Facebook drone that could bring global internet access completes test flight

Mark Zuckerberg’s long-term plan for the Aquila drone is to have it and others provide internet access to 4bn people around the world who are in the dark

A solar-powered drone backed by Facebook that could one day provide worldwide internet access has completed a test flight in Arizona, after an earlier attempt ended with a crash landing.

Related: Facebook’s solar-powered drone under investigation after ‘accident’

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Internet regulation: is it time to rein in the tech giants?

Fake news and Isis propaganda have raised concern about the power of the web. But with cyberspace controlled by a handful of giant firms, can governments ever hope to curb them – and is that even desirable?

“Enough is enough,” said Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street after the London Bridge attack last month. “When it comes to taking on extremism and terrorism, things need to change.” And one of those things was the behaviour of internet firms, which should not allow extremism a place to breed. “Yet that is precisely what the internet – and the big companies that provide internet-based services – provide,” she continued.

May’s speech was only the latest example of the frustration among governments with the way that the internet, and internet companies, seem to elude and ignore the rules by which everyone else has to live. From encrypted apps used by terrorists (but also by peaceful activists) to online abuse, and fake news to hacking and radicalisation, the friction between the two sides is growing. France and Germany have implemented fines for companies that allow Nazi content to remain online, while in the US the FBI demanded that Apple write software to hack into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino killers, and took the firm to court when it refused.

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The biographical video games playing at real life

An emerging genre of games based on people’s real-life experiences is proving provocative and compelling

In my myriad careers as a video game player, I have waited tables in Diner Dash, manned trebuchets in Total War, driven cabs in Crazy Taxi, delivered newspapers as Paperboy and tilled fields in Farming Simulator. Play is work’s twin, and video games are characterised by their capacity to allow us to inhabit the vocations and occupations of others. In general, however, the people whose lives we dip into, playfully, are anonymous, or at least fictional. Literature has biography. Film has biopic. But the interactive biography (the biogame?) has been mostly absent from video games.

The closest the medium has come is perhaps in the realm of sports, where for more than three decades we have been able to assume the likeness and talents of superstar athletes, from 1984’s Daley Thompson’s Decathlon to any one of the thousands of footballers who populate each year’s Fifa. This is more aspirational role play than earnest biographical study, however. Tiger Woods was for years the cover star of EA’s flagship golfing series of video games, which in the manner of professional endorsements exclusively focused on his triumphs at the tee. The more sinewy fodder of Woods’s off-green breakdown was not only overlooked in games, but actively shunned: in 2013 the golfer’s lucrative contract with EA was not renewed.

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To tackle Google’s power, regulators have to go after its ownership of data

Long-term the aim is to find profitable uses for its stockpiled information

The problem with regulating technology companies is that, faced with tough new rules, they can eventually innovate their way out, often by switching to newer, unregulated technologies. The risk of targeted regulation informed by little other than economic doctrines might even be fuelling a corporate quest for eternal disruption: instead of surrendering to the regulators, technology firms prefer to abandon their old business model.

It’s through this lens that we should interpret the likely fallout from the €2.4bn fine imposed on Alphabet, Google’s parent company, by the European commission. It arrives after a lengthy, seven-year investigation into whether the company abused its dominance to promote its own online shopping service above search results. The commission’s case seems sound; the sad fate of small online retailers, unable to compete with Alphabet over the past decade, suggests as much.

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