YouTube will “ramp up” enforcement of its policies against dangerous challenges and pranks

YouTube announced several policy updates today, including more stringent enforcement of its ban on videos of dangerous challenges and pranks.

In a FAQ posted to its support site, YouTube wrote “we’ve updated our external guidelines to make it clear that challenges like the Tide Pod challenge or the Fire challenge, that can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances, have no place on YouTube.” Its policies also extend to pranks “with a perceived danger of serious physical injury,” like home invasion or drive-by shooting pranks.

While YouTube did not mention it, its announcement comes the day after a teenager crashed a car while driving blindfolded for the Bird Box challenge, inspired by the Netflix movie of the same name. The meme, which involves doing different things while blindfolded, became popular enough that Netflix itself issued a warning (“PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE”) earlier this month.

YouTube also said it bans videos of pranks that can “cause children to experience severe emotional distress, meaning something so bad it could leave the child traumatized for life.” The platform said it worked with child psychologists “to develop guidelines around the types of pranks that cross this line. Examples include, the fake death of a parent or severe abandonment or shaming for mistakes.”

The psychological well-being of children featured in videos gained attention in 2017 when DaddyOFive, a YouTube channel run by Mike and Heather Martin, was taken down after users became concerned about the abusive nature of the pranks played by the Martins on their young children. The Martins ended up losing custody of two of the children, who were returned to their biological mother, and entering an Alford plea to child neglect charges, resulting in five years of supervised probation.

In addition to updating its pranks and challenges policy, YouTube said it will also begin issuing strikes for custom thumbnails that violate policies by showing pornography or graphic violence, as well as external sites linked to YouTube that don’t follow community guidelines.

YouTubers have two months during which videos that violate those guidelines will be removed, but they won’t be issued a strike. After the grace period is up, videos will be removed and their creators may also be issued a strike.

Roku now deleting Infowars from its platform after customer outcry

Roku is deleting the Infowars channel from its platform, a couple days after adding it as a supported channel. In a tweet, Roku said after the channel became available, “we heard from concerned parties and have determined that the channel should be removed from our platform. Deletion from the channel store and platform has begun and will be completed shortly.”

Digiday first reported this morning that Roku had added the Infowars live show hosted by Alex Jones to the platform as supported channel, a decision that was immediately met with protests by customers who threatened to switch to Apple TV and other competitors.

Jones is currently the target of a defamation lawsuit filed by family members of Sandy Hook victims, who say they have experienced harassment, including death threats, as a result of conspiracy theories spread by Jones and Infowars that claim the 2012 elementary school shooting was a hoax. The lawsuit has been in the headlines recently after a judge ruled that victims’ families must receive access to internal Infowars documents.

Roku’s decision to support the Infowars channel was also especially egregious because it was purged from multiple social media and app platforms, including Apple, Facebook, Spotify, YouTube, Twitter, Periscope, Stitcher, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouPorn for violating their content policies or terms of service, about six months ago.

Earlier today, Roku attempted to defend adding Infowars to its platform by releasing a statement that said in part that “while the vast majority of all streaming on our platform is mainstream entertainment, voices on all sides of an issue or cause are free to operate a channel. We do not curate or censor based on viewpoint. We are not promoting or being paid to distribute InfoWars. We do not have a commercial relationship with the InfoWars.”

TechCrunch has emailed Roku for comment.

Hulu unexpectedly releases “Fyre Fraud” days before Netflix’s competing documentary

Not since the literary biopic showdown between “Capote” and “Infamous” has there been such an intense battle for the attention of viewers. This time, the fight is between Hulu and Netflix’s competing documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival, a 2017 music festival whose failure led to eight lawsuits and a six-year prison sentence for co-founder Billy McFarland. Hulu unexpectedly released its film, “Fyre Fraud” today, just four days before Netflix’s “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” was scheduled to premiere. Both films are helmed by award-winning filmmakers.

Entertainment Today reports that Hulu hopes its documentary, directed by Emmy-nominated, Peabody-winning filmmaking team Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason “will provide enlightening context ahead of [co-executive producer Elliot] Tebele’s Netflix documentary.”

“Fyre Fraud” contains exclusive interviews with McFarland, who co-founded Fyre with rapper Ja Rule, and people who used to work for Tebele’s marketing agency FuckJerry, one of the festival’s promoters. Some of Tebele’s former employees claim in “Fyre Fraud” that Tebele asked them to cover up early warning signs about the festival.

