two-page memorandum obtained by BuzzFeed News. Floyd's death "has spawned widespread protests across the nation, which, in some instances, have included violence and looting," said the DEA memo. "Police agencies in certain areas of the country have struggled to maintain and/or restore order." The memo requests the extraordinary powers on a temporary basis, and on Sunday afternoon a senior Justice Department official signed off. The DEA is limited by statute to enforcing drug related federal crimes. But on Sunday, Timothy Shea, a former US Attorney and close confidant of Barr who was named acting administrator of the DEA last month, received approval from Associate Deputy Attorney General G. Bradley Weinsheimer to go beyond the agency's mandate "to perform other law enforcement duties" that Barr may "deem appropriate." In addition to "covert surveillance," the memo indicates that DEA agents would be authorized to share intelligence with local and state law enforcement authorities, to "intervene" to "protect both participants and spectators in the protests," and to conduct interviews and searches, and arrest protesters who are alleged to have violated federal law. Here's why Shea says the agency should be granted extraordinary latitude: "In order for DEA to assist to the maximum extent possible in the federal law enforcement response to protests which devolve into violations of federal law, DEA requests that it be designated to enforce any federal crime committed as a result of protests over the death of George Floyd," Shea wrote in the memo. "DEA requests this authority on a nationwide basis for a period of fourteen days."

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Roku Removes Dedicated QAnon Channel That Launched Last Month

Wed, 2020-06-03 11:00
Streaming platform Roku has removed a channel dedicated to the QAnon conspiracy theory movement after facing criticism for letting it slip through its review and moderation processes last month. The Verge reports: The show, called "Q Channel - QAnon Channel," was hosted by popular QAnon supporter Dave Hayes and advertised as a "opinion based shows for getting the truth out, as we know it, about the Qanon movement." A Roku spokesperson tells The Verge, "The channel is no longer on our platform." But the company would not elaborate on why it allowed the show to launch last month. Roku is best known as a streaming set-top box maker that also produces interface software for smart TVs. In addition to supporting other streaming services, Roku also allows anyone to create a channel that shows up on its platform as if it were any other legitimate source -- like Hulu, Netflix, or scores of verified news channels. That's what Hayes, who goes by the online handle "Praying Medic," did after he began advertising the launch of his dedicated QAnon opinion show in late May. MediaMatters reports the channel was live for nearly two weeks, promoting prominent QAnon voices and the movement's regular slate of rampant misinformation, conspiracy theories, and other false and manipulated news reports. Hayes also said he would be bringing the channel to other streaming platforms, too. Last week, Google removed three apps related to the QAnon conspiracy theory movement from the Play Store.

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