Apps

Trump bans Alipay, WeChat Pay and other Chinese apps

Following India’s footsteps

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President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning transactions with eight Chinese apps. The move aims to reduce the influence of Chinese companies in the US and prevent them from collecting user data of American citizens.

Included in the order are Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office. This isn’t a surprising move because the administration has already restricted hardware companies like Huawei and ZTE, followed by the insanely popular app TikTok.

The order takes effect in 45 days, after Trump leaves office.

“At this time, action must be taken to address the threat posed by these Chinese connected software applications,” the executive order stated. The administration alleges that these apps are collecting huge quantities of user data and closely monitoring their lifestyle. China could leverage this sensitive data to understand and manipulate American citizens.

The immediate impact is likely to be limited because Alipay and WeChat Pay have most of their users in China. There are a plethora of alternatives available for SHAREit, VMate, CamScanner, and WPS Office. Hence the end-user won’t be affected as much as the developer.

Thankfully, TikTok is still active after entering into a strategic partnership with the American software giant Oracle. However, the app ban isn’t a new concept, and we’ve already seen India ban hundreds of Chinese apps following a deadly border dispute in 2019.

Currently, popular games like PUBG Mobile and Mobile Legends are also not available in India. In fact, the Indian government’s ban also finds a mention in the executive order signed by Trump.

The fears aren’t exactly far fetched because a similar data leak on Facebook’s end empowered manipulators to flood the 2016 US Presidential Election with misinformation. This has the potential to swing votes, in turn, compromising the integrity of the election. Similar events have also been observed during the Brexit referendum of 2016.

Apps

Twitter expands character limit to 4,000 characters

But not for everyone

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Despite the traditional limitations, the platform’s users have always found a way to express themselves beyond Twitter’s character limits. Whether broken through extensive threads or third-party sites, strict limitations don’t exist anymore. Now, Twitter is essentially getting rid of the character limit by introducing its biggest expansion to date.

Announced today, Twitter will allow users to post tweets with up to 4,000 characters. That’s a gigantic leap from the original 140-character limit and the expanded 280-character limit in 2017. But, of course, some good things come with a price.

Not everyone will have access to the new feature. Currently, only Twitter Blue subscribers in the United States can create tweets of up to 4,000 characters. Besides original tweets, subscribers can also quote tweet with the same expanded limit.

Thankfully, the new feature will not inundate everyone’s feeds with an ocean of text. Any tweets going beyond 280 characters will be cut off with a “show more” prompt.

Through the past few months, the platform has changed a few fundamental elements before Musk took over. Most importantly, Twitter Blue, the platform’s paid subscription service is now much more expansive. Among other things, subscribers now get the coveted blue checkmark attached to their profiles. Now, they also get a massive boost in capabilities when it comes to tweeting.

SEE ALSO: Twitter is teasing an ad-free subscription tier

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Alibaba is working on its own ChatGPT alternative

Joins Microsoft and Google

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The United States isn’t the only country interested in language learning software. After the widespread success of ChatGPT, a few other companies — including Microsoft and Google — are developing their own versions of the popular software. Today, a new contender is joining the fray. Alibaba has officially announced the development of its own chatbot.

Reported by CNBC, the Chinese giant is currently testing its alternative to ChatGPT. Unfortunately, the announcement did not come with any more details or a timeframe for its release. However, the company does assure enthusiasts that it has been working on generative AI since 2017.

Within only a few months, ChatGPT created a maelstrom of hype for language learning models. The software can generate lengthy but comprehensible essays about any topic. Though there is some debate as to how ethical it is, remarkably intelligent software is slowly finding its niche in today’s world.

To compete with ChatGPT, Microsoft and Google have announced their own software this week. Microsoft is infusing the technology into Bing and Edge. Meanwhile, Google has its own software called Bard.

Also, besides Alibaba, Chinese search engine Baidu is also testing a chatbot called “Ernie bot.” With several companies working on generative AI, the technology is undoubtedly here to stay.

SEE ALSO: Google is working on a ChatGPT competitor called Bard

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Google will blur NSFW photos soon

Turned on by default

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When I search for “food porn” in Google, I’m looking for enticing photos of food to whet my appetite for dinner. Sometimes, Google has other plans and shows me more than what I bargained for. Finally, the search engine is implementing a way to save us from those awkward moments. Google will soon blur explicit images from search results.

For Safer Internet Day, Google has announced the feature to help protect users from accidentally seeing graphic images — including both gore and pornography — from a search. The feature, which will start rolling out in the coming months, will turn on by default. Instead of showing the images directly, users will face the blurred version and a prompt to view the image despite the warning.

If you don’t mind an accidental shower of NSFW imagery, you can turn the feature off at any time. Alternatively, as always, users can also choose to filter out all explicit search results, blurred or otherwise.

Though the feature is easily adjustable, Google will not offer the same flexibility to supervised accounts. Any accounts supervised by a parent or a school will not be able to change how they view explicit content. Parents can add supervision to the accounts of their children.

SEE ALSO: Google is working on a ChatGPT competitor called Bard

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