Jack Dorsey met with President Trump in private today to discuss the ‘health’ of Twitter

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey met with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, according to a new report from Motherboard. The meeting was prompted by the White House in emails first obtained by Motherboard and reported earlier today.

These emails said that the meeting would last 30 minutes meeting and take place behind closed doors. A Twitter spokesperson told The Verge, “Jack had a constructive meeting with the President of the United States today at the president’s invitation. They discussed Twitter’s commitment to protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections and efforts underway to respond to the opioid crisis.”

President Trump confirmed the meeting in a tweet saying, “Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!”

For months, Twitter and other social media platforms like Facebook have faced intense scrutiny from Republicans who believe that they are being silenced online. Late last month, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) chaired a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on “tech censorship” and hammered officials from Twitter and Facebook over alleged bias. Only two Democrats showed for the hearing, and Republicans spent most of their time questioning the platform officials over individual situations where they believed their speech was silenced or they were “shadowbanned,” which is when a platform decides not to make public any posts from a user without informing them of the restriction.

No actual data was part of the discussion, and their points wholly relied on anecdotal evidence. Dorsey replied in the email chain concerning the meeting saying, “As you know, I believe that conversation, not silence, bridges gaps and drives towards solutions.” He continued, “I have met with every world leader who has extended an invitation to me, and I believe the discussions have been productive, and the outcomes meaningful.”

In March, Trump made comments outside of the White House during a press conference with the president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro after they met. A reporter for the Daily Caller asked Trump how he felt about this perceived conservative bias online. Trump said that Republicans “have to do something” to combat it.

At the press conference, Trump said, “I have very many, millions of followers on Twitter and it’s different than it used to be. Things are happening. Names are taken off. People aren’t getting through.” He continued, saying, “Something’s happening with those groups of folks that are running Facebook and Google and Twitter and I do think we need to get to the bottom of it. It’s very fair. It’s collusive and it’s very, very fair to say that we have to do something about it.”

He has also made a variety of statements critiquing the platform for alleged bias on his Twitter account. In a tweet, Trump said, “Twitter has removed many people from my account and, more importantly, they have seemingly done something that makes it much harder to join – they have stifled growth to a point where it is obvious to all.”

The Fox News Twitter account has been dormant since last November in an apparent boycott after show host Tucker Carlson was doxxed. Activists from a group called Smash Racism D.C. showed up outside of his home accusing him of promoting hate and, according to The Washington Post, “an ideology that has led to thousands of people dying.”

Co-founder Biz Stone seemed to make light of the controversy on Twitter in a tweet, saying “I’ve got a meeting today that could result in division. I’m letting you know so you don’t hear it from someone else first.” He continued, “I’m volunteering at a grade school math center. I’m hoping both parties will learn from the exchange.”

Updated 4/23/19 5:18 p.m. EST: Included a statement from Twitter on the meeting.

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Snap makes a comeback after the release of its rebuilt Android app

Snap is heading in the right direction again. The company revealed in its earnings release today that its daily user base has grown by 4 million people globally. It now has 190 million daily active users, up from the 186 million people who had consistently been using the platform for the last two quarters. This updated number is still 1 million people short of Snapchat’s peak user base since it went public in 2017, but this is still good news for Snap.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said in prepared remarks that the platform reaches more 13- to 34-year-olds in the US than Instagram, but didn’t elaborate on why or how its user base suddenly grew. He says Snapchat reaches 75 percent of 13- to 34-year-olds and 90 percent of 13- to 24-year-olds.

Snap had a big quarter that involved not only major product updates, but also the awaited release of its rebuilt Snapchat Android app. The Android app doesn’t have any UI or navigation changes, but it is designed to be faster and less buggy. It’s been in the works for years and talked about on most prior earnings calls. Spiegel says within the first week of upgrading the app, there was a 6 percent increase in the number of people sending Snaps. This clearly was an essential release and might make the app more enticing to people around the world, especially considering that there are billions of Android devices in use.

