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Twitch’s Trump ban sustained after leaving office

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Enlarge / Photo illustration of the Twitch logo on a smartphone.

On Wednesday, an automated alert about Twitch account bans included a somewhat surprising account name: “@DonaldTrump.” The surprise came because Twitch had already “indefinitely suspended” the former president’s official Twitch channel on January 7 in the wake of his January 6 speech inciting a seditious riot at the US Capitol.

Following this Wednesday alert, Twitch confirmed to Ars Technica that this was no accident: Trump’s account is indeed outright banned. Twitch continues to call the ban an “indefinite suspension,” but it has not offered any timeline for its return or steps that its account holders (either Trump himself or any representatives) may take to reverse the decision. Wednesday’s news lines up with a Tuesday claim by DW News reporter Dana Regev, who had hinted at Twitch waiting until after President Joe Biden’s inauguration to make a firmer ruling on the previous ban.

The service took the rare step of outlining the exact reason for the ban, a courtesy generally not reserved to those affected. This lack of clarity emerged in particular when Twitch offered no explanation for banning Guy “DrDisrespect” Beahm in the wake of spreading COVID-19 misinformation.

In Trump’s case, Twitch cited “the ongoing risk of further incitement of violence” as a primary reason for the ban. The statement, as issued to Ars Technica by a Twitch representative, continued:

The President’s statements continue to be interpreted as calls to action, and we are taking this action to remove the potential for harm to our community and the general public.

Twitch has clear rules that prohibit hateful conduct, harassment, or incitement of violence on our service, and we consider off-service events when making enforcement decisions. However, the events of the past weeks have highlighted a gap with respect to rhetoric that encourages violence, regardless of whether or not it was directly streamed on Twitch. We will be updating our policies as a result of our consideration of this situation.

Twitch has recently enacted sweeping new rules to allow moderators to take context into account when deciding whether content qualifies as “hateful” speech. In December, the company’s official channel cited specific gamer slang terms as examples of this context-sensitive approach, but the resulting video became widely cited as being an official ban on certain words and a hint of jargon whack-a-mole as opposed to an example of sweeping moderation changes to come.

Today’s statement strongly hints that Twitch’s rule-changing stance is far from over and that the company is clearly looking to enforce the rules, based on statements made outside of Twitch video streams.

Feels bad, man

The @DonaldTrump account, launched in October 2019, was used to either livestream or rebroadcast official Trump speeches and affiliated events as opposed to hosting the service’s usual gaming-related video streams—all while hosting a chat channel for the account’s followers. Twitch has long faced issues with chat toxicity, particularly with many streamers continuing to embrace the “Pepe frog” meme without denouncing white supremacists’ embrace of the icon (a fact that led its original creator to sue those who co-opted the image without his consent).

Trump’s Twitch account had been in hot water previously due to its rebroadcasts of rule-breaking speeches. His channel’s last temporary ban, enacted on June 29, happened because it had aired his notorious statements about Mexico “sending… rapists” to the United States.

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Famed Arthurian tale comes to silver screen in The Green Knight trailer

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Dev Patel stars as Sir Gawain in the forthcoming epic medieval fantasy film, The Green Knight.

An ambitious young knight of King Arthur’s Round Table makes an ill-advised bargain and embarks on a personal quest in the new trailer for The Green Knight, a forthcoming film by director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story) adapted from the famous 14th-century medieval poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Originally meant to debut at the 2020 SXSW festival, with a May 2020 theatrical release, the film was shelved in the face of the global pandemic. With theaters slowly reopening around the country (and the world), The Green Knight is finally being released this summer.

(Spoilers for the 14th-century medieval poem below.)

The original poem falls into the chivalric romance genre, relating a well-known story from Arthurian legend. (I highly recommend J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation from 1925 or Simon Armitage’s 2008 translation, recently revised.) On New Year’s Day, King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table gather at Camelot to feast and exchange gifts. A mysterious Green Knight disrupts the festivities and proposes a different kind of exchange: any one of the knights may strike him with one blow with his axe; in return, the Green Knight will come back in a year to return the blow. Sir Gawain, the youngest of the knights and nephew to Arthur, accepts the challenge and beheads the Green Knight. Everyone is shocked when the Green Knight picks up his severed head. He says Gawain must meet him at the Green Chapel one year hence to receive a similar blow, per their bargain.

As the deadline approaches, Gawain embarks on a quest to find the Green Chapel, having plenty of adventures and battles along the way. Finally, he arrives at a castle, and the lord and lady invite him to stay as their guest. The lord, Bertilak de Hautdesert, proposes another bargain: he will go out hunting every day and give Gawain whatever he catches, provided Gawain gives the lord anything he gains during the same day. And every day, the lady of the castle attempts to seduce the young knight while her husband is away. Gawain is caught between two competing codes: the code of chivalry demands that he not betray his host’s trust by sleeping with his wife, but the code of courtly love demands that he do whatever a damsel requests.