McFarland was later sentenced six years to jail in for defrauding investors, while Ja Rule is fighting to be removed as a defendant from a $100 million class action lawsuit. Attendees paid thousands of dollars for tickets, expecting a luxury music festival in the Bahamas, but instead found themselves staying in tents, no Internet service, no water, and food like processed cheese sandwiches. Delayed flights made the experience even more nightmarish, as guests were forced to wait hours in the heat for their charter flights back to Miami.

In response, the makers of Netflix’s “Frye,” directed by Chris Smith (whose “American Movie” won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999), told Entertainment Weekly that even though they worked with Tebele and Jerry Media (a FuckJerry brand), “at no time did they, or any others we worked with, request favorable coverage in our film, which would be against our ethics. We stand behind our film, believe it is an unbiased and illuminating look at what happened, and look forward to sharing it with audiences around the world.”

Smith told Entertainment Weekly earlier this week that McFarland wasn’t included in the documentary because he “wanted to get paid” for appearing and “we didn’t feel comfortable with him benefitting after so many people were hurt as a consequence of his actions.”

TechCrunch has contacted Netflix and Hulu for comment.

Samsung’s new Galaxy M smartphones will launch in India first

Samsung will launch its new lower-priced Galaxy M series in India before the smartphones roll out globally. Asim Warsi, senior vice president of Samsung India’s smartphone business, told Reuters that three devices will be available through its website and Amazon India at the end of January and are intended to help the company double online sales.

Samsung is currently trying to recover its lead in India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market behind China, after losing it to Xiaomi at the end of 2017, when Xiaomi’s sales in India overtook Samsung for the first time, according to data from both Canalys and Counterpoint.

Xiaomi’s budget Redmi series gave it an advantage since Samsung had a dearth of competitors in the same price bracket, but analysts noted the Korean electronics giant maintains an edge in terms of R&D and supply chain expertise. Samsung leaned into those strengths last year, opening what it describes as the world’s largest mobile phone factory in Noida, just outside of New Delhi.

Specs about the three Galaxy M smartphones emerged last month, with details appearing on platform benchmark Geekbench about devices called M10, M20 and M30, the latter of which may be powered by an Exynos 7885 chip with 4GB ram.

Warsi told Reuters that “the M series has been built around and incepted around Indian millennial consumers.” The price range of Indian-first smartphones will be from less than 10,000 rupees (about $142) to 20,000 rupees. TechCrunch has emailed Samsung for more information about the new phones.

The company will debut the latest version of its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S10, in San Francisco on Feb. 20.

Chamberlain Group acquires Lockitron and Tend for its myQ smart garage hub

Chamberlain Group, which owns several security and access brands including the myQ smart garage hub, has added two new companies to its portfolio: connected door lock maker Lockitron and wi-fi home security camera startup Tend.

In a press statement, Chamberlain Group CEO JoAnna Sohovich said Tend and Lockitron’s produts will be integrated into myQ. “We know families enter and exit their homes through their garage doors multiple times a day. Our myQ technology allows homeowners to monitor and control access from their smartphone,” she said. “Adding video, connected locks, and enhanced artificial intelligence to our access solutions will provide even further peace of mind as homeowners connect to their homes and loved ones.”

(Blogger Dave Zatz first spotted signs of the deal two weeks ago, including updates to Lockitron’s privacy policy).

Lockitron was one of the first smart lock brands, shipping its first connected lock in 2010. Its flagship product is the Bolt, a smart lock that is accessed by smartphone. The Bolt launched in 2015 and was the first smart locks available for under $100. The Chamberlain Group will integrate Lockitron’s technology into myQ so users can control their garage and residential doors with one app.

In an email to TechCrunch, Cameron Robertson, who co-founded Lockitron with Paul Gerhardt, said they began looking for potential buyers in order to have the resources to scale up and meet retail and e-commerce demand. Chamberlain Group was the best fit because it will support existing Lockitron users, and Lockitron’s technology can also be integrated into other products besides myQ. The transaction was an asset sale of the Lockitron product line from its parent company Apigy. Robertson and Gerhardt are now advising Chamberlain on a part-time basis, as well as working on new projects not related to Apigy, which Robertson says will eventually be wound down.

Tend’s video and functionality, including facial recognition, will also be integrated into myQ, so users can add a Tend camera and see video of their garage doors opening and closing through myQ’s app. The company was launched in 2008 and its co-founder and CEO Herman Yau will continue on as Tend general manager, leading its video and AI platform as part of Chamberlain Group.

