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Skype Announces Big Makeover Focused on Messaging and Social Sharing, But Will That Drive Its Popularity?
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '17 at 10:40 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-moves department:
Skype on Thursday became the latest app in the growing list of services that are copying features straight from Snapchat. Microsoft-owned service announced a major redesign of its mobile app, which now comes with a feature called "Highlights" that lets users share photos and videos that will only be temporarily visible to their friends. The feature, as you can imagine, carries a strong resemblance to Snapchat's "Stories," a format that has been growing in popularity among young audiences. All of Facebook's consumer-focused services, including Instagram and WhatsApp, also offer a similar feature in their apps. What will be interesting to see in the coming weeks is whether the redesign and the new feature will give Skype a boost among users. Analysts are skeptical. Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research offers a reality-check: Skype is one of those odd products -- a fairly sizable communications property owned by a major tech company, and yet one which doesn't make much money, isn't growing much, and hasn't really been focused on either messaging or social communication. [...] The new design puts social sharing and messaging much more prominently in the app, but that's no guarantee that people will actually use those features more or even see Skype as a natural place to do that kind of sharing.

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Movie Studios Are Blaming Rotten Tomatoes For Killing Movies No One Wants To See
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '17 at 10:40 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-they-see-it department:
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Baywatch were never going to be critical darlings. Both movies led the domestic box office to its worst Memorial Day weekend showing in nearly 20 years. Quartz adds: In the fallout, are Hollywood producers blaming the writers? The actors? Themselves? (Of course not.) No, they are blaming Rotten Tomatoes. They say the movie-review site, which forces critics to assign either a rotten or fresh tomato to each title when submitting reviews, regardless of the nuances of their critiques, poisoned viewers against the films before they were released. "Insiders close to both films blame Rotten Tomatoes, with Pirates 5 and Baywatch respectively earning 32% and 19% Rotten. The critic aggregation site increasingly is slowing down the potential business of popcorn movies. Pirates 5 and Baywatch aren't built for critics but rather general audiences, and once upon a time these types of films -- a family adventure and a raunchy R-rated comedy -- were critic-proof. Many of those in the industry severely question how Rotten Tomatoes computes the its ratings, and the fact that these scores run on [the movie-ticket buying site] Fandango (which owns RT) is an even bigger problem," Deadline reported. [...] The site has a separate score that measures audience reception, which it displays next to the critic rating. And quite a few smell what The Rock is cooking -- 70% of Baywatch viewers on Rotten Tomatoes said they liked it. But the critic score is what many people look to when deciding whether to spend their hard-earned money at the cinema. Also read: Hollywood Producer Blames Rotten Tomatoes For Convincing People Not To See His Movie.

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Your Face or Fingerprint Could Soon Replace Your Plane Ticket
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '17 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Headed on a trip? You may soon be able to ditch your boarding pass in favor of your fingers or face. From a report: Delta announced, on Wednesday, a new biometric identification pilot program that will eventually let you use your fingerprints instead of a plane ticket (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). That followed a JetBlue announcement hours earlier that it is testing a program in Boston that will match pictures of customers' faces with the passport database maintained by U.S. Custom and Border Protections. Delta's program, which kicked off at Washington's Reagan National Airport, is in partnership with Clear, a company that already lets customers skip to the front of security lines without identification.

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Putin Hints At US Election Meddling By 'Patriotically Minded' Russians
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '17 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's hackers-are-artists department:
Two anonymous readers share a report: Shifting from his previous blanket denials, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Thursday that "patriotically minded" private Russian hackers could have been involved in cyberattacks last year to help the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). While Mr. Putin continued to deny any state role, his comments to reporters in St. Petersburg were a departure from the Kremlin's previous position: that Russia had played no role whatsoever in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and that, after Mr. Trump's victory, the country had become the victim of anti-Russia hysteria among crestfallen Democrats. Raising the possibility of attacks by what he portrayed as free-spirited Russian patriots, Mr. Putin said that hackers "are like artists" who choose their targets depending how they feel "when they wake up in the morning."

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App Store Earnings For Developers Exceed $70 Billion; App Downloads Up 70% YoY
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '17 at 07:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-affinity department:
Apple announced today that since it launched in 2008, developers have earned over $70 billion from the App Store. From an article: "People everywhere love apps and our customers are downloading them in record numbers," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. "Seventy billion dollars earned by developers is simply mind-blowing." According to Apple's press release, subscriptions saw a 58 percent increase year over year, fueled by their availability in all 25 app categories. Games and Entertainment are the App Store's top grossing categories, Lifestyle and Health and Fitness apps have experienced 70 percent growth, and the Photo and Video category is up over 90 percent.

