Mr. Yang’s presidential campaign has catapulted out of obscurity thanks in part to a devoted online following, including some fans he’d rather not have

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“I’m getting support from quarters I wouldn’t have expected,” Mr. Yang said. Photo: Guerin Blask

If you visit online betting market PredictIt, you’ll see a long list of 2020 Democratic candidates, ranked in order of their odds of winning the party’s nomination for president, according to the site’s users.

Joe Biden, the former vice president, and Sen. Bernie Sanders top the list. Then come other well-known Democrats: Sen. Kamala Harris, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Yang, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Wait, hang on a minute. Andrew Yang?

This is not an algorithm glitch, it turns out. Yang, 44, an entrepreneur and political neophyte running on the idea that the United States should provide a universal basic income, is popping up in unexpected places in the Democratic contest. …

Senator Elizabeth Warren has an interesting plan for reform. But it has shortcomings worth considering.

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Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, has a proposal for breaking up big tech companies. Our columnist thinks it’s a bold first stab, but he has some thoughts on ways to improve it. Photo: Gabriela Bhaskar

Among the techies who attended the annual South By Southwest Interactive conference the past few days, the hottest topic of conversation — besides the swarms of drunken idiots careening around Austin on rented electric scooters — was Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s ground-shaking proposal to break up large tech companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook.

In her proposal, which she released on the eve of the conference, Warren argued that these companies have abused their power and harmed competition in two big ways.

The first is by offering their own products on platforms they control: Amazon giving preferential treatment to its house brands, or Apple promoting its own apps inside the iOS App Store. Warren, D-Mass., a presidential candidate, argues that the companies should be required to do one or the other — sell their own goods or run a third-party marketplace — but not both. …

I couldn’t read a book, watch a full-length movie, or sustain a long conversation. Late last year, I decided enough as enough.

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Who needs a smartphone when you’ve got ads for discount dentistry? Photography: Demetrius Freeman

What if stemming the tide of misinformation on YouTube mean punishing some of its biggest stars?

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Photograph: Corey Olsen

In January, YouTube star Shane Dawson uploaded his new project: a 104-minute documentary, “Conspiracy Theories With Shane Dawson.”

In the video, set to a spooky instrumental soundtrack, Dawson unspooled a series of far-fetched hypotheses. Among them: that iPhones secretly record their owners’ every utterance; that popular children’s TV shows contain subliminal messages urging children to kill themselves; that the recent string of deadly wildfires in California was set on purpose, either by homeowners looking to collect insurance money or by the military using a type of high-powered laser called a “directed energy weapon.”

None of this was fact-based, of course, and some of the theories seemed more like jokey urban legends than serious accusations. Still, his fans ate it up. The video has gotten more than 30 million views, a hit even by Dawson’s standards. A follow-up has drawn more than 20 million views and started a public feud with Chuck E. Cheese’s, the restaurant chain, which was forced to deny claims that it recycles customers’ uneaten pizza slices into new pizzas. …

The cold war between Facebook and Apple over data use and privacy is heating up. How far should Mr. Cook take it?

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Tim Cook, who has called privacy a “fundamental human right” and taken Facebook and Google to task for the misuse of user data in the past, could effectively become a technology regulator of last resort. Photo: Erica Yoon

It’s nowhere in his job description, but Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has recently taken a moonlight gig as Facebook’s privacy watchdog.

On Wednesday, Cook and his lieutenants took aim at Facebook for violating Apple’s rules with a research app that allowed Facebook to snoop on users’ online activity. Facebook promoted the app through an Apple program that gives trusted developers the ability to install apps for testing without going through the App Store’s normal approval process. …

After making billions of dollars and joining forces with Big Tobacco, Juul is trying to reinvent itself as a public-health crusader

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Juul is trying to rehabilitate its image as one of Silicon Valley’s most problematic start-ups. Photo: Eva Hambach/Getty Images

Juul Labs, the company behind the insanely popular vaping device, has a message for the nation’s estimated 37.8 million adult smokers:

It really, really, really cares about them. And it wants them (and onlythem — got that, teens?) to try vaping instead.

“For smokers. By design,” blares the company’s website. A new $10 million TV ad campaign, called “Make the Switch,” echoes that theme, featuring testimonials from ex-smokers, all comfortably above the legal smoking age, who have swapped their cigarettes for a Juul.

This benevolent-sounding mission — helping nicotine-addicted adult smokers switch to something far less likely to kill them — is Juul’s new pitch, and the way it hopes to rehabilitate its image as one of Silicon Valley’s most problematic start-ups. …

The tech industry’s obsession with “frictionless” design has been the source of innumerable problems

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By Kevin Roose

Seven years ago, a younger and more carefree Mark Zuckerberg went onstage at Facebook’s annual developer conference and announced a major change to the social network’s design.

Until then, apps connected to Facebook would regularly ask users if they wanted to publish their latest activity to their feed on the social network. Those pop-up messages — from apps like Spotify, Netflix and The Washington Post — were annoying, Zuckerberg said, so the company had created a new category of apps that could post directly to users’ feeds, without asking for permission every time.

“From here on out, it’s a frictionless experience,” Zuckerberg said. …


Kevin Roose

Tech columnist, New York Times. Author of Young Money.

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