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Russia tells Google to stop spreading threats against Russians on YouTube

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  • Russia demands YouTube to stop spreading threats to Russians.
  • Facebook, Instagram blocked in Russia; Google under pressure.
  • Russia says it has the tools to develop its own social media.

Russia on Friday demanded that Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google stop spreading what it called threats against Russian citizens on its YouTube video-sharing platform, a move that could presage an outright block of the service on Russian territory.

The regulator, Roskomnadzor, said adverts on the platform were calling for the communications systems of Russia and Belarus’ railway networks to be suspended and that their dissemination was evidence of the U.S. company’s anti-Russian position. It did not say which accounts were publishing the adverts.

“The actions of YouTube’s administration are of a terrorist nature and threaten the life and health of Russian citizens,” the regulator said.

“Roskomnadzor categorically opposes such advertising campaigns and demands that Google stop broadcasting anti-Russia videos as soon as possible.”

Google removed an advertisement that was flagged by the Russian government, according to a source familiar with the matter who declined to describe it.

The dispute was the latest in a series between Moscow and foreign tech firms over Ukraine.

YouTube, which has blocked Russian state-funded media globally, is under heavy pressure from Russia’s communications regulator and politicians.

Outraged that Meta Platforms (FB.O) was allowing social media users in Ukraine to post messages such as “Death to the Russian invaders”, Moscow blocked Instagram this week, having already stopped access to Facebook because of what it said were restrictions by the platform on Russian media.

Russian news media including RIA and Sputnik quoted an unnamed source as saying YouTube could be blocked next week or as early as Friday.

Domestic alternatives

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday wrote a fierce criticism of foreign social media firms, mentioning by name both Meta and YouTube, but he hinted that the door leading to their possible return to the Russian market would be left ajar.

“The ‘guardians’ of free speech have in all seriousness allowed users of their social media to wish death upon the Russian military,” Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, wrote on the messaging app Telegram.

Medvedev said Russia has the necessary tools and experience to develop its own social media, saying the “one-way game” of Western firms controlling information flows could not continue.

“In order to return, they will have to prove their independence and good attitude to Russia and its citizens,” he wrote. “However, it is not a fact that they will be able to dip their toes in the same water twice.”

VKontakte, Russia’s answer to Facebook, has been breaking records for activity on its platform since Russia sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The site attracted 300,000 new users in the two weeks after Russia began what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarise and “de-Nazify” its neighbour.

On the day Instagram was blocked in Russia, VKontakte said its daily domestic audience grew by 8.7% to more than 50 million people, a new record.

Anton Gorelkin, a member of Russia’s State Duma Committee on information and communications, pointed Russians to services that would help them move videos from YouTube to the domestic equivalent, RuTube.

“It’s not that I’m calling for everyone to immediately leave YouTube,” he said on his Telegram channel. “But, probably, in light of recent events, it is worth following the principle of not keeping all your eggs in one basket.”

He said earlier this week that YouTube may face the same fate as Instagram if it continues “to act as a weapon in the information war”.

Russian tech entrepreneurs said this week they would launch picture-sharing application Rossgram on the domestic market to help fill the void left by Instagram. read more

In November, Gazprom Media launched Yappy as a domestic rival to video-sharing platform TikTok.

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WhatsApp to let users ‘pin messages’ within chats, groups

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Meta-owned WhatsApp always brings out the best updates for its users, making it easier for them to enjoy the experience while connecting with their loved ones. 

The messaging app is rolling out another feature that would allow its users to pin messages within chats and groups in the future update, WabetaInfo reported Friday. 

The app is launching the new update through the Google Play Beta Program, bringing the version up to 2.23.3.17. 

The feature, however, is inaccessible to the beta testers as of yet because it is not ready and is still under development.

Through this feature, it will become easier for users to find important messages in a conversation. 

— WaBetaInfo
— WaBetaInfo

However, if a message is pinned but the recipient is using an old version of WhatsApp, the messaging app will “add a message in the conversation in order to ask to upgrade to the latest version available on the store”. 

This feature would also help “improve organisation” in the groups as it can become difficult to keep a track of messages, whether it is a group for your friends, family, or workplace. 

These pinned messages will be easily accessible to everyone in the group chat so that people know what is important. 

The feature will be released in a future update of the app. 

Recent iOs update 

Users will be able to react to messages within the announcement group in a new feature that is under development, according to a report from WABetaInfo.

Reportedly, several users discovered that they are unable to react to messages posted within the WhatsApp community announcement group.

Responding to messages in the community announcement group is not possible because doing so would make your phone number public. WhatsApp is working to make it so that the user’s phone number is hidden when responding to messages in this particular group. 

WABetaInfo learned that WhatsApp is working on the same feature for a future update of the iOS app. 

