Ecuador cuts off WikiLeaks founder

WikiLeaks battles for connectivity, Facebook acts like a Victorian preacher, Jeff Bezos wants to conquer space, and more tech bigwig idiocy. Oh, and a robotic Joey Tribbiani. Enjoy.

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Ecuador sealed off Julian Assange’s Internet access because the government was worried about him interfering with the U.S. election, it has transpired.

The country, which has been granting asylum to the WikiLeaks founder in its U.K. embassy since 2012, cut off access in his part of the building shortly after he published the latest pearls from Clinton campaign’s stolen emails, including some speeches that she’d given to Wall Street.

The U.S. has officially accused Russia of being behind the email hack, and vice-president Joe Biden has promised that the country will “send a message” to Russia with some cyber-trickery of its own when it’s ready. Apparently, none of this has worked, though. As we finished writing this, WikiLeaks published a bunch of secret emails from Obama.

Bezos takes on space

Jeff Bezos wants to do to space what ISPs did for the Internet. The Amazon CEO, who also runs private space exploration firm Blue Origin, wants to build out a physical infrastructure that will allow people to “put big things into space at low cost.” Entrepreneurs should be able to access space and do great things up there, he added.

This vision is slightly different to Elon Musk’s, who wants to put humans on Mars in as little as six years to avoid a future “extinction event,” such as Trump getting elected.

Facebook makes another censorship boob

Facebook was in the news again this week after accidentally banning an animation from Swedish breast cancer charity Cancerfonden. The animation looked like this:


which clearly offended the firm’s apparently Victorian sensibilities, causing it to remove the image as ‘offensive.’ Cancerfonden tried circling around the issue, so to speak, and suggested this instead:


Thankfully, blocky boobs are no longer necessary. Facebook owned up and said it had accidentally deleted the image, apologizing for the mistake because it processes millions of images each week. Which leads us to ask: are its regular image mishaps happening because it uses bots to handle these things? Because using AI to make human decisions doesn’t seem to be working very well for its news curation, either.

How. YOU. Doing?

While we’re talking about bots, we were disappointed to learn that academic researchers are recreating the cast of Friends electronically. Is nothing sacred? The University of Leeds team is using AI to study the entire 236 episodes of the sitcom, to create “a generative computational model of a person’s motion, appearance, speech, language and their style of interaction and behaviour.”

Then, they’ll use these rules to eventually recreate new movements and phrases, stringing them together into entirely new content. Or they could just hire William Shatner. And. Have. Him. Talk. Like. This. All. The. Time.

Dingbat of the week

This week’s dingbat is Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and Silicon Valley venture capital firm Khosla Ventures. In 2008, Khosla bought a 53-acre section of Martins Beach, a piece of coastline tucked away 30 miles south of San Francisco.

Californians are allowed to use beaches up to the ‘mean high tide line,’ which is the portion of the sand that gets wet. The land’s previous owners granted access to this area via a private road, and posted a billboard welcoming people to the beach. Khosla painted over the sign in 2010 and locked the gate.

State agencies told him he couldn’t lock the gate because it breaks local laws, so Khosla is suing them for “coercion and harassment.”

Khosla, whose medical records show he has a heart several sizes too small, will apparently also be suing the citizens of neighbouring Whoville for the rights to Christmas, it was revealed this week.

Image: Free Digital Photos

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