Kisses

He manages to courteously fend off the lady’s advances for two days, granting her only one and two kisses, respectively, which Gawain then passes on to the lord when he brings back a deer and a boar. On the third day, when Gawain once again spurns her advances, the lady tries to give him a gold ring. He declines the gift. But when she next offers him a green and gold silk sash that she swears will protect him from physical harm, Gawain—knowing his rendezvous with the Green Knight approaches—accepts in a moment of weakness, and the two exchange three kisses. He passes the three kisses on to the host when the lord returns with a fox, but Gawain doesn’t tell his host about the lady’s sash.

The next day, Gawain rides off to meet the Green Knight, who delivers the return blow. Gawain, who is wearing the sash, only suffers a minor nick on the neck. Technically, he “wins” their game, but the Green Knight reveals himself to be none other than Lord de Hautdesert and says that the entire yearlong scheme was meant to be a test of the Arthurian knights. Had Gawain told the lord about the sash, he would not have even suffered a slight wound on his neck. So Gawain’s victory is also a source of personal shame, even though the lord declares Gawain to be the most blameless knight in the realm.

There have been prior attempts to adapt Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for film and television, most notably director Stephen Weeks’ 1984 film, Sword of the Valiant, starring Sean Connery as the Green Knight. Both that film and Weeks’ earlier 1973 adaptation took considerable liberties with the original text—understandable, given the passage of centuries, but neither film proved successful. (Time Out’s reviewer even compared the poor production values of Sword of the Valiant unfavorably to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, although Connery received praise for his performance.)

Judging by the trailer, Lowery is also taking a few liberties with the source material. Per the official premise:

An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire), King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men. Gawain contends with ghosts, giants, thieves, and schemers in what becomes a deeper journey to define his character and prove his worth in the eyes of his family and kingdom by facing the ultimate challenger.

Ralph Ineson (Game of Thrones, Absentia) plays the Green Knight; Sean Harris (Prometheus, The Borgias) plays King Arthur; Katie Dickie (Game of Thrones, Prometheus) plays Guinevere; Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) is the lady; and Joel Edgerton (who played Gawain in Antoine Fuqua’s 2004 King Arthur) plays the lord. The cast also includes Barry Keoghan, Sarita Choudhury, and Erin Kellyman.

The Green Knight opens in theaters on July 30, 2021.

Listing image by A24

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Github reverses takedown of reverse-engineered GTA source code

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The reverse-engineered source code for the PC versions of Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City is back online today, months after it was originally posted and then quickly taken down due to a DMCA request from publisher Take-Two.

TorrentFreak reports on the restored version of the project, which was posted as a seemingly identical fork of the original by a New Zealand-based developer named Theo. While the original GitHub poster (who goes by the handle aac) has not contested Take-Two’s original takedown, Theo told TorrentFreak he filed a counterclaim to restore his copy of the project, saying it “contained no code owned by Take Two.”

A question of law

We’ve previously looked in depth at how video game fan coders use reverse-engineering techniques to deconstruct the packaged executable files distributed by a game’s original developers. This painstaking, function-by-function process creates raw programming code that can generate exactly the same binary file when compiled (though the code as distributed on GitHub still requires external, copyrighted art and sound assets from legitimate copies of the games).

In general, reverse-engineering source code from a compiled binary is less straightforwardly illegal than simply cracking a game’s DRM for piracy purposes, for instance. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains, US case law includes certain fair use exceptions that can allow for this kind of decompilation work for research or interoperability purposes.

In the case of Grand Theft Auto, though, the game’s End User License Agreement specifically asks players to agree not to “reverse engineer, decompile, disassemble, prepare derivative works based on or otherwise modify the Software, in whole or in part.” Back in 2005, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a similar anti-reverse-engineering EULA to take down BnetD, a reverse-engineered version of Blizzard’s Battle.net that allowed the service to be emulated on private servers.

Whatever the legal status of the code, Theo told TorrentFreak that he “believe[s] Take-Two’s claim to be wholly incorrect… since the code may be functionally identical, but not exactly identical, they hold no claim to the code.” So Theo filed a DMCA counterclaim requesting the affected code be reposted within ten to 14 days. When that time passed without notice of a formal legal filing by Take-Two, GitHub followed the DMCA guidelines and reposted the code nine days ago without ruling definitively on the merits of either claim.

Take-Two hasn’t responded to a request for comment from Ars Technica, so we don’t know if the publisher will go through the legal motions to remove the code again. For now, though, fans with the technical know-how can enjoy improvements made on top of the reverse-engineered code, such as bug fixes, reduced load times, improved rendering, widescreen monitor support, and a free-floating camera system, to name a few examples (not to mention derivative ports of the game to new platforms like Linux, Switch, and the PlayStation Vita).

Listing image by RockStar Games

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Our fave gentleman thief is back for revenge in trailer for Lupin part 2

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Omar Sy is back as Assane Diop, a modern-day gentleman thief who models himself on the classic French fictional character Arsène Lupin, in part 2 of Lupin, coming to Netflix on June 11.