Chamberlain Group acquires Lockitron and Tend for its myQ smart garage hub

Chamberlain Group, which owns several security and access brands including the myQ smart garage hub, has added two new companies to its portfolio: connected door lock maker Lockitron and wi-fi home security camera startup Tend.

In a press statement, Chamberlain Group CEO JoAnna Sohovich said Tend and Lockitron’s produts will be integrated into myQ. “We know families enter and exit their homes through their garage doors multiple times a day. Our myQ technology allows homeowners to monitor and control access from their smartphone,” she said. “Adding video, connected locks, and enhanced artificial intelligence to our access solutions will provide even further peace of mind as homeowners connect to their homes and loved ones.”

(Blogger Dave Zatz first spotted signs of the deal two weeks ago, including updates to Lockitron’s privacy policy).

Lockitron was one of the first smart lock brands, shipping its first connected lock in 2010. Its flagship product is the Bolt, a smart lock that is accessed by smartphone. The Bolt launched in 2015 and was the first smart locks available for under $100. The Chamberlain Group will integrate Lockitron’s technology into myQ so users can control their garage and residential doors with one app.

In an email to TechCrunch, Cameron Robertson, who co-founded Lockitron with Paul Gerhardt, said they began looking for potential buyers in order to have the resources to scale up and meet retail and e-commerce demand. Chamberlain Group was the best fit because it will support existing Lockitron users, and Lockitron’s technology can also be integrated into other products besides myQ. The transaction was an asset sale of the Lockitron product line from its parent company Apigy. Robertson and Gerhardt are now advising Chamberlain on a part-time basis, as well as working on new projects not related to Apigy, which Robertson says will eventually be wound down.

Tend’s video and functionality, including facial recognition, will also be integrated into myQ, so users can add a Tend camera and see video of their garage doors opening and closing through myQ’s app. The company was launched in 2008 and its co-founder and CEO Herman Yau will continue on as Tend general manager, leading its video and AI platform as part of Chamberlain Group.

Baidu announces Apollo Enterprise, its new platform for mass-produced autonomous vehicles

Baidu made several big announcements about Apollo, its open-source autonomous vehicle technology platform, today at CES. The first is the launch of Apollo Enterprise for vehicles that will be put into mass production. The company claims that Apollo is already used by 130 partners around the world. One of its newest partners, Chinese electric vehicle startup WM Motors, plans to deploy level 3 autonomous vehicles by 2021.

Apollo Enterprise’s main product lines will include solutions for highway autonomous driving; autonomous valet parking; fully autonomous mini-buses; an intelligent map data service platform; and DuerOS (Baidu’s voice assistant) for cars.

Baidu also released Apollo 3.5, the latest version of its platform, which now supports “complex urban and suburban driving environments.” Apollo 3.5 is already used by customers including Udelv, an autonomous delivery van startup that recently partnered with Walmart to test grocery deliveries. Baidu says up to 100 self-driving vehicles based on Apollo 3.5 will be deployed in the San Francisco Bay Area and other regions in the United States.

In China, Baidu plans to launch 100 robo-taxis that will cover 130 miles of city roads in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province. The robo-taxis will use Baidu’s V2X (i.e. vehicle-to-everything) technology, to enable them to communicate with road infrastructure, like traffic lights.

Meituan partners with Nvidia, Valeo and Icona for its autonomous delivery platform

Meituan Dianping, China’s largest on-demand food delivery company, announced today at CES that it has signed three new major partners for the development of its autonomous delivery open platform. They are Nvidia, Italian automotive design company Icona, and French automotive supplier Valeo.

This is the first time Meituan Dianping, which went public four months ago in Hong Kong, has attended CES, where it exhibited its Meituan Autonomous Delivery (MAD) platform. Valeo will provide engines and sensors for MAD’s autonomous delivery vehicles and Nvidia’s technology will be used in its research and development and trial operations, while Icona will serve as a design partner for robots and vehicles.

Launched last July in Beijing, after a four-month trial, MAD’s partners already include Uditech, Segway-GX, iDriverPlus, and Roadster. As an open platform, MAD’s partners have beeen able to work on their own autonomous delivery vehicles. As TechNode notes, however, most orders still rely on a human delivery driver for at least part of the journey. For example, autonomous vehicles, including drones and low- or high-speed delivery vehicles, might gather orders from different restaurants and bring them to a pick-up point for the driver, or collect multiple orders and complete deliveries in an office park or university.

