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Most downloaded news app in America with ties to China highlights dangers of AI

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Most downloaded news app in America with ties to China highlights dangers of AI

NewsBreak is one of the most downloaded news apps in the U.S. with more than 50 million monthly users. However, according to a Reuters report, the company is spreading misinformation through artificial intelligence (AI)-generated content. The report also highlights that NewsBreak has roots in China, with its technology being maintained in Beijing and receiving funding from a Chinese company that allegedly works for the country’s military.

NewsBreak app (Google Play) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

How NewsBreak is misusing AI

The Reuters report highlighted many instances where NewsBreak used AI to generate news that never actually happened. For instance, last Christmas Eve, it published an alarming piece about a small-town shooting. It was headlined “Christmas Day tragedy strikes Bridgeton, New Jersey, amid rising gun violence in small towns.”

However, no such incident happened. The Bridgeton, New Jersey police department posted a statement on Facebook on Dec. 27 dismissing the article – produced using AI technology – as “entirely false.”

NewsBreak doesn’t write all of its articles. The company is a distributor that publishes licensed content from outlets like Reuters, Fox, CNN and AP. Some of its articles are also sourced using information available on the internet and through paraphrasing press releases.

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Most downloaded news app in America with ties to China highlights dangers of AI

A man reading the news on his tablet (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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How NewsBreak’s automated content disrupted local communities

According to a Reuters investigation, there have been at least 40 instances since 2021 where NewsBreak’s use of AI tools has affected communities. The app has published erroneous stories, created 10 stories from local news sites under fictitious bylines and lifted content from its competitors. Two local community programs assisting disadvantaged people were impacted by erroneous stories produced by NewsBreak’s AI.

This year, in January, February and March, a Colorado-based food bank, Food to Power, had to turn people away because NewsBreak stated incorrect times for food distributions. The charity complained to NewsBreak in a Jan. 30 email to the company’s general customer support address but received no response. Harvest912, a charity in Erie, Pennsylvania, reported a similar incident.

Norm Pearlstine, former Executive Editor at the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, worked as a consultant for NewsBreak. He told Reuters that the company also tried to create fake accounts to access content that publishers had put behind paywalls.

Most downloaded news app in America with ties to China highlights dangers of AI

News site on laptop (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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NewsBreak’s China connection

NewsBreak advertises itself as a U.S.-based and U.S.-invested startup, but the company has its roots in China. It was founded in 2015 by Jeff Zheng, who currently serves as the CEO of NewsBreak. Zheng is also the founder of the Chinese news aggregation app Yidian. In fact, the two companies share a U.S. patent, registered in 2015, for an “Interest Engine” algorithm, which recommends news content based on a user’s interests and location.

Until 2019, NewsBreak was a subsidiary of Yidian, and the Chinese news aggregation company referred to NewsBreak as its U.S. version until 2021, according to the Wire China. Plus, one of NewsBreak’s primary backers is Beijing-based IDG Capital, which is on a list of dozens of Chinese companies the Pentagon alleges are working with the Chinese military. It is important to note that there’s no evidence that NewsBreak censored or produced news favorable to the Chinese government.

We reached out to NewsBreak for comment on this article and have not heard back as of our deadline.

Most downloaded news app in America with ties to China highlights dangers of AI

A woman reading the news on her smartphone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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4 ways to protect yourself from misinformation

The growing use of AI means the internet is now harder than ever to navigate. Follow these steps to protect yourself from misinformation.

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1) Verify sources: Check the credibility of the source. Look for news from reputable organizations with a track record of accuracy and accountability. Verify the information across multiple trusted sources before believing or sharing it.

2) Check the author: Investigate the author of the content. Ensure they are credible and have the necessary expertise or background. Be wary of articles without author bylines.

3) Use fact-checking tools: Use fact-checking websites and tools like Snopes, FactCheck.org or the International Fact-Checking Network to verify dubious claims. These resources can help you determine the accuracy of the information.

4) Be skeptical of social media: Take information on social media with a grain of salt. Platforms like Facebook, X and Instagram can be breeding grounds for misinformation. Verify the information from reliable sources before sharing or believing it. Be particularly cautious of viral content and consider the potential biases of those sharing it.

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Kurt’s key takeaways

The internet has always been a breeding ground for misinformation, but now that news media publications have started using AI to generate content, misinformation is at its peak. The NewsBreak incident is one of the many that have come to light in recent years, and it’s only an indication of what we are about to witness. It’s important that you take your dose of news from reliable sources. You can always trust me for tech-related news, but for other content, make sure you verify the sources.