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The US Is the Biggest Carbon Polluter in History
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '17 at 07:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-at-stake department:
Justin Gillis, and Nadja Popovich, writing for The New York Times: The United States, with its love of big cars, big houses and blasting air-conditioners, has contributed more than any other country to the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is scorching the planet. "In cumulative terms, we certainly own this problem more than anybody else does," said David G. Victor, a longtime scholar of climate politics at the University of California, San Diego. Many argue that this obligates the United States to take ambitious action to slow global warming. Against that backdrop, factions in the Trump administration are engaged in a heated debate over whether to remain a party to the 195-nation agreement on climate change reached in Paris in 2015. President Trump promised on Wednesday to announce his decision at 3 p.m Thursday in the White House Rose Garden. A decision to walk away from the accord would be a momentous setback, in practical and political terms, for the effort to address climate change. Several news outlets, citing people in the administration, reported on Wednesday that the US is likely to pull out of the agreement.

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Hillary Clinton Rips 'Bankrupt' DNC Data Operation
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '17 at 06:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's looking-back department:
An anonymous reader shares an article: Hillary Clinton slammed the DNC's 2016 campaign data operation Wednesday, saying she had "nothing" to work from once she won the nomination. She lamented that Donald Trump was able to walk into a well-funded and thoroughly-tested data operation, while she was forced to build hers largely from scratch. Axios conducted over two dozen interviews with experts associated with the Trump and Clinton data and advertising operations earlier this year, and while many sources agreed with this sentiment off the record, no campaign or DNC staffers used language as strong as Clinton did Wednesday to publicly to condemn the DNC's data enterprise. Further reading: "I take responsibility for every decision I made, but that's not why I lost," says Clinton.

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SpaceX To Refly a Dragon Cargo Spacecraft
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '17 at 05:12 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's reuse-and-recycle department:
Thelasko writes: Tomorrow's scheduled resupply mission to the International Space Station will mark the second time its Dragon capsule has visited the station. Ars Technica reports: "This particular Dragon spacecraft was sent to the International Space Station in September 2014, and it delivered nearly 2.5 tons of cargo to the orbiting laboratory. The Dragon returned to Earth about a month later, splashing down into the ocean. It is not clear how much processing SpaceX has had to undertake to ready the spacecraft for its second flight to the station, nor has the company released a cost estimate. It also had to manufacture a new 'trunk,' the unpressurized rear section of the vehicle, and solar panels."

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Democrats Ask FBI To Probe Reported FCC Cyberattack
Posted by News Fetcher on June 01 '17 at 02:21 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's denial-of-service department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: A group of Democratic senators is asking the FBI to investigate an alleged cyberattack on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website earlier this month. In a letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe sent Wednesday, the senators asked the bureau to "investigate the source" of the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. "Any cyberattack on a federal network is very serious," Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Al Franken (Minn.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Ed Markey (Mass.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.) wrote. "This particular attack may have denied the American people the opportunity to contribute to what is supposed to be a fair and transparent process, which in turn may call into question the integrity of the FCC's rulemaking proceedings," they wrote. In the Wednesday letter to McCabe, the senators asked to be briefed by the FBI on the matter by June 23. "We ask that the FBI prioritize this matter and investigate the source of this attack," they wrote. On May 8, the FCC claimed that it was a victim of "multiple" DDoS attacks. The alleged attacks occurred after comedian John Oliver spurred millions of Americans to file comments with the FCC in favor of net neutrality. "Many had attributed the website's slowdown to the volume of comments produced by Oliver's segment, but the FCC instead blamed malicious actors days later," reports The Hill.

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Oregon Man Fined For Writing 'I Am An Engineer' Temporarily Wins Right To Call Himself An 'Engineer'
Posted by News Fetcher on May 31 '17 at 11:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's I-am-what-I-am department:
Mats Jarlstrom, an electrical engineer fined by the Oregon engineering board for calling himself an "engineer" and talking about traffic lights, has been granted the temporary right by a judge to both publicly call himself an "engineer" and talk about traffic lights. Jason Koebler reports via Motherboard: Last month, Jarlstrom sued the engineering board for violating his First Amendment rights, and Tuesday a federal judge gave Jarlstrom the temporary right to call himself an engineer, pending the results of his case. "Plaintiff Jarlstrom may study, communicate publicly about, and communicate privately his theories relating to traffic lights throughout the pendency of this litigation as long as [his] communications occur outside the context of a paid employment or contractual relationship," Anna Brown, a federal district court judge for the district of Oregon, ordered. He "may describe himself publicly and privately using the word 'engineer' throughout the pendency of this litigation." Jarlstrom's attorneys say this is a promising sign and a "critical first step in protecting Oregonians' First Amendment rights."