The Netflix French original series Lupin proved to be an unexpected hit when it debuted earlier this year, purportedly racking up views in 70 million households in its first month. And there’s good news for those frustrated by part 1’s cliffhanger ending: we’ll soon find out what happens next, as Netflix just dropped a full trailer and release date for part 2 of the saga. Alas, the trailer is dubbed in English—quelle horreur!—which means we miss out on star Omar Sy’s dulcet tones. (Dear Netflix: it’s OK to have subtitled trailers for your foreign fare. In fact, it’s far, far preferable to bad dubbing.)

(Some spoilers for part 1 below.)

As I’ve written previously, Arsène Lupin is the creation of Maurice Leblanc, who based the character partly on a French burglar/anarchist. Relentlessly pursued by a detective named Ganimard, Lupin is captured stealing a woman’s jewels while on board a ship. Although he is imprisoned, he ultimately escapes before standing trial and goes on to pull off many other colorful heists.

The Netflix series is the creation of Louis Leterrier, who directed the 2013 heist thriller Now You See Me, in which a band of magicians pulls off ingenious robberies. So it’s easy to see why he would be drawn to this project.

We meet the Senegal-born Assane Diop (Sy) while he’s working as a janitor at the Louvre, surrounded by artwork worth millions. Currently on exhibit is a jeweled necklace that once belonged to Marie Antoinette, in advance of a public auction to sell the piece to the highest bidder. It was this recently recovered necklace that his father, Babakar (Fargass Assandé), was falsely accused by wealthy financier Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre) of stealing. Assane is out for revenge for his father’s subsequent suicide. After duping local gang members into pulling a decoy heist, Diop disguises himself as a wealthy potential buyer and crashes the auction—and ultimately walks away with the necklace.

That’s just the beginning of the story, as we learn more about Assane’s history—including his relationship with childhood sweetheart Claire (Ludivine Sagnier), the mother of his son—and why he has modeled his schemes on the exploits of Arsène Lupin. Elements drawn from various Lupin stories are cleverly woven throughout the series, most obviously “The Queen’s Necklace”—the title of the pilot episode, which incorporates several plot elements of the original story and also provides the inspiration for the name of Assane and Claire’s son: Raoul (Etan Simon). Captain Romain Laugier (Vincent Londez) and another detective, Youssef Guedira (Soufiane Guerrab), are part of the team investigating the Louvre heist, and both share traits with Ganimard.

Count me among those who thoroughly enjoyed part 1. “The series is briskly paced without sacrificing character development, capturing the essence of each character in deft strokes. The cast delivers strong performances across the board,” I wrote in my review earlier this year. “But it’s Sy’s Assane who anchors the series as the quintessential gentleman thief for the 21st century.” But I was also a fan of the original novels and short stories and was a little surprised at the huge success Lupin enjoyed around the world. And I wasn’t the only one. A bewildered French journalist interviewed me about why I thought audiences were responding so enthusiastically—while making it very clear he did not care for the show at all.

It’s partly because Netflix, in particular, has a gift for ferreting out solid foreign films and TV series likely to appeal to American tastes. And Lupin has just the right amount of universal appeal for audiences craving fresh fare while stuck at home during a global pandemic. In fact, it was a hit in households all around the world, including Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa.

The show even reached No. 1 in France, so that French journalist was in the minority. Who doesn’t love the dashing exploits of a gentleman thief? “This level of response is totally beyond me,” Sy told Deadline Hollywood earlier this year. “It’s great to see in Brazil or in France they loved Lupin for the same reason. There’s something universal, and that’s something I always try to achieve.”

The only bad thing about Lupin part 1 was that, at only five episodes, it was too short and ended on the mother of all cliffhangers, with Pellegrini’s henchmen kidnapping Assane’s son in retaliation for the theft of the diamond necklace and Assane’s attempt to make Pellegrini’s longstanding corruption public. Per the official part 2 premise: “Assane’s quest for revenge against Hubert Pellegrini has torn his family to pieces. With his back to the wall, he now has to think of a new plan, even if it means putting himself in danger.”

The trailer opens right where part 1 left off, with Assane’s son bound and gagged in a chair and Assane vowing revenge against Pellegrini. That’s going to be particularly difficult, since Pellegrini has used his media contacts to frame Assane for a crime he didn’t commit, and Assane is now the most wanted man in France. So Assane and his loyal ally, jeweler Benjamin Ferel (Antoine Gouy), decide to disappear for a bit to concoct a new plan while in hiding. Meanwhile, Pellegrini is setting a trap for our gentleman thief: a symphony performance in honor of Arsène Lupin. We get plenty of gorgeous shots of Paris, a car chase, and what looks like an epic showdown in the famous catacombs of Paris.

Lupin part 2 debuts on Netflix on June 11, 2021. Netflix has already renewed the series for a part 3, so we’ll be getting lots more of Assane’s dashing exploits in the future. And it’s the perfect time to binge all five episodes of part 1 if you haven’t already seen them.

Listing image by YouTube/Netflix

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