As we navigate the digital age with AI, what responsibilities do platforms like NewsBreak have in combating the spread of misinformation? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

Ask Kurt a question or let us know what stories you’d like us to cover.

Follow Kurt on his social channels:

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Copyright 2024 CyberGuy.com. All rights reserved.

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Google is putting more Android in ChromeOS

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Google is putting more Android in ChromeOS

ChromeOS will “soon be developed on large portions of the Android stack” so that it can roll out AI features at a faster pace, Google announced on Wednesday. The company says it will be embracing things like the Android Linux kernel and Android frameworks “as part of the foundation of ChromeOS.”

The changes won’t just mean more AI features, according to Google. The company also noted that they will help “simplify engineering efforts” and “help different devices like phones and accessories work better together with Chromebooks,” as detailed in a blog post.

Google surely wants to have Chromebook users trying as many AI-powered features as possible, so these changes will probably accelerate that. But the company cautions that while the changes to the tech stack are “starting now,” they “won’t be ready for consumers for quite some time.”

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How much is your personal information worth on dark web?

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How much is your personal information worth on dark web?

While privacy is priceless for most individuals, it sells for pretty cheap on the dark web. 

According to Whizcase, years of curating your social media page for your close network could be up for sale for as cheap as $14 for your Facebook log-in in 2023.

And that’s just the beginning. Every access point from Reddit to LinkedIn can be purchased for a price, $6 and $45, respectively.

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Person on the dark web (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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How does your info end up on the dark web?

Creating unique and complex passwords for all your online accounts is not just a kitschy tactic to get you to spring for a password manager. Passwords that are simple can be cracked or guessed by diligent hackers, and if you repeat that password across multiple accounts, then all those accounts are also in jeopardy. 

Infuriatingly enough, you can make the concerted effort to create a complex and unique password for all your accounts and even use a password manager, but you will still have your information leaked if the company you are logging onto gets infiltrated. Unfortunately, being notified of having your information compromised in a data breach is more common than not. 

In addition to having your information unwittingly floating around the dark web to the highest bidder, if your device gets hacked and malware or viruses are installed on it, then your log-ins and passwords can be stolen and sold, too.

MORE: WAS YOUR PRIVATE DATA BEING SOLD ON THIS DARK WEB MARKETPLACE?

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Data on the dark web (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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What should I do if my information ends up on the dark web?

When you get the inevitable notification or letter stating that your information has been compromised, there are action steps you can take to minimize damage and maximize the prevention of future problems.

1. Log out of all devices

Instagram is an example of a social media account that lets you see where and what devices your account is currently open on. They also provide you with the option of logging out of all devices so that your account is not accessible by third parties or on devices that aren’t yours. This is especially helpful if your account is open on a device that might be yours but might also have malware or a virus.

How to view your account’s recent log-in activity on Instagram 

You can view a list of devices that have recently logged into your Instagram account at any time. If you don’t recognize a recent log-in, you can log out of that location or device and let us know that the log-in wasn’t you. Here’s how to do it. 

  • Click the profile icon on the bottom right of the screen
  • Click the three horizontal lines in the upper right
  • Tap Accounts Center
  • Scroll down and tap Password and security
  • Tap Where you’re logged in to view your recent log-in activity for accounts in this Accounts Center
  • To log out of devices you’re currently logged into, tap on one of your accounts, then scroll down and tap Select devices to log out.
  • Select the devices you’d like to log out, then tap Log out.

2. Change your password

If you manage your passwords or have them saved to autofill on browsers like Safari and Chrome, you will get updated if your password has been compromised, weak, or reused. Because having complex, unique passwords for each online account is critical to keeping your information online safe, password managers can help with generating those as well as managing them for you. Get more details about my best expert-reviewed password managers of 2024 here.

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3. Turn on two-factor authentication

This step can be annoying when you just want to quickly check an update or post a quick video, but it can be your saving grace when someone has figured out your log-in and is trying to guess your password. If your two-factor authentication is on, you have the opportunity to get alerted of any log-ins or password reset requests. It gives you the opportunity to secure your account. 

4. Install strong antivirus software

While you can’t control what companies do with your information, you can control what information gets out from your personal devices by installing good antivirus software. It can “catch” malware or virus before it gets unleashed on your device and siphon your password and other private information. Get my picks for the best 2024 antivirus protection winners for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.

5. Remove yourself from the internet

While no service promises to remove all your data from the internet, having a removal service is great if you want to constantly monitor and automate the process of removing your information from hundreds of sites continuously over a longer period of time. Check out my top picks for removal services here.