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Technology Is Making the World More Unequal; Only Technology Can Fix This
Posted by News Fetcher on May 31 '17 at 07:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's power-of-technology department:
mspohr shares an excerpt from an article written by Cory Doctorow via The Guardian: The inequality of badly-run or corrupt states is boosted by the power of technology -- but it's also easier than ever to destabilize these states, thanks to technology. The question is: which future will prevail?" [The article discusses two sides to the issue:] Here's the bad news: technology -- specifically, surveillance technology -- makes it easier to police disaffected populations, and that gives badly run, corrupt states enough stability to get themselves into real trouble. Here's the good news: technology -- specifically, networked technology -- makes it easier for opposition movements to form and mobilize, even under conditions of surveillance, and to topple badly run, corrupt states. Long before the internet radically transformed the way we organize ourselves, theorists were predicting we'd use computers to achieve ambitious goals without traditional hierarchies -- but it was a rare pundit who predicted that the first really successful example of this would be an operating system (GNU/Linux), and then an encyclopedia (Wikipedia). [Cory also has a new novel, Walkaway , which explores these ideas further.] The future will see a monotonic increase in the ambitions that loose-knit groups can achieve. My new novel, Walkaway, tries to signpost a territory in our future in which the catastrophes of the super-rich are transformed into something like triumphs by bohemian, anti-authoritarian "walkaways" who build housing and space programs the way we make encyclopedias today: substituting (sometimes acrimonious) discussion and (sometimes vulnerable) networks for submission to the authority of the ruling elites.

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EFF Sues FBI For Records About Paid Best Buy Geek Squad Informants
Posted by News Fetcher on May 31 '17 at 06:23 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's under-the-table department:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the FBI for records "about the extent to which it directs and trains Best Buy employees to conduct warrantless searches of people's devices." The lawsuit stems around an incident in 2011 where a gynecology doctor took his computer for repairs at Best Buy's Geek Squad. The repair technician was a paid FBI informant that found child pornography on the doctor's computer, ultimately resulting in the doctor being charged with possessing child pornography. From the EFF's report: A federal prosecution of a doctor in California revealed that the FBI has been working for several years to cultivate informants in Best Buy's national repair facility in Brooks, Kentucky, including reportedly paying eight Geek Squad employees as informants. According to court records in the prosecution of the doctor, Mark Rettenmaier, the scheme would work as follows: Customers with computer problems would take their devices to the Geek Squad for repair. Once Geek Squad employees had the devices, they would surreptitiously search the unallocated storage space on the devices for evidence of suspected child porn images and then report any hits to the FBI for criminal prosecution. Court records show that some Geek Squad employees received $500 or $1,000 payments from the FBI. At no point did the FBI get warrants based on probable cause before Geek Squad informants conducted these searches. Nor are these cases the result of Best Buy employees happening across potential illegal content on a device and alerting authorities. Rather, the FBI was apparently directing Geek Squad workers to conduct fishing expeditions on people's devices to find evidence of criminal activity. Prosecutors would later argue, as they did in Rettenmaier's case, that because private Geek Squad personnel conducted the searches, there was no Fourth Amendment violation. The judge in Rettenmaier's case appeared to agree with prosecutors, ruling earlier this month that because the doctor consented both orally and in writing to the Geek Squad's search of his device, their search did not amount to a Fourth Amendment violation. The court, however, threw out other evidence against Rettenmaier after ruling that FBI agents misstated key facts in the application for a warrant to search his home and smartphone. We disagree with the court's ruling that Rettenmaier consented to a de-facto government search of his devices when he sought Best Buy's help to repair his computer. But the court's ruling demonstrates that law enforcement agents are potentially exploiting legal ambiguity about when private searches become government action that appears intentionally designed to try to avoid the Fourth Amendment.

