I just typed “Trump will win election” in Google’s search box and was surprised not to receive any Autocomplete suggestions as I did so. Typing “Biden will win election” came up with five suggestions including “biden saying trump will win election” and “trump admits biden will win election”.
Neither of those two came up with anything concrete, suggesting they are popular wishful-thinking search terms typed in by rival supporters of the two US presidential candidates.
My searches were prompted by Google announcing that even its Autocomplete feature would attempt to remain unbiased in the final weeks of the campaign, as well as not being suggestive of fake news
Pandu Nayak, Search vice-president, said in a blog post that Google would remove from Autocomplete any “predictions that could be interpreted as claims for or against any candidate or political party. We will also remove predictions that could be interpreted as a claim about participation in the election — like statements about voting methods, requirements, or the status of voting locations — or the integrity or legitimacy of electoral processes, such as the security of the election.”
He added: “What this means in practice is that predictions like ‘you can vote by phone’ as well as ‘you can't vote by phone’, or a prediction that says ‘donate to’ any party or candidate, should not appear in Autocomplete.”
Google is not alone in stepping up its monitoring of attempts to influence a crucial election. Twitter said on Thursday it was updating its content moderation rules to ban “false or misleading information that causes confusion” about election rules, as well as “unverified information about election rigging, ballot tampering, vote tallying or certification of election results”.
It also has one eye on election night and a possibly alarming aftermath, with a new policy designed to combat “misleading claims” about election results that could “lead to interference with the implementation of the results of the process”. It cited instances where a user might prematurely claim victory or incite “unlawful conduct to prevent a peaceful transfer of power”.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has suggested that even state-backed hackers are being even-handed this time. Russian government hackers who targeted the US Democratic party in 2016 have mounted increasingly sophisticated attacks on both Democrats and Republicans during the current presidential race, it said on Thursday.
It also disclosed details of hacking attempts by a group operating in China, which Microsoft said had targeted people associated with Joe Biden, and attacks originating from Iran on people linked to Donald Trump’s campaign.
Of course, Russian and China have denied involvement and accused the US of practising what it was blaming them for. The US was an “empire of hackers”, said China’s foreign ministry spokesman on Friday.
The Internet of (Five) Things
1. Apple’s one less thing
Apple’s most memorable events have always ended with “one more thing”, but next week’s product launch will feature one fewer thing, with no new iPhone yet. Our preview looks at the other things that should be unveiled instead, including the sixth iteration of the Apple Watch, a new iPad Air, and possibly over-the-ear headphones called AirPods Studio and a lost-items tracker reportedly called AirTags.
2. Nikola falls on fraud allegations
Shares in hydrogen and electric carmaker Nikola are down 16 per cent today, hit by a short seller’s report that claimed the business was an “intricate fraud” that had exaggerated its technology and faked product launches. The fall is despite Nikola saying on Friday it had “nothing to hide”. Its shares soared earlier this week after GM took an 11 per cent stake. Check out our latest e-mobility report, including a look at hydrogen power.
3. Peloton’s pandemic pedal power
The seller of internet-connected exercise bikes, treadmills and subscriptions to training sessions said revenues in the three months ending June 30 grew 172 per cent from a year ago to $607.1m, as it posted its first-ever net quarterly profit. Lex sees a possible pothole ahead, with growth in digital subscriptions outpacing those that come with the hardware.
4. Unity’s innovative IPO
Unity, which sells software tools to create video games, is trying out a new bidding process for a public listing later this month, adding to the growing number of companies seeking alternatives to the traditional IPO. Prospective institutional investors will be asked how many shares they wish to buy, and at what price, by an online system managed by Goldman Sachs.
5. Keeping track of that UK contact-tracing app
The app that was supposed to be launched in mid-May now has a September 24 target date and there is a new focus on customers checking in at public venues such as pubs and restaurants by scanning an official QR code on their phones that will store the venue information.
Tech tools — the second-gen Razr and Android 11
No new iPhone next week then, but you could console yourself with the upgraded Razr from Motorola, which has the same eye-watering $1,400 (£1,399) price as Microsoft’s Surface Duo. The Razr 2020 is a 5G folding flip phone with a much improved camera, faster processor and better battery. It runs Google’s Android operating system and seems a natural for its latest iteration, Android 11, launched this week and featuring support for 5G and new screen types.
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