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Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition gains new skills from Disney and others

Amazon is today rolling out a set of new features to its Echo Dot Kids Edition devices — the now $70 version of the Echo Dot smart speaker that ships with a protective case and a year’s subscription to Amazon FreeTime, normally a $2.99 per month subscription for Prime members. Now joining the Kids Edition’s parental controls and other exclusive content are new skills from Disney, Hotel Transylvania and Pac-Man, as well as a calming “Sleep Sounds” skill for bedtime. There are now four new skills that play sounds of thunderstorms, rain, the ocean or a babbling brook, as well as an all-encompassing “Sleep Sounds” skill that offers 42 different soothing options from which to choose. New parents may be glad to know that this includes baby-soothing sounds like cars, trains and the vacuum (don’t knock it until you try it, folks — it works). Amazon clarified to us that while there is a version of sleep sounds in the Skill Store today, this version launching on the Kids Edition is a different, child-directed version. Also new to the Kids Edition is “Disney Plot Twist,” which is like a Disney version of Mad Libs, where players change out words and phrases in short adventure stories. The skill features popular Disney characters like Anna, Olaf and Kristoff as the narrators and is exclusive to Kids Edition devices. The new movie “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” is featured in another new skill, Drac’s Pack, which includes monster stories, songs and jokes. Meanwhile, Pac-Man Stories is a skill that includes interactive stories for the whole family that work similar to choose-your-own-adventures — that is, the decisions you make will affect the ending. Both of these are broadly available on Alexa, meaning they don’t require a Kids Edition device to access. Stories, however, does appear to be one of the areas Amazon is investing in to make its Alexa-powered speakers more appealing to families with young children. The company recently decided to stop working on its chat stories app Amazon Rapids , saying it will instead continue to adapt those Amazon Rapids stories for the Alexa platform.

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New WordPress policy allows it to shut down blogs of Sandy Hook deniers

WordPress has taken down a handful alt-right blogs, according to several complaints from affected blog owners and readers who claim the sites were removed from WordPress.com, despite not being in violation of the company’s Terms of Service. Some site owners also said they were not notified of the shutdown in advance and have lost their work. The removals, we’ve learned, are in part due to a new policy WordPress has rolled out that now prohibits blogs from the “malicious publication of unauthorized, identifying images of minors.” Yes, that’s right: the company has created a new rule to specifically handle the Sandy Hook conspiracists, and boot them from WordPress.com. While some of the affected sites had already been flagged for other violations, many were hosting Sandy Hook conspiracy theories and other “false flag” content. In a YouTube video , the host of one site lamented, “They have wiped out 11 years of my fucking life.” He then read through WordPress’s Terms of Service, confused as to how he was in violation. According to Google’s cache , his site hosted 9/11 “truther” content and claimed that Sandy Hook was a staged event. These are generally repugnant points of view to a large swath of people, but he’s correct in saying they weren’t views that WordPress had prohibited. The update to WordPress’s policy follows a damning report from The NYT this week that explained on how the world’s largest blogging service  has allowed Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists to remain online . The issue, in part, has to do with how WordPress’s policies were originally written, the article explained. WordPress policies were designed to be more resistant to the strategic use of copyright claims as a means of getting content removed. Longtime web veterans know they were written this way because they were created at a time when large corporations would wield copyright law – like the DMCA – as a weapon used to force platforms to take down content about their company that they deemed unfavorable. But in recent years, the permissiveness these policies has also created loopholes for those whose spread disinformation, incite hatred and violence, and post abusive and offensive content to the web. With little other recourse available to them, some Sandy Hook parents have used copyright law get images of their children removed from the web. As The NYT explained, a Sandy Hook victim’s father, Leonard Pozner, filed copyright claims with a number of platforms, including WordPress, on images of his son Noah, a 6-year old victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Facebook, Amazon and Google complied with those requests.

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Snapchat’s loosened standards for video and changes to advertising, like its use of consumer data and computerized auctions, make it less of an…

Shira Ovide / Bloomberg : Snapchat's loosened standards for video and changes to advertising, like its use of consumer data and computerized auctions, make it less of an internet rebel   —  It loses luster, though, as it discards the elements that set it apart.  —  Snapchat has defined itself in opposition to the internet establishment.

