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FTC brings its first case against fake paid reviews on Amazon – TechCrunch

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The Federal Trade Commission announced on Tuesday evening that it has brought its first case against using fake reviews to sell products online. The Commission said it will settle with defendant Cure Encapsulations Inc., a New York City-based company, and owner Naftula Jacobwitz, who it accused of making false claims about a weight loss supplement and paying a third-party website to post fake reviews on Amazon.

Fake reviews are a constant nuisance for Amazon shoppers, despite algorithms designed to safeguard its review system, and the company has hit back with a series of lawsuits against websites that offer to post fake verified reviews.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Cure Encapsulations sold pills with garcinia cambogia, a tropical fruit also called brindleberry that is sometimes used as a “natural” weight loss aid. Called Quality Encapsulations Garcinia Cambogia, the pills were sold only on Amazon. Jacobwitz paid a website called www.amazonverifiedreviews.com to post favorable reviews in order to boost its rating.

An exhibit from the FTC’s complaint against Cure Encapsulations Inc.

On October 8, 2014, Jacobowitz sent an email to the site’s operator saying he’d pay a total of $1,000 for 30 reviews, three per day, with the goal of increasing its 4.2 rating to 4.3, which he claimed was necessary in order to have sales. He also wrote that he wanted the product to “stay a five star.” Www.amazonverifiedreviews.com then posted a series of fake five-star reviews praising the pills. The FTC said the reviews made false claims, including that the pills were a powerful appetite suppressant, caused weight loss of up to 20 pounds, and blocked the formation of new fat cells.

The proposed settlement includes a judgement of $12.8 million, to be suspended upon payment of $50,000 to the FTC and certain unpaid income tax obligations. The settlement also bans Cure Encapsulations and Jacobwitz from making weight-loss, fat-blocking, or disease-treatment claims for dietary supplements, food, or drugs, unless they have reliable scientific evidence from clinical trials in humans. They are also prohibited from making misrepresentations about endorsements, including fake reviews, and must tell Amazon which reviews were faked and email customers who have bought the pills to give them information about FTC’s allegations.

In press release, Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said “When a company buys fake reviews to inflate its Amazon ratings, it hurts both shoppers and companies that play by the rules.”

In a statement to The Verge, an Amazon spokesperson said “We welcome the FTC’s work in this area. Amazon invests significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews in our store because we know customers value the insights and experiences shared by fellow shoppers. Even one inauthentic review is one too many. We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners and we suspend, ban, and take legal action on those who violate our policies.”

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Galaxy Z Fold 3 S Pen won’t have a dedicated slot

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Samsung will be unveiling its most powerful Galaxy in two weeks but that won’t be a smartphone as some might have hoped. Samsung’s most powerful Galaxy phone, however, might come earlier in July but it’s already proving to be a mixed bag. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 will, of course, be interesting because of its expected support for the S Pen but it might not have a silo similar to the Galaxy Note it will replace this year.

The story will almost be like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the first in the Galaxy S series to support the Wacom-powered Samsung stylus. It didn’t have a slot inside the phone to stash the S Pen inside and had to be bought separately. Samsung recommended some cases for making sure the S Pen didn’t get lost, something it will reportedly do with the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

According to the report hailing from South Korea, Samsung was still trying to make room for the S Pen inside the Galaxy Z Fold 3 until last month. It finally decided against it for two reasons. One is to ensure that the foldable phone will be as water and dust resistant as possible. This is definitely critical considering how the first Galaxy Fold easily broke when the minutest of particles entered its hinges.

The other reason might come as a disappointment, though, as Samsung reportedly ran out of space for the S Pen silo inside the phone. That’s despite rumors that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will have a smaller battery and a smaller internal screen than its predecessor. Hopefully, we’ll find out the reason for that in three months.

Samsung will reportedly offer a specialized case for keeping the S Pen, which would probably be a good idea anyway to protect the Galaxy Z Fold 3. That said, it might also ruin the otherwise luxurious appearance of the Galaxy Z Fold 3, at least based on renders, but it at least gives people the option of how they want to use the device.

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Chrome 90 makes HTTPS the default, brings AV1 codec for video chats

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The Web has definitely become a very different place compared to just a few years ago. Security has always been a consideration but never has it been more critical than these days when more people work at home with less than secure Internet connections. That same change in work situations has bumped up the need for WebRTC, a technology that already existed long before video conferencing was hip. Addressing both those concerns, Google is releasing Chrome 90 in an attempt to make working for home more secure and less stressful.

Google has been crusading around HTTPS or HTTP Secure even before the current pandemic hit. Using its clout as the maker of the world’s most used web browser (something that raises anticompetitive red flags), Google has been pushing site owners to use HTTPS by favoring the encrypted connection when using Chrome. As of Chrome 90, any address entered into the browser’s address bar will automatically default to HTTPS unless you specify the protocol explicitly or are working on localhost.

Beyond just being more secure, Google argues that this change of default behavior also has improvements in web page loading speed. That’s because many sites redirect HTTP to HTTPS, which takes up some time. Connecting to HTTPS directly can save a few seconds that eventually add up.

Chrome 90 also brings the AV1 encoder to the desktop web browser, the same codec used by Netflix for better video compression on mobile. In this case, however, AV1 is being used to optimize WebRTC or the Web Real-Time Communication technology which is used for video chats using web browsers like Chrome.

The latest version of Chrome also brings user-visible changes, particularly to the Reading List feature and searching in Tab Groups. What may be its most controversial change, however, is related to Google’s Privacy Sandbox, particularly the much-criticized FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) experiment to replace third-party tracking cookies.

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Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 teardown reveals beautiful complexity

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Some smartphones are getting more interesting again after the market has seemingly plateaued in design and innovation. Leave it to gaming smartphones, however, to really take the cake when it comes to pushing the envelope not just in terms of performance but also in design. After the very first ASUS ROG Phone, it is perhaps Lenovo’s latest Legion Phone Duel 2 that has the most peculiar quirks and features. And while it didn’t survive the durability test, JerryRigEverything’s teardown reveals just how unique the phone is on the inside.

The Legion Phone Duel 2 is already unique on the outside due to a design that is intended for horizontal (landscape) use. The front-facing camera hides in a popup mechanism off to the side and the rear cameras are located in the middle, safe from fingers when playing games. Unfortunately, that unique design, including the three-part segments of the backplate, makes traditional teardown processes almost impossible.

Fortunately, YouTuber Zack Nelson did break the phone apart into three so he was able to skip that and get to the meaty parts almost immediately. The one bump on that journey was the central glass back which, unfortunately, cracked during attempts to slice off the adhesive underneath. Once the backs, yes plural, have been removed, the phone reveals an internal design that may have never been used in any phone, other than the first Lenovo Legion phone, of course.

The inside of the Legion Phone Duel 2 is filled with cables connecting eight different pressure-sensitive areas that can be used for gaming controls, including two beneath the screen. It is also filled with a variety of cooling systems, such as the two fans and a large duct system that carries air between the two fans. It is really impressive that every inch of the phone is crammed with features, including that popup camera step motor that Nelson notes to actually be the most boring part of the phone.

Sadly, all that may have resulted in a structural design that turned out to be more fragile than the most premium-looking high-end phone. Disaster is easy enough to prevent with a case but, when accidents do happen, the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2’s design may not make repairs that easy or, more importantly, affordable.

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