Mar 19, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

OK, it's nearly March Madness. Once again, Axios Pro Rata has a challenge for the men's tournament and Login has one for the women's tournament. Check out the bottom of the newsletter for instructions.

Plus, if you need a little insight, want to keep up with the tournament, or just want the best sports newsletter around, sign up for Axios Sports.

1 big thing: Video of shooting puts platforms on the spot

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The online spread of the Christchurch mosque killer's sickening first-person video has divided experts, industry insiders and the broader public into two opposite camps — seeing it as proof that Facebook and YouTube can't police their platforms or as evidence that they won't.

Why it matters: How we define the platforms' struggle to block the New Zealand shooter's video will shape how we respond to the problem, Axios' Scott Rosenberg writes. Either way, Facebook and YouTube don't come off well.

Driving the news:

  • Late Monday night, Facebook posted new details about the video, reporting that the shooter's original live stream was viewed fewer than 200 times in total. None of those viewers flagged it to moderators. The first report about the video came in 12 minutes after the live stream ended.
  • "Before we were alerted ... a user on [troll site] 8chan posted a link to a copy of the video on a file-sharing site," Facebook says. Once Facebook took down the original, users began reposting copies.
  • YouTube didn't report numbers, but a Washington Post account said that despite the video platform's efforts to expand human moderation and automated systems, "humans determined to beat the company’s detection tools won the day."

One widely held view is that Facebook and YouTube are simply too big to monitor and control, even with the legions of human moderators they employ and the AI-driven recognition tools they are beginning to deploy.

  • "Scale has become a burden," Neima Jahromi wrote in The New Yorker.
  • In this picture, outnumbered moderators will always be a step behind masses of determined users, and the whack-a-mole game will never end.
  • As platforms get better at identifying and blocking particular classes and instances of undesirable content, the content's proponents will find new tactics for modifying, hiding and redistributing the material.

Another view holds that Facebook and YouTube have both repeatedly shown their ability to police their vast online estates when given no alternative:

  • They've taken strong measures against child pornography, and indeed kept most kinds of porn at bay.
  • They've moved forcefully to keep the Islamic State's recruiting videos from publicly circulating.
  • If strong enough legal, financial and socio-political incentives have done the trick in these areas, the argument goes, surely Facebook and YouTube can also take effective action against violent right-wing extremists.

These two scenarios paint two very different pictures of what's going on.

  • In one, platform managers are playing a Sisyphean delete-and-block game against persistent and inventive opponents.
  • In the other, companies that prioritize engagement metrics are protecting their business interests by failing to limit offensive content — except when media coverage and ad boycotts make action unavoidable.

Be smart: Hard as the problem is, people are going to keep pushing the platforms to solve it. And there are plenty of other steps Facebook and YouTube could take.

  • For instance, during a crisis they could suspend real-time uploads, or temporarily block those coming from new or unverified accounts.

Go deeper: Read Scott's full story here.

2. Apple debuts new iPads ahead of services event

Photo: Apple

Apple used a press release Monday rather than next week's press event to debut updates to its iPad Mini and iPad Air tablet lines.

Why it matters: Neither product has seen a refresh in some time and the updates mean those looking for an iPad have significantly more choices.


  • The new iPad mini features a modern processor, 7.9-inch Retina display and Apple Pencil support (the first generation one) but retains the Lightning port and headphone jack. It starts at $399, with cellular connectivity and more memory available to those willing to pay more.
  • The iPad Air has many of the same attributes as the new iPad mini with a larger 10.5-inch screen. It starts at $499 and also has the option to add a cellular modem or more memory.
  • Both products are available now for pre-order and are due in stores next week.

The bottom line: The move makes sense for a couple of reasons.

  • First, it allows Apple to keep the focus at the event on the services, rather than the hardware.
  • Second, it gives Apple a more full iPad lineup ahead of services that will benefit from more people on iPads.
3. Scoop: Snap to launch new Originals

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Snapchat is planning to launch a new slate of Originals — short, made-for-mobile shows — that appear in the Discover section of the Snapchat app, sources tell Axios' Sara Fischer. The shows will debut at Snap's invite-only Partner Summit on April 4.

Why it matters: Snapchat saw positive results from its first round of Originals, so it's investing more in its own scripted video for mobile.

Be smart: Scripted programming specifically for mobile is hard because it requires studios, actors and production teams to shoot and create video to be viewed vertically, rather than the traditional horizontal orientation of television screens.

Go deeper: Sara has more here.

4. First "exascale" supercomputer in the U.S.

The TITAN supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, currently one of the most powerful such systems worldwide. Photo: DOE

The Energy Department, Intel and subcontractor Cray yesterday announced an agreement worth more than $500 million to provide Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois with the country's first "exascale" computer system.

Why it matters: When it begins operating in 2021, the new system (called Aurora) will be the most powerful supercomputer in the U.S., Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

  • It's planned to be more than 5 times faster than the current leader, which is the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
  • The transition to exascale computing involves a thousandfold increase in computing power from the petascale systems installed during the past decade, and it promises to open up a broader array of applications, such as precision medicine and AI.

Details: Aurora will have the performance of one "exaFLOP," which is equal to a quintillion floating point computations per second, according to a press release and briefing from Intel. The potential uses for this computer include...

  • Complex cosmological simulations to better understand the universe.
  • Precision medicine, such as testing new approaches for drug response prediction to treat cancer and other diseases.
  • Climate and extreme weather prediction.
  • Mapping the human brain down to the neural level.

Between the lines: There's a race heating up between the U.S. and China for who has the most powerful supercomputer.

  • While this will be the most powerful system in the U.S. when it goes online in 2021, an Argonne National Lab spokesperson said it's not clear whether it will be the fastest computer in the world at that time.
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Y Combinator Demo Day runs through today in San Francisco. (In yesterday's Login, I incorrectly said it ran through Wednesday and was in Mountain View. Apologies for being wrong on two counts.)
  • Game Developers Conference continues in San Francisco, with today's main event a keynote from Google at which it's expected to introduce new gaming hardware.

Trading Places

  • Kiip named ad industry veteran Jason Lapp as CEO after its prior chief, Brian Wong, was indicted on sexual assault charges. Wong has been on an indefinite leave of absence to deal with the legal matters, the company said.


  • Rep. Devin Nunes says he is suing Twitter and two parody accounts for $250 million alleging defamation, among other things. (Axios)
  • Indian ride-hailing firm Ola has raised $300 million from carmakers Kia and Hyundai. (VentureBeat)
6. After you Login

Forget boring old "Lorem Ipsum." This dummy text generator from Postlight Labs will create filler text based on any URLs you give it. One example is Fyre Ipsum, which created text inspired by the Fyre Festival pitch deck.

7. March Madness begins...

As promised, here are the instructions for our challenges for March Madness.

For the Pro Rata one:

  • Go to the ESPN Tournament Challenge group page and log into your account. Or sign up for a new account (both options are in the top right-hand corner, and you can utilize your Facebook details if desired).
  • On that same page, search for the Axios Pro Rata 2019 group (search box is about halfway down the page).
  • Password: TheBFD
  • Create your bracket before the games begin Thursday at noon ET. (Drop Dan a note if you have problems).

For Login's challenge, it's even easier. Just create or login to an account and then go here. (Drop me a note if you have issues with mine.)

Ina Fried