PayPal move blocks sales of school shooting video game

"Active Shooter" is branded as a "SWAT simulator" that lets players choose between being an active shooter terrorizing a school or the SWAT team. (YouTube/AP)
Updated 20 June 2018
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PayPal move blocks sales of school shooting video game

  • Acid Software said Tuesday that purchases of "Active Shooter" were "temporarily disabled"
  • Acid recently set up two websites for "Active Shooter" after the game was removed from the webpages of video game marketplace Steam and crowdfunding site Indiegogo

HARTFORD, Conn: The developer of a school shooting video game condemned by parents of slain children has lost the ability to sell its products online after being dumped by PayPal.
Acid Software said Tuesday that purchases of "Active Shooter" were "temporarily disabled" as its representatives tried to resolve the issues with PayPal. Acid's postings on Twitter and an online bulletin board included the hashtags "QuitCensoringUs," ''FreedomOfExpression" and "WeWillBeBack."
PayPal confirmed it closed the account.
"PayPal has a longstanding, well-defined and consistently enforced Acceptable Use Policy, and regardless of the individual or organization in question, we work to ensure that our services are not used to accept payments for activities that promote violence," the company, based in San Jose, California, said in a statement Wednesday.
"Active Shooter" is branded as a "SWAT simulator" that lets players choose between being an active shooter terrorizing a school or the SWAT team responding to the shooting. Players can choose a gun, grenade or knife, and civilian and police death totals are shown on the screen. Acid was selling an early version of the game online for $20 and plans to release a new version early next month.
Acid recently set up two websites for "Active Shooter" after the game was removed from the webpages of video game marketplace Steam and crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The removals followed complaints and online petitions by anti-gun violence advocates including parents of children killed in school shootings in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff died in February, and Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 children and staff died in 2012.
A company that hosted the new websites removed them last week after receiving similar complaints. But Acid got the sites back up and running by switching to Russian servers, said an Acid representative, Ata Berdyev, of Seattle.
"Active Shooter" was created by Anton Makarevskiy, a 21-year-old developer from Moscow, Russia, and is being marketed by his entity Acid Software. Berdyev is helping Makarevskiy promote the game.
Berdyev said Wednesday that the future of the game could now be in doubt.
"Seems like everyone in US trying to censor us, whilst not explaining what exactly we are violating," Berdyev said in a message to The Associated Press.


Amazon aims to make Alexa assistant bigger part of users’ lives

An overhauled Echo Dot smart speaker boasts much-improved sound and design while keeping the $50 price tag of the original. (Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 21 September 2018
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Amazon aims to make Alexa assistant bigger part of users’ lives

  • Alexa has gotten smarter, more conversational and even intuitive during the past year as teams at Amazon work hard on getting the digital assistant to better understand people
  • Alexa uses artificial intelligence to identify patterns in the lives of users, factoring in habits, weather, time of year and more

SEATTLE: From the kitchen to the car, Amazon on Thursday sought to make its Alexa digital assistant and online services a bigger part of people’s lives with an array of new products and partnerships.
Updates to the Internet giant’s Alexa-infused Echo smart speakers will allow them to tend to microwave cooking and even have “hunches” regarding what users may want or have forgotten.
When Alexa is told “corn on the cob,” a digital Echo speaker starts an AmazonBasics microwave oven in a faux home demonstration room, setting the preferred time and voicing what it is doing.
But when asked to add 30 seconds, Alexa paused and then started to play songs by the band “Thirty Seconds to Mars.”
Such misunderstandings are routine enough with smart speakers that they have become fodder for humor, and even cropped up while Amazon devices and services senior vice president David Limp showed off new devices in a nearby building a short time earlier.
Alexa has gotten smarter, more conversational and even intuitive during the past year as teams at Amazon work hard on getting the digital assistant to better understand people, according to Limp.Alexa is even developing a personality, complete with a favorite pet or beer.
It has also learned to understand whispers, responding in equally hushed tones in a feature to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
Amazon on Thursday teased a coming feature called Alexa Hunches that is designed to infuse the digital assistant with intuition. For example, when a user bids Alexa a good night, it might respond by mentioning they forgot to lock a door.
Alexa uses artificial intelligence to identify patterns in the lives of users, factoring in habits, weather, time of year and more. To know what is happening with other smart devices in a home, the Echo speaker needs to be connected to them.
Amazon recently passed the 20,000 mark for smart home devices made by the Seattle-based company or partners.
“We are really at a tipping point for the smart home,” Limp said while unveiling a cornucopia of new devices.
An overhauled Echo Dot smart speaker boasts much-improved sound and design while keeping the $50 price tag of the original.
Amazon added Echo equivalents of stereo components for home sound systems, along with improvements to its online music service, with partners including Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer.
Limp unveiled a “frustration free setup” platform intended to grow into a framework that any smart device maker can use to make getting gadgets to talk to Alexa as easy as plugging them into an outlet.
“That is not going to happen overnight,” Limp said. “As we imagine a future that has thousands of these devices in your home, this is going to become absolutely essential.”
And, of course, there was the $60 microwave, which Limp contended was a strong test because of how much microwaves interfere with wireless connectivity used by devices to communicate.
A freshly announced Alexa Guard service synchronizes with Echo speakers in the home and security cameras from Amazon-owned smart doorbell maker Ring.
When Echo speakers are set to guard mode, they listen for breaking glass or the sound of alarms from smoke or carbon dioxide detectors and send alerts to smartphones or even security companies.
Ring cameras can also be connected to Echo devices with screens, letting people see who has come calling, demonstrations showed.
A new Echo Show device boasted twice the screen display area as its predecessor, and Fire TV Recast that acts as a digital recorder for traditional television broadcasts.
Not satisfied with being built into new cars, Alexa will be able to work in older models with an Echo Auto device that can be affixed to dashboards and reach the Internet through smartphones.
“Amazon launched today what I believe is the industry’s largest assortment of home automation products and added meaningful improvements to its services,” said analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights and Strategy.
“The company once again separated itself again in the smart home space from both Google and Apple by adding new devices and capabilities.”