WhatsApp is developing “an in-app banner to announce when an update that brings message reactions within the announcement group is available.”

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ChatGPT owner launches ‘imperfect’ tool to detect AI-generated text

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OpenAI, the creator of the popular chatbot ChatGPT, has released a software tool to identify text generated by artificial intelligence, the company said in a blog post on Wednesday.

ChatGPT is a free program that generates text in response to a prompt, including articles, essays, jokes and even poetry, which has gained wide popularity since its debut in November, while raising concerns about copyright and plagiarism.

The AI classifier, a language model trained on the dataset of pairs of human-written and AI-written text on the same topic, aims to distinguish text that is written by AI. It uses a variety of providers to address issues such as automated misinformation campaigns and academic dishonesty, the company said.

In its public beta mode, OpenAI acknowledges the detection tool is very unreliable on texts under 1,000 characters, and AI-written text can be edited to trick the classifier.

“We’re making this classifier publicly available to get feedback on whether imperfect tools like this one are useful,” OpenAI said.

“We recognise that identifying AI-written text has been an important point of discussion among educators, and equally important is recognizing the limits and impacts of AI-generated text classifiers in the classroom.”

Since ChatGPT debuted in November and gained wide popularity among millions of users, some of the largest US school districts, including New York City, have banned the AI chatbot over concerns that students will use the text generator to cheat or plagiarise.

Others have created third-party detection tools including GPTZeroX to help educators detect AI-generated text.

OpenAI said it is engaging with educators to discuss ChatGPT’s capabilities and limitations, and will continue to work on the detection of AI-generated text.

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YouTube launches ‘Study Hall’ which will allow earning college credits online

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YouTube, Arizona State University, and Crash Course, the well-known YouTube channel of writers and brothers Hank and John Green, have announced an astonishing expansion of their accessible education programme Study Hall. 

According to YouTube’s announcement, the partnership is “a new approach that demystifies the college process while creating an affordable and accessible onramp to earning college credit,” outlining the chance for online learners to pursue transferable course credits with fewer restrictions than traditional college programmes.

In addition to being able to watch all Study Hall videos for free on YouTube, users can register for related courses developed by Crash Course and academics at Arizona State University in order to receive credits and compile a transcript. 

Beginning on March 7, 2023, the current lineup of four “College Foundations” courses will address postsecondary fundamentals including English composition, college math, American history, and interpersonal communication. Each course costs $25 to enrol in, plus an additional $400 registration fee to acquire credits. Prior to March 7, 2023, each course will cost $350 to enrol in.

When Study Hall is fully operational, the number of credits available will equal the whole first year of study at most institutions and the cost is “less than one-third of the typical course cost at a public four-year university,” according to YouTube.

Enrollment does not require a minimum GPA or even an application, and students are allowed to retake classes as many times as they need to. Any eligible student who wants to use their Study Hall experience toward a degree can apply for admission to Arizona State University through the Earned Admissions program or transfer to any school in the US that accepts ASU credits.

According to Katie Kurtz, head of learning at YouTube, the company wants to serve as a middleman between the general public and higher education.

“At YouTube, we want to empower learners to go further by breaking down barriers to high-impact learning experiences. Postsecondary education is still one of the best drivers of economic and social mobility, yet the path to higher education has too many barriers,” she explained.

“We want to help address this urgent challenge by tapping into our endlessly creative and passionate learning creator community. With 10 years of experience delivering compelling and engaging educational content, we knew Crash Course, paired with ASU’s world class faculty would be a dynamic partnership to address this challenge.”

The Green brothers, well-known for being early, influential creators on both YouTube and Tumblr, launched the Crash Course channel in 2012. The channel has produced a decade’s worth of educational material on a variety of topics linked to early college and Advanced Placement high school courses, including psychology, world history, and even intellectual property law. The Green brothers’ quick and easy educational videos have an even wider audience now that they are both regulars on the TikTok For You Page.

Hank Green discussed his most recent educational endeavour, writing, in a tweet: “Around 43 million Americans are saddled with 1.75 trillion dollars in student debt. This may sound bad, but it’s worse than it seems: 40% of those 43 million people do not have degrees and will not pursue them.”

The biggest obstacles to getting degrees in the hands of students, according to Green and his production firm, Complexly, included fees, the complexity of college admissions systems, and the difficulty of many college courses for people who didn’t acquire a thorough high school education. “With some funding and a lot of hard work, we started to build ‘Study Hall’ with the goal that it helps lower these barriers.”

Along with the new course options, Study Hall also offers educational material on comprehending and navigating the higher education landscape, including a Crash Course series on “How To College” and quick primers to popular ideas and subject areas, hosted by Green and other academics.

By January 2025, the programme is expected to have 12 courses accessible. On the Study Hall website, prospective students can sign up.

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