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Amazon Is Refunding Up To $70 Million In-App Purchases Made By Kids
Posted by News Fetcher on May 31 '17 at 06:23 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's money-back-guaranteed department:
The Federal Trade Commission announced that refunds are now available for parents whose children made in-app purchases without their knowledge. Amazon dropped its appeal of last year's ruling by a federal judge who sided with the Federal Trade Commission in the agency's lawsuit again Amazon. According to a TechCrunch report, "the FTC's original complaint said that Amazon should be liable for millions of dollars it charged customers, because of the way its Appstore software was designed -- that is, it allowed kids to spend unlimited amounts of money in games and other apps without requiring parental consent." CNNMoney reports: According to the FTC, more than $70 million in charges may be eligible for refunds on in-app purchases made between November 2011 and May 2016. In 2014, Apple and Google refunded customers whose children made purchases in their mobile app stores, and the companies were forced to be more explicit about in-app purchases. Both firms no longer call apps "free" when they are free to download but have upgrades you can buy. Amazon sent eligible consumers an email to receive a refund. If you didn't get one and think you should be eligible, you can click here, or go to the Message Center to find out more information.

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Qualcomm, Microsoft Announce Snapdragon 835 PCs With Gigabit LTE
Posted by News Fetcher on May 31 '17 at 04:52 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's PC-platform department:
Microsoft and Qualcomm have announced that Windows 10 is coming to devices made by Asus, HP and Lenovo that will run on the Snapdragon 835 platform. "The Snapdragon 835 chip, incorporating Qualcomm's latest X16 LTE modem, forms the basis of the Snapdragon Mobile PC Platform," reports Ars Technica. "Qualcomm claims that using the Snapdragon platform will offer a combination of the PC form factor and breadth of software with features that are standard in smartphones: on-the-go connectivity, light weight, silent operation, long battery life, and no fan." From the report: Qualcomm says that PCs built using the new chips will offer up to 50 percent more battery life than x86 systems, with four- to five-times longer standby times. They'll take the Connected Standby capability already found in some Windows PCs -- this allows the system to do things like sync mail and receive notifications even when "sleeping" -- and make it better, thanks to their LTE connectivity. With a Snapdragon inside your PC, you'll no longer need Wi-Fi to fetch your latest e-mail and catch up on Twitter. Instead, you'll be able to get online wherever there's cellular connectivity. The X16 modem supports up to gigabit LTE connections, too. So as long as your network operator is cooperative and has embraced the cutting edge, this mobile connection will be fast, too. Asus, HP, and Lenovo are all planning to introduce Snapdragon Mobile PC systems at some unspecified time in the future, for some unspecified price. These machines will be laptop-style systems, just without the traditional x86 processor on the inside. Snapdragon 835 has a higher level of integration than Intel's mobile chips, enabling smaller motherboards. This in turn should tend to increase the space available for battery, or reduce the size and weight of machines, or perhaps even both.

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Motorcycle Gang Busted For Hacking and Stealing Over 150 Jeep Wranglers
Posted by News Fetcher on May 31 '17 at 04:52 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's justice-prevails department:
An anonymous reader writes: "The FBI has arrested members of a motorcycle gang accused to have hacked and stolen over 150 Jeep Wranglers from Southern California, which they later crossed the border into Mexico to have stripped down for parts," reports Bleeping Computer. What stands apart is how the gang operated. This involved gang members getting the Jeep Wrangler VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), accessing a proprietary Jeep database, and getting two codes needed to create a duplicate replacement key. Gang members used one code to cut the key, while they used the second code while stealing the car, connecting a handheld programming computer to the car, and programming the replacement key's chip, synchronizing it to the car's dashboard. All of this took under 2 minutes and was also possible because Jeep Wranglers allow thieves to pop the hood from the outside of the car and disable the alarm even before using their non-authenticated replacement key. Officials say that all the database queries for the stolen VIN codes came from a Jeep dealer in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Court documents don't say if the dealer cooperated or gang members hacked its system. The motorcycle gang's name was Hooligans and the sub-unit that stole the Jeeps was named Dirty 30.

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Man Fined $4,000 For 'Liking' Defamatory Posts on Facebook
Posted by News Fetcher on May 31 '17 at 03:33 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's know-your-rights department:
In what appears to be a first, a court in Switzerland has fined a man the equivalent of over $4,000 just for clicking the "like" button on what a judge said were defamatory Facebook comments. From a report: The court in Zurich found that the man indirectly endorsed and further distributed the comments by using the ubiquitous Facebook "like" button. The man, who was not named in the court's statement, "liked" several posts written by a third party that accused an animal rights activist of antisemitism, racism and fascism. In court, the man was not able to prove that the claims were accurate or could reasonably be held to be true. "The defendant clearly endorsed the unseemly content and made it his own," a statement from the court said. The court fined the man a total of 4,000 Swiss francs ($4,100). He has the right to appeal his sentence. Facebook said the case had "no direct link" to the company, and a spokesperson declined to comment.