Last month, Snap also held its first partner summit in Los Angeles where it showed advertisers, reporters, and creators all the things they could do with the platform. It showed that Snapchat stories would come to Tinder and Houseparty; Snap ads will appear in other developers’ apps; it’s building a video game platform and a roster of original programs; and that it developed new AR filters that make the Eiffel Tower puke rainbows.

Today and at the summit, Spiegel said these changes could keep users on the platform for longer and keep them more engaged. With these big platform changes and a continued focus on ad products, Snap might have a resurgence.

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Apple claims it isn’t scanning customers’ faces, after teen sues for $1 billion

Apple is being accused of using facial recognition software in its Apple Stores to arrest the wrong person for theft — a New York student who’s now suing Apple for $1 billion. And while Apple tells The Verge it doesn’t use facial recognition technology in its stores, the case is weird enough, and there’s enough wiggle room, that it’s not clear if that’s the whole truth.

Ousmane Bah, 18, claims in a lawsuit that he was incorrectly identified as the robber in several Apple Store thefts across multiple states, but denies that he’s the person in the photo that accompanied the warrant for his arrest. Backed by surveillance footage and the testimony of a detective, district attorneys in New York and Boston have already dropped the charges against Bah, the lawsuit states. (He is still being accused of larceny in New Jersey in a pending case, according to the document.)

According to the lawsuit, NYPD detective John Reinhold first noticed that Bah “looked nothing like” the suspect in the surveillance video of a Manhattan Apple Store that was robbed. According to the lawsuit, the detective then explained that Apple’s security technology identifies suspects of theft using facial recognition technology.

When we reached Reinhold on the phone for comment, he agreed that Apple doesn’t technically have facial recognition in its stores, but also that his statements as described in the lawsuit were correct. He declined to answer further questions, but it’s worth noting that the second defendant on the lawsuit, Security Industry Specialists, might explain the contradiction — it could have been that company which used facial recognition to analyze security footage after the fact, and possibly outside of Apple’s facilities.

SIS Security doesn’t explicitly mention Apple as a client on its public website, but the third-party firm seems to have a long working relationship with Apple, and a 2016 employee handbook hosted at its website specifies Apple as a client.

The lawsuit states that Bah was presented with a police report which claimed a SIS loss prevention employee caught him stealing Apple Pencils on security video from a Boston Apple Store. Allegedly, Apple initially claimed it didn’t have surveillance video, but eventually produced the footage, according to the lawsuit.

Bah claims that he couldn’t have attempted the Boston theft because he’d been attending his senior prom in Manhattan at the time, but speculates the real thief could have stolen his information from a learner’s permit he’d previously lost — one which didn’t have a photo.

The lawsuit tries to justify the $1 billion claim by alleging that Apple and SIS caused harm to Bah by their wrongful actions, including causing him to be arrested by the NYPD at his home in four in the morning, forcing him to miss school and a midterm exam, which then hurt his grades. The suit claims Apple was negligent, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and defamed and slandered Bah, among other charges.

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The Stranger Things game you never heard about and will never get to play

From hero to zero: When Netflix premiered Stranger Things it became an overnight phenomenon generating millions of fans and even more in licensing revenue. Everyone knew Telltale was planning a game based on the show, but another game was being secretly produced by indie developer Night School Studio. Here’s how it disappeared.

It was nearly a year ago that producer Telltale Games announced it was working on a title based on Netflix’s original series Stranger Things. Little did we know that only a few months later the company would begin floundering before eventually closing without notice.

Even lesser known was the impact that Telltale’s closure would have on another Stranger Things video game from a completely different studio. An exposé by The Verge reveals that at the same time that Telltale was working on its version of Stranger Things, Night School Studio, maker of the successful and brilliant Oxenfree, was also working on a Stranger Things project.

