Aug 27, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Congrats to the Honolulu Little League baseball team, which captured the U.S. and international Little League World Series titles over the weekend in Williamsport, Penn.

Situational awareness: Facebook announced this morning it's removing pages and accounts associated with senior military officials in Myanmar after facing criticism for not acting to reduce violence against that country's Rohingya minority.

1 big thing: Florida shooting puts esports in spotlight

Photo: Twitch

Plenty of people have never even heard of esports, but the growing industry was cast into the national spotlight Sunday when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of people participating in and watching a video game tournament.

Also caught in the middle of the tragedy was Twitch, the Amazon-owned service widely used for watching other people play video games, Axios' Sara Fischer reports. Twitch had been broadcasting the event, which was taking place at a bar in Jacksonville, Fla.

The details: Many shots can be heard on the livestream, although the actual shooting took place off camera.

  • The screen turns away from the players and to a full-screen video of the virtual game being played. The screen eventually pauses to say "controllers disconnected" while at least a dozen shots and screams can be heard in the background.
  • Right before the shooting, a red laser dot, presumably from the gunman's weapon, appears on the chest of one of the gamers participating in the game.

Twitch has taken the video down, but it has gone viral elsewhere on social media.

Why it matters: This is one of the worst instances yet of public violence being broadcast to thousands of people in real time through internet live-streaming. It's also a new kind of headache for Amazon, which has been less implicated than some of its rivals in many of the controversies swirling around social media.

Twitch is by far the most popular streaming platform for gamers, with over 2.2 million monthly unique broadcasters competing for the attention of the site's 15 million daily users, according to the company's website.

  • It's common for gamers to gather in physical areas (bars, arenas, etc.) to watch fellow gamers play games live, for entertainment and in order to learn new techniques.
  • The people in attendance on Sunday's event were watching fellow gamers play "Madden NFL 19," the latest version of Electronic Arts' widely popular Madden series.
  • Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014 for $970 million.

Esports has become a massive business, and is expected to nearly double in U.S. revenue 2021, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. PwC estimates that esports will bring in $240 million in U.S. revenue in 2018, which is 10 times more than it brought in just 5 years ago.

The big picture: Increasingly, people are leveraging the mass reach of live-stream platforms to commit violent acts.

  • Facebook, in particular, faced heavy criticism last year for making its "Facebook Live" streaming technology readily available to its more than 2 billion monthly active users without fully understanding the consequences.
  • Google and Twitter have also had to deal with the unforeseen impacts from their live platforms, YouTube and Periscope.
  • Many tech firms have since been able to crack down on these types of videos before they're uploaded or before they go viral with better artificial intelligence and rapid-response teams.

Go deeper: Read Sara's full story here.

2. Tech firms eye federal privacy law

Sensing that some sort of federal action on privacy might be inevitable, big tech companies are starting to lobby for what they say should be in any regulation, the New York Times reports.

In addition to the specific rules they do and don't want, the tech companies want to pre-empt a state law that was passed in California, the article says.

What they're saying, per NYT:

  • “We are committed to being part of the process and a constructive part of the process," Information Technology Industry Council president Dean Garfield said. "The best way is to work toward developing our own blueprint.”
  • “It’s clear that the strategy here is to neuter California for something much weaker on the federal level,” Electronic Frontier Foundation legislative counsel Ernesto Falcon said.

Our thought bubble: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg indicated months ago that he was open to the right kind of regulation and the spotlight on the tech industry has only intensified since. Supporting some legislation while pushing for language it can live with is a smart move for the tech giants.

3. The technologies saving Syrian lives

A Syrian man checks a phone map after being evacuated from Eastern Ghouta. Photo: Abdullah Hammam/AFP/Getty Images

Over the weekend, Axios' Haley Britzky took a look at several technologies being put to use to aid Syrians as well as those who have fled the war-torn country.

  • Hala Systems (the Sentry system) — Hala is a network that allows volunteers to alert information about an incoming airstrike, giving civilians time to get out of an at-risk area. This is believed to have saved "hundreds of lives" and prevented even more injuries, per the Washington Post.
  • Gherbtna — Syrian refugee Mojahid Akil created Gherbtna — which translates to mean "exile, loneliness or a feeling of foreignness" — after arriving in Turkey, per NPR. The app, which holds a feature called Help Me, helps Syrian refugees "adjust to life in Turkey...where the rules and the laws are overwhelming."

Go deeper: Haley has more here.

4. Go deeper: Tesla stays public

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted out Friday night that the electric car company would remain publicly traded, capping a crazy couple of weeks for the executive, shareholders and Tesla itself.

Here's what to know:

  • The move to stay public came just three weeks after Musk stirred up a frenzy by announcing he was considering taking the company private for $420 per share, a significant premium to what the company was trading it.
  • Although Musk tweeted "funding secured" it quickly emerged that Musk had yet to line up the dollars needed for such a takeover.
  • And it's not clear how serious plans ever got, though lots of advisers were hired after Musk's initial tweet.

What's next? Musk and Tesla are still likely to face both shareholder lawsuits and an SEC investigation over Musk's original tweet, especially the part about "funding secured." As Axios' Dan Primack tweeted Sunday night:

"The question is no longer if the SEC will determine that Musk lied in his original tweet, thus manipulating the stock. The question now is what it plans to do about it."
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • VMware's VMworld takes place this week in Las Vegas. Speakers include VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, Amazon AWS CEO Andy Jassy and activist Malala Yousafzai.

Trading Places

ICYMI

  • A security flaw in the initial release of Fortnite for Android highlights the risky nature of going around the official app stores for distribution. (Business Insider)
  • Volunteer Reddit moderators warned the site that it was being filled with Iranian propaganda, but the site failed to take action. (NBC News)
  • AMD won a patent infringement order from the U.S. International Trade Commission preventing some Vizio TVs from being imported. Per Anandtech, the commission found that chipmaker Sigma Designs (and therefore Vizio) was infringing on AMD patents.
6. After you Login

Photo: Kari Jones Estabrook

My friend Kari enjoyed this at the Idaho State Fair on Sunday. It looks like a baked potato but I’m assured it’s actually a tasty ice cream treat.

Ina Fried