In a statement, Meituan senior vice president Wang Puzhong said “With the surging demand for food deliveries in China, Meituan is leveraging its platform and scale advantages to apply autonomous delivery technologies in its operations. We would like to work together with our partners to integrate resources from all parties to drive the large-scale and commercial application of autonomous delivery in China and around the world.”

As it develops, MAD might give Meituan Dianping an edge over its main rival, Alibaba’s Ele.me, which began drone deliveries last year that it claimks will dramatically lower its delivery costs by only requiring drivers for 15 percent of the route.

Meituan Dianping said it is now conducting trial operations of autonomous delivery in “a dozen locations in China,” including Shougang Park and Raffles City in Beijing, Xiong’an New Area in Hebei, and Shenzhen’s Lenovo Building. In addition to food delivery, Meituan Dianping is China’s largest e-commerce platform for in-store dining and also owns bike-sharing platform Mobike. It says it had 382.3 million annual transacting users and 5.5 million annual active merchants as of the end of Q3 2018 and operates in 2,800 cities and counties in China.

China’s lunar probe makes history by successfully soft-landing on the far side of the moon

It’s not Lunar New Year yet, but there is something new on the moon. In a major milestone for space exploration, China announced that its lunar program has successfully soft-landed a probe on the far side of the moon, making it the first one to do so. The historic landing was reported by Xinhua, China’s official news agency, earlier today.

According to the China National Space Administration, the probe, consisting of a lander and rover, touched down at about 10:26AM Beijing time. This is the first ever soft-landing (meaning a landing without damage or destruction to the space vehicle) on the far side of the moon, which is never visible from Earth. Named after the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e-4 launched on Dec. 8 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province.

The South China Morning Post reported earlier this week that the Chang’e-4 will be used for “astronomical observation using low-frequency radio, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring neutron radiation and neutral atoms.” The successful soft-landing is important for space exploration because there is relatively little information about the far side of the moon compared to the side visible from Earth, which has been explored and surveyed by previous missions.

Photographs taken by earlier spacecraft, including the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 and Zond 3 (launched in 1959 and 1965, respectively) and NASA’s Lunar Orbiter program (launched in 1966), found significant differences between the far side’s terrain and the surface of the moon visible from Earth. In 1962, NASA’s Ranger 4 probe became the first spacecraft to impact on the moon, but was unable to send back data after landing.

Since direct communication between Chang’e-4 and Earth is blocked because of the probe’s position, China also launched a relay satellite called Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, that is currently 400,000 km above Earth, positioned between it and the moon.

Chang’e-4’s successful landing concludes the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP). The first phase was the launch of Yutu, the lunar rover of Chang’e-3, which landed on the moon in December 2013, but stopped moving after 40 days due to a mechanical problem (it is still able to transmit data and photos, including true color high-definition photos). The successful landing of Chang’e-3 was another a significant milestone for China’s space program, making it only the third country after the U.S. and Soviet Union to soft-land on the moon. After Chang’e-4, the third and final phase of CLEP will be a returnable spacecraft called Chang’e-5. Set to launch by 2020, Chang’e-5 will be used to collect samples.

Go-Jek extends ride-hailing service to the rest of Singapore

After a limited rollout, Go-Jek said today that it will extend its ride-hailing service to all of Singapore tomorrow while continuing its beta phase. The Indonesian-based company began offering rides in Singapore at the end of November, but only for passengers riding to and from certain areas. It https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/gojek-introduces-dynamic-pricing-move-will-likely-attract-more-drivers-to-joinintroduced dynamic pricing there, which increases prices during peak times, a few days ago.

“We continue to welcome feedback from driver-partners and riders during this enhanced beta phase, as we work to fine-tune the app and create the best experience for our users,” the company said in a statement.

After Uber exited from Southeast Asia earlier this year by selling its local business to Grab, Go-Jek became Grab’s main rival. Uber still maintains a presence in the region, however, thanks to its 27.5 percent stake in Grab.

There is currently a waiting list for Go-Jek in Singapore, with customers of DBS/POSB being given priority.

When asked about how long new users need to wait, a Go-Jek spokesperson said in a statement that the time depends on supply and demand. “The response from the driver community since we opened pre-registration has been overwhelming with tens of thousands of drivers signing up via the pre-registration portal. While we can’t disclose figure at this moment, we are confident we can meet consumer expectations during the beta service period.”