Friday Five: Australia passes news law for tech giants

Zone’s Martha Green handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Australia passes Google/Facebook news law

Facebook and Google are almost out of Australia’s bad books — as long as they pay for their news. In what has been deemed a significant milestone, the Australian government has passed its controversial new law that requires the tech giants to negotiate with news outlets to pay for their content or face arbitration.

After threatening to pull its search engine from the country, Google signed a pay deal with media organisations. Facebook went further, blocking users and publishers from sharing news, and only relented after the government made amendments to the proposed law (and after a worldwide wave of negative headlines for Facebook).

2. Bitcoin tie-in bites Elon Musk in the wallet

Poor old Elon Musk has lost his title as the world’s richest person. The shattering news comes after Tesla shares dropped more than 20% since hitting a high of $880 in January. The steep fall in the past week has been tied to Tesla’s mighty $1.5bn investment in Bitcoin, which initially shot up in value itself before dropping back.

Being associated with the notoriously volatile cryptocurrency may not be good for Tesla, as investors may wish to put their money somewhere a bit more stable. Still, Musk seemed to take the news well, tweeting that the price of Bitcoin did “seem high lol”. The drop returned Amazon supremo Jeff Bezos to the top of the rich list.

3. Microsoft bringing AI text predictor to Word

Microsoft is bringing its AI-powered text prediction powers to Word next month. The feature, which uses machine learning to make writing suggestions in a similar vein to the ‘Smart Compose’ option in Gmail, was first rolled out last year to 50% of Windows Beta Channels such as Outlook.

Don’t worry, if you don’t like robots finishing your sentences (am I really that predictable?), you can turn the feature off. However, it does claim to help “users write more efficiently by predicting text quickly, timely and accurately.” In its use of machine learning, Microsoft has said that no data will “leave the tenant boundary”.

4. Now you can let Netflix do all the heavy lifting

If Microsoft predicting your words wasn’t enough, Netflix is also predicting your new favourite TV shows and films. And the streaming giant is so confident you’ll like its suggestions, it’s even offering to download them automatically to your mobile device (currently Android only, but soon to be tested on iOS).

Downloads For You uses data from your viewing history to find content that matches your tastes. It then downloads new shows to your phone when you’re connected to wi-fi. The feature is an addition to Netflix’s Smart Downloads, which automatically deletes a downloaded episode after you’ve watched it and downloads the next one.

5. Spot the robo-dog set for paintball rampage

Boston Dynamics’ famous robo-dog, Spot, was originally funded by the military, but the company has been keen to distance itself from that image, showing Spot doing benign tasks such as gardening and cleaning. So it’s understandable that Boston are unhappy about plans to use Spot on a paintballing rampage in a mock art gallery.

The project, ‘Spot’s Rampage’, is by a group called MSCHF, which is known for creating viral stunts and stories. Boston has called the project “provocative” and apparently offered to give MSCHF another two Spots for free if they removed the gun. Sadly for Boston, MSCHF said: “This just made us want to do it even more.”

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