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Youtube Mobile App Now Lets You Search With Your Voice While Casting

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YouTube has rolled out a number of updates and features to its mobile apps for TV screens, game consoles, and other streaming devices. As the official blog explains, you can now use voice search on mobile devices when casting to your smart TV. The Google-owned platform has announced the feature, which works on both iOS and Android devices, along with the revelation that it’s now possible to watch YouTube in HDR on the PS4 and the PS4 Pro.

YouTube’s post also talked about the other capabilities it rolled out over the past year. Those include “Who’s Watching,” a feature that lets you switch between the profiles linked to the device you’re watching on, as well as YouTube’s debut on Amazon Fire TV devices.

According to the company, YouTube also rolled out a new Who’s Watching feature this year that allows users to switch between different YouTube profiles linked to the device for a personalised experience. YouTube updated the navigation menu that displays on the left-hand side of the screen. Users can find which account they are signed in from in the top-left corner, above the menu.

The platform has more cast-related features in the works, as well. German site SmartDroid (via Android Community) has spotted what seems to an experimental feature rolling out to select Android users, which turns the mobile YouTube app into more of a bona fide remote control while you’re casting.

At the moment, you can only pretty much use the app to pause, play and adjust the volume while you’re casting to a TV. The updated controls, however, show a directional pad that makes it easier to browse videos and includes quicker access to captions and playback quality settings. You’ll be able to access those new elements through the volume panel that pops up when you tap on the cast button — that is, so long as you’re one of the users lucky enough to get the feature.

YouTube also launched the official YouTube app on Amazon Fire TV devices. The app also works with Alexa.

Separately, YouTube announced earlier this month that it will remove videos that insult people based on “protected attributes” such as race, gender expression, or sexual orientation. The company is also broadening its anti-harassment policies to include “veiled or implied threats. The move came as TouTube was frequently coming under fire for lax enforcement of racist content.

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TikTok Says Removed Over 49 Million Videos in Second Half of 2019

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By Reuters | Updated: 10 July 2020

Social media app TikTok said on Thursday it removed more than 49 million videos from its platform in the second half of last year for violating its guidelines.

These videos accounted for less than 1 percent of the total posted on the platform and fell under categories such as “violent and graphic content, hate speech and adult nudity”, it said in a report released on its website.

About one-third of the videos were from India, followed by the United States, and Pakistan, it added.

The transparency report comes days after the company owned by China’s ByteDance was banned from India, one of its biggest markets, after a Sino-India border clash. The short-form video making app also decided to exit the Hong Kong market following China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city.

TikTok launched a new platform to court small business advertisers on Wednesday. The platform, however, was fraught with challenges, especially after the Trump administration’s threat this week to impose a ban on China-based social media apps.


© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Apple Rolls Out Free Online Coding Course for Teachers

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By Reuters | Updated: 10 July 2020

Apple said on Thursday it was rolling out a free online coding course for teachers, while beefing up its existing school coding programs with new material.

The Cupertino, California-based company, which offers coding courses under the “Develop in Swift” and “Everyone Can Code” banners, said the new course is designed to supplement the need for computer science educators in the United States.

The new course will help instructors build foundational knowledge to enable them to teach app development with Apple’s open source programming language Swift.

“Everyone Can Code” courses are aimed at beginners, while its “Develop in Swift” programs focus on advanced coders.

Apple said it is also redesigning and adding resources to these existing programs.

The “Develop in Swift” series will include four new books that will be available in the fall at no cost in Apple Books.

The iPhone maker will also add a new set of books in its “Everyone Can Code” course that uses puzzles and games to teach Swift through its Swift Playgrounds App.

Online learning has emerged as the new norm with US schools and colleges shutting down since mid-March to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The trend may continue for the upcoming fall semester for colleges and universities with Harvard announcing that the 2020-2021 academic year will be online.


© Thomson Reuters 2020

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US Said to Probe Allegations TikTok Violated Children’s Privacy

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 July 2020

The Federal Trade Commission and the US Justice Department are looking into allegations that popular app TikTok failed to live up to a 2019 agreement aimed at protecting children’s privacy, according to two people interviewed by the agencies.

The development is the latest bump in the road for the short video company, which is popular with teens. TikTok has seen scrutiny, including from the national security-focused Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, rise sharply because of its Chinese parent corporation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok, suggesting it shared information with the Chinese government, a charge it denied.

A staffer in a Massachusetts tech policy group and another source said they took part in separate conference calls with the FTC and Justice Department officials to discuss accusations the China-based short video sharing app had failed to live up to an agreement announced in February 2019.

The Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and others in May asked the FTC look into their allegations TikTok failed to delete videos and personal information about users age 13 and younger as it had agreed to do, among other violations.

A TikTok spokesman said they take “safety seriously for all our users,” adding that in the United States they “accommodate users under 13 in a limited app experience that introduces additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for a younger audience.”

Officials from both the FTC, which reached the original consent agreement with TikTok, and Justice Department, which often files court documents for the FTC, met via video with representatives of the groups to discuss the matter, said David Monahan, a campaign manager with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

“I got the sense from our conversation that they are looking into the assertions that we raised in our complaint,” Monahan said.

A second person, speaking privately, confirmed that advocates had met with officials from the two agencies to discuss concerns TikTok violated the consent decree.

The FTC declined to comment. The Justice Department had no immediate comment.

TikTok has grown increasing popular among U.S. teenagers and allows users to create short videos. About 60 percent of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are aged 16 to 24, the company said last year.

US lawmakers have also raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, saying they were worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies support and cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party.

TikTok, owned by parent company ByteDance, is one of several China-based firms that have had to navigate heightened U.S.-China tensions over trade, technology and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under intense US regulatory scrutiny, it has poached Disney’s Kevin Mayer to be its chief executive and is trying to project a more global image, with offices in California, Singapore and elsewhere.


© Thomson Reuters 2020

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