Night School was founded by Sean Krankel from Disney Interactive Studios and Adam Hines from Telltale. Through their collective connections, they were able to broker a deal to develop a Stranger Things game that would tie into the title that Telltale was working on. In fact, Telltale agreed to fund the project.

Sources who worked on the title described the game as branching away from Telltale’s choose-your-own-adventure formula that was becoming stale, to a “more free-roam, mini-open world” experience while maintaining the classic branching narrative. The game was to take place between seasons 2 and 3 and would tie into Telltale’s title via a game save. So decisions made in Night School’s version would affect what happened in Telltale’s right from the start.

Unlike the game that had already been announced, Night School’s 13 employees worked on the project in secret. Even though it was technically a Telltale IP, the marketing that they had planned was going to downplay or completely hide Telltale’s involvement.

“We actually were hoping that people wouldn’t know it was a Telltale game,” the sources said. “It was supposed to look like something brand new, feel different… It was staying true to our roots while trying to push into a new place that would attract a wider fan base.”

The first indications that something was wrong was when Telltale missed payments after Night School hit its first three milestones. Even still, the studio did not think its partner was in trouble. Having experience in these matters, Night School knew missed payments occur sometimes. Due to a lack of communication from Telltale, Night School did not expect the former was in trouble.

“We had zero warning. We had no idea that anything was amiss over [at Telltale]. Neither did any of their team, anybody that we dealt with, all the way up.”

“It really wasn’t overall that concerning,” said the insiders of the late payments. “It definitely didn’t point at the studio going under.”

Then, virtually overnight, Telltale closed shop, scuttling Stranger Things in the process.

“We had zero warning,” one of the Night School staff said. “We had no idea that anything was amiss over [at Telltale]. Neither did any of their team, anybody that we dealt with, all the way up.”

And just like that Night School’s project was dead in the water and the studio was forced to take a loss. At first, the team was in “limbo,” not sure if they should continue or shelve it. However, it soon became apparent that Telltale would not be extending funding.

Night School Studio still has all the work it had completed, but ultimately it belongs to Telltale, so it will likely never see the light of day.

“We went very quickly from having an original IP we were very excited about, and then working on arguably the biggest IP out there TV-wise, to then that thing going away and us losing a ton of money that was extremely impactful to us.”

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Manufacturing giant Aebi Schmidt hit by ransomware

Aebi Schmidt, a European manufacturing giant with operations in the U.S., has been hit by a ransomware attack, TechCrunch has learned.

The Switzerland-based maker of airport maintenance and road cleaning vehicles had operations disrupted Tuesday following the malware infection, according to a source with knowledge of the incident.

Systems went down across the company’s international network, including its U.S. subsidiaries, but much of the damage was in the company’s European base. A number of systems connected to the Aebi Schmidt network across the world were left paralyzed. The source said systems necessary for manufacturing operations were inaccessible following the attack. The company’s email is also said to be affected.

It isn’t immediately known what kind of ransomware knocked the company’s systems offline.

The multinational manufacturing giant recently expanded its U.S. presence with the acquisition of M-B Companies, a maker of snow removal and cleaning machines, following earlier acquisitions of winter maintenance equipment maker Meyer Products and Swenson Products.

After several efforts to reach the company by email, phone or unsolicited LinkedIn messages, spokesperson Thomas Schiess confirmed a systems outage, specifically “e-mail system troubles,” in a Facebook message. “I can confirm that the availability of other systems was or may still be limited, our specialists are still working on resolving the issue, the cause is not yet clear,” he said, but would not comment further.

Aebi Schmidt is the latest company downed by ransomware in recent weeks.

Aluminum manufacturing giant Norsk Hydro was forced offline briefly following a ransomware attack in March. The company quickly recovered after it put in place its backup recovery process. It was a better response than drinks company Arizona Beverages, which was hit by ransomware a month later, causing its systems to shutter for a week — despite warnings from the FBI weeks earlier that the company was infected with malware lying dormant.

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