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Deloitte: since 2015, China has outspent the US by $24B in 5G infrastructure and has built 350K new cell sites, compared to less than 30K in US (Arjun…

Arjun Kharpal / CNBC : Deloitte: since 2015, China has outspent the US by $24B in 5G infrastructure and has built 350K new cell sites, compared to less than 30K in US   —  - China has built 350,000 new cell sites, while the U.S. has built fewer than 30,000 since 2015, according to Deloitte.

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Check Point shows how hackers could infiltrate networks via all-in-one printers using just a fax number, points to attack on HP model that HP has…

Check Point Research : Check Point shows how hackers could infiltrate networks via all-in-one printers using just a fax number, points to attack on HP model that HP has since patched   —  Research By: Eyal Itkin and Yaniv Balmas  —  Fax, the brilliant technology that lifted mankind out the dark ages of mail delivery …

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Researchers demo machine learning techniques that de-anonymize the authors of code samples, often with more than 90% accuracy, even from binary code…

Louise Matsakis / Wired : Researchers demo machine learning techniques that de-anonymize the authors of code samples, often with more than 90% accuracy, even from binary code   —  RESEARCHERS WHO STUDY stylometry—the statistical analysis of linguistic style—have long known that writing is a unique, individualistic process.

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Researcher details how vulnerabilities and misconfigurations in wireless gateways could put emergency first responders and critical infrastructure at…

Dan Goodin / Ars Technica : Researcher details how vulnerabilities and misconfigurations in wireless gateways could put emergency first responders and critical infrastructure at risk   —  Gateways are supposed to make cops safer.  Many leak their locations in real time.  —  In late 2016, security researcher Justin Shattuck …

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What the Tech: Disney Circle Go – KFDX

KFDX What the Tech: Disney Circle Go KFDX (WHAT THE TECH) - Know what your kids are doing when they're home or away with Disney Circle. Your kids are in their rooms for the night but that doesn't mean parents aren't worried about their safety. When teenagers and pre-teens are in their rooms ...

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Subscription startup Kidbox launches its own clothing lines

Kidbox , a subscription clothing box similar to Stitch Fix – but aimed at parents who dislike kids’ clothes shopping (aka all of us) – is now launching its own private label kids’ brands. At launch, the three clothing brands – Miki B., Kid’s Club, and Baby Basics – will join the startup’s over 130 existing brand partners, such as Adidas, DKNY, 7 for All Mankind, Puma, Jessica Simpson, Reebok, Diesel and others. The company had said earlier this year that it would soon be branching out into its own brands with the arrival of its fall 2018 back-to-school box. Having sent out its first box of clothing during the back-to-school shopping season in 2016, Kidbox now has two years of data under its belt to inform its designers what kids clothing is selling. Its boxes, similar to Stitch Fix, are put together after parents fill out a profile. The offer their kids’ sizing information, age, and what sort of styles, colors and patterns, they like and hate. Kidbox then preps a box accordingly, and anything the child doesn’t want – or mom or dad don’t want to buy, that is – can be sent back. However, Kidbox heavily incentives its customers to keep the whole box – it’s around half a dozen items for under $100, which is reasonable. In fact, it can cost more to return items, as you then pay the price on the tag instead of receiving the whole-box discount. With its new private labels, Kidbox aims to grow its margins further. “We believe we’ve identified a void in the children’s apparel marketplace,” Kidbox CEO Miki Berardelli told TechCrunch this spring, when referencing its plans to sell its own clothing. “The style sensibility of our exclusive brands will all have a unique personality, and a unique voice that’s akin to how our customers describe themselves. It’s all really based on customer feedback. Our customers tell us what they would love more of; and our merchandising team understands what they would like to be able to procure more of, in terms of rounding out our assortment,” she said. The company at the time was fresh on the heels of a $15.3 million Series B  focused on scaling the business, which included bringing the new lines to its customers.

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