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Silk Road Founder Loses Appeal and Will Serve Life
Posted by News Fetcher on May 31 '17 at 03:33 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-the-road department:
OutOnARock quotes a report from Yahoo: Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the darknet marketplace known as Silk Road, has lost his appeal of a 2015 conviction that has him serving a life sentence on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, according to a federal appeals court decision released Wednesday morning. Ulbricht argued that the district court that convicted him violated the Fourth Amendment -- which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures -- by wrongly denying his motion to suppress evidence, and that he was deprived of his right to a fair trial. "On the day of Ulbricht's arrest, the government obtained a warrant to seize Ulbricht's laptop and search it for a wide variety of information related to Silk Road and information that would identify Ulbricht as Dread Pirate Roberts," states the decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Downtown Manhattan. "Ulbricht moved to suppress the large quantity of evidence obtained from his laptop, challenging the constitutionality of that search warrant."

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Apple Is Manufacturing a Siri Speaker To Compete Against Google Home, Amazon Echo
Posted by News Fetcher on May 31 '17 at 02:13 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's always-listening department:
According to Bloomberg, Apple is manufacturing a Siri-controlled smart speaker that could debut as soon as its annual developer conference in June. "The device will differ from Amazon's Echo and Alphabet's Google Home speakers by offering virtual surround sound technology and deep integration with Apple's product lineup," reports Bloomberg. From the report: Introducing a speaker would serve two main purposes: providing a hub to automate appliances and lights via Apple's HomeKit system, and establishing a bulwark inside the home to lock customers more tightly into Apple's network of services. That would help combat the competitive threat from Google's and Amazon's connected speakers: the Home and Echo mostly don't support services from Apple. Without compatible hardware, users may be more likely to opt for the Echo or Home, and therefore use streaming music offerings such as Spotify, Amazon Prime Music or Google Play rather than Apple Music. Apple hopes that more advanced acoustics technology will give the speaker an edge over competitors, according to people with knowledge of the product's development. Along with generating virtual surround sound, the speakers being tested are louder and reproduce sound more crisply than rival offerings, the people said. Apple has also considered including sensors that measure a room's acoustics and automatically adjust audio levels during use, one of the people said. Apple will also likely let third-party services build products for the speaker. The device will be a hub for Apple's HomeKit home automation system, letting users control devices such as lights, door locks and window blinds.

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Parents Have No Right To Dead Child's Facebook Account, German Court Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on May 31 '17 at 02:13 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sensitive-topics department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A German court rejected a mother's demand on Wednesday that Facebook grant her access to her deceased daughter's account. In the ruling, which overturned a lower court's decision, the Berlin appeals court said the right to private telecommunications extended to electronic communication that was meant only for the eyes of certain people. In the Facebook case, the mother of a 15-year-old who was hit and killed by a subway train in Berlin in 2012 had sought access to her daughter's account to search for clues as to whether the girl had committed suicide. Facebook had refused access to the account, which had been memorialized, meaning it was effectively locked and served as a message board for friends and family to share memories. A regional court in Berlin had ruled in favor of the mother in late 2015, saying that the daughter's contract with Facebook passed to her parents according to German laws on inheritance. It had also said that the girl's right to privacy was not protected because she was a minor and it was up to her parents to protect her rights. The appeals court said on Wednesday that the right to private telecommunications outweighed the right to inheritance, and that the parents' obligation to protect their daughter's rights expired with her death.

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Netflix CEO Says Net Neutrality Is 'Not Our Primary Battle'
Posted by News Fetcher on May 31 '17 at 12:48 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-up department:
Speaking with Recode's Peter Kafka at the Code Conference today, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings explained his position on the current net neutrality debate that's happening at the FCC. Or, more to the point, he addressed the fact that he's been awfully quiet about it compared to how loudly he defended net neutrality in previous fights. From a report: "It's not narrowly important to us because we're big enough to get the deals we want," Hastings said. It was a candid admission: no matter what the FCC decides to do with Title II, Netflix isn't worried about its ability to survive. Hastings says that Netflix is "weighing in against" changing the current rules, but that "it's not our primary battle at this point" and "we don't have a special vulnerability to it." He does believe that smaller players are going to be harmed if net neutrality goes away, saying that "where net neutrality is really important is the Netflix of 10 years ago."

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