6. Get identity theft protection

Many identity theft protection services provide dark web monitoring services. They continually monitor the dark web to see if any crucial pieces of personal information like your email addresses or social security number end up compromised or up for sale on the dark web. Getting those alerts immediately gives you the opportunity to act faster and take the other steps listed above. They can also assist you in freezing your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals. See my tips and best picks on how to protect yourself from identity theft.

DARK web data 2

Data on the dark web (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Kurt’s key takeaways

In the digital age, where our personal data can be as fleeting as a password, it’s a stark reminder that what we hold dear isn’t always locked down tight. It’s unsettling to think that years of personal posts and connections could be reduced to a mere transaction on the dark web. But knowledge is power, and being informed is the first step in strengthening our digital defenses. So, let’s keep those passwords complex, our log-ins secure and our vigilance high.

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What role do you think tech companies should play in protecting your data, and how does this shape your expectations of online services? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

Ask Kurt a question or let us know what stories you’d like us to cover.

Follow Kurt on his social channels:

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Copyright 2024 CyberGuy.com. All rights reserved.

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Fired SpaceX workers sue Elon Musk for sexual harassment and retaliation

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Fired SpaceX workers sue Elon Musk for sexual harassment and retaliation

Eight former SpaceX engineers filed a lawsuit against Elon Musk on Wednesday alleging sexual harassment and retaliation.

Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002, “knowingly and purposefully created an unwelcome hostile work environment based upon his conduct of interjecting into the workplace vile sexual photographs, memes, and commentary that demeaned women and/or the LGBTQ+ community,” says the employees’ complaint, which was earlier reported by Bloomberg.

The complaint — which cites many of Musk’s Twitter posts making sexually explicit jokes — claims that Musk fostered “a perversely sexist culture at SpaceX.” Several of the plaintiffs say they “experienced direct harassment that mimicked Musk’s posts.” According to the suit, senior engineers often used phallic language during technical meetings, referring to mechanical parts as “chodes” and “schlongs.”

Engineers allegedly used sexual jokes as product names

“It was also common for engineers to apply crude and demeaning names to products in an attempt at humor, often at the expense of women and LGBTQ+ individuals. For example, the name ‘Upskirt Camera’ was used for a camera on the first stage of the Falcon rocket that views the bottom of the second stage.” The complaint also cites a video “starring SpaceX’s upper management, including Vice President of Human Resources (HR) Brian Bjelde, President and CEO Gwynne Shotwell, and Elon Musk that mocks and makes light of sexual misconduct and banter.” 

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The former employees, who are also pursuing a National Labor Relations Board complaint against SpaceX, collaborated on an open letter in 2022 that raised concerns about Musk’s behavior and the broader company culture at SpaceX. The employees were subsequently fired — and their lawsuit alleges the order to terminate them came from Musk himself. Per Bloomberg, after a human resources official suggested SpaceX conduct an investigation, Musk replied, “I don’t care, fire them.”

After the letter was published, Shotwell emailed two of the letter writers telling them to “stop flooding employees [sic] communications channels immediately,” the complaint claims. Shotwell later sent a companywide email “with the subject line ‘Please stay focused on the SpaceX mission,’ in which she called the Open Letter ‘overreaching activism’ and stated that ‘[w]e performed an investigation and have terminated a number of employees involved,’” according to the suit.

The complaint targets both Musk and SpaceX. “Musk thinks he’s above the law. Our eight brave clients stood up to him and were fired for doing so. We look forward to holding Musk accountable for his actions at trial,” Laurie Burgess, an attorney representing the former engineers, said in a statement.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a Wall Street Journal report that Musk had sexual relationships with two SpaceX employees, including a former intern he later hired onto his executive team. A third woman who spoke to the Journal said Musk asked her several times to have his children and complained about her work performance after she said no. The woman said she was also denied a raise. 

Shotwell accused one of the women of having an affair with her husband, according to the Journal. After the woman reported this to HR, Shotwell reportedly “told the HR department at SpaceX that she wanted the woman removed from the office of the chief executive,” the Journal’s article says. In a statement to the Journal, Shotwell said the report paints “a completely misleading narrative” of SpaceX’s company culture.

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Some former SpaceX employees disagree. In 2021, after a former SpaceX employee published an essay detailing multiple instances in which she was groped by her male colleagues, five former employees claimed there was a culture of sexual harassment at the company. The employees said HR handled complaints poorly. In 2022, Business Insider reported that a flight attendant on Musk’s private jet claimed he exposed himself to her.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment.

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