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Thursday, March 16, 2023

Why Is TikTok Being Banned? - The New York Times

Why Countries Are Trying to Ban TikTok

Governments have expressed concerns that TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, may endanger sensitive user data.

The logo of TikTok, a stylized symbol resembling a musical note and followed by the name of the social media platform, is shown outside the company’s building in Culver City, California.
TikTok has long denied allegations that it puts sensitive user data into the hands of the Chinese government.Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In recent months, lawmakers in the United States, Europe and Canada have escalated efforts to restrict access to TikTok, the massively popular short-form video app that is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, citing security threats.

The White House told federal agencies on Feb. 27 that they had 30 days to delete the app from government devices. Britain, Canada and the executive arm of the European Union also recently banned the app from official devices.

A House committee two days later backed an even more extreme step, voting to advance legislation that would allow President Biden to ban TikTok from all devices nationwide.

Here’s why the pressure has been ratcheted up on TikTok, which has said that it is used by more than 100 million Americans.

Why are governments banning TikTok?

It all comes down to China.

Lawmakers and regulators in the West have increasingly expressed concern that TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, may put sensitive user data, like location information, into the hands of the Chinese government. They have pointed to laws that allow the Chinese government to secretly demand data from Chinese companies and citizens for intelligence-gathering operations. They are also worried that China could use TikTok’s content recommendations for misinformation.

TikTok has long denied such allegations and has tried to distance itself from ByteDance.

Have any countries banned TikTok?

India banned the platform in mid-2020, costing ByteDance one of its biggest markets, as the government cracked down on 59 Chinese-owned apps, claiming that they were secretly transmitting users’ data to servers outside India.

A person in dark lighting looks at a phone.
Most of the existing TikTok bans have been implemented at governments and universities that have the power to keep an app off their devices or networks.Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

What’s happening with bans in the United States?

Since November, more than two dozen states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices and many colleges — like the University of Texas at Austin, Auburn University, and Boise State University — have blocked it from campus Wi-Fi networks. The app has already been banned for three years on U.S. government devices used by the Army, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and the Coast Guard. But the bans typically don’t extend to personal devices. And students often just switch to cellular data to use the app.

Is Congress trying to ban TikTok?

Some members would like to. In early March, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to approve a bill that could grant a president the authority to ban the platform entirely. (Courts previously stopped a Trump administration effort to do this.)

In January, a Republican senator, Josh Hawley of Missouri, introduced a bill to ban TikTok for all Americans after pushing for a measure, which passed in December as part of a spending package, that banned TikTok on all devices issued by the federal government. A separate bipartisan bill, introduced in December, also sought to ban TikTok and target any similar social media companies from countries like Russia and Iran.

What is the Biden administration doing?

TikTok said this week that the Biden administration wants its Chinese ownership to sell the app or face a possible ban. The administration has been largely quiet, though the White House recently pointed to an ongoing review, in response to questions about TikTok. TikTok has been in yearslong confidential talks with the administration’s review panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, to address questions about TikTok and ByteDance’s relationship with the Chinese government and the handling of user data. TikTok said that in August it submitted a 90-page proposal detailing how it planned to operate in the United States while addressing national security concerns.

Can the government ban an app?

Most of the existing TikTok bans have been implemented at governments and universities that have the power to keep an app off their devices or networks.

A broader, government-imposed ban that stops Americans from using an app that allows them to share their views and art could face legal challenges on First Amendment grounds, said Caitlin Chin, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. After all, large numbers of Americans, including elected officials and major news organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post, now produce videos on TikTok.

“In democratic governments, the government can’t just ban free speech or expression without very strong and tailored grounds to do so and it’s just not clear that we have that yet,” said Ms. Chin.

What if I already have TikTok on my phone when a ban is issued?

The exact mechanism for banning an app on privately owned phones is unclear.

Ms. Chin said that the United States could block TikTok from selling advertisements or making updates to its systems, essentially making it nonfunctional.

Apple and other companies that operate app stores do block downloads of apps that no longer work. They also ban apps that carry inappropriate or illegal content, said Justin Cappos, a professor at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering.

They also have the ability to remove apps installed on a user’s phone. “That usually doesn’t happen,” he said.

Determined users might also be able to fight a ban by refusing to update their phones, “which is a bad idea,” Professor Cappos said.

The TikTok logo appears on a phone as a person sits at a table of food.
Since November, more than two dozen states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices and many colleges.Shuran Huang for The New York Times

What has TikTok’s response been?

TikTok has referred to the bans as “political theater” and criticized lawmakers for attempting to censor Americans. “The swiftest and most thorough way to address any national security concerns about TikTok is for CFIUS to adopt the proposed agreement that we worked with them on for nearly two years,” Brooke Oberwetter, a spokeswoman for TikTok, said in a statement. Separately, TikTok has been trying to win allies, recently making an uncharacteristic push in Washington to meet with influential think tanks, public interest groups and lawmakers to promote the plan it submitted to the government.

How are TikTok’s privacy and security issues different from Instagram’s, Facebook’s or Twitter’s?

Chinese ownership seems to be the main issue.

Critics of the efforts to ban the platform have pointed out that all social media networks engage in rampant collection of their users’ data.

Fight for the Future, a nonprofit digital rights group, recently waged a #DontBanTikTok campaign with the goal of redirecting lawmakers’ attention on TikTok to creating data and privacy laws that would apply to all Big Tech companies.

“The general consensus from the privacy community is that TikTok collects a lot of data, but it’s not out of step with the amount of data collected by other apps,” said Robyn Caplan, a senior researcher at Data & Society Research Institute.

Who else opposes a ban?

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter in late February to the House Foreign Affairs Committee to protest its bill, saying that the legislation would violate Americans’ First Amendment rights.

Of course, millions of Americans, digital creators and marketers would hate to see the platform go away, and blocking a popular app could create a political backlash among young people.

What can I do right now to protect my data if I use TikTok?

To protect your privacy on TikTok, you can employ the same practices used to protect yourself on other social media platforms. That includes not giving apps permission to access your location or contacts.

You can also watch TikTok videos without opening an account.

What are other approaches besides a ban?

The administration could approve TikTok’s plan for operating in the United States. There is also a chance that lawmakers would force ByteDance to sell TikTok to an American company — which almost happened in 2020."

Why Is TikTok Being Banned? - The New York Times

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

How Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant Lost the AI Race - The New York Times

How Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant Lost the A.I. Race

"The virtual assistants had more than a decade to become indispensable. But they were hampered by clunky design and miscalculations, leaving room for chatbots to rise.

Patrick Edell

By Brian X. ChenNico Grant and Karen Weise

Brian X. Chen, The Times’s lead consumer technology writer, and Nico Grant, who covers Google, reported from San Francisco. Karen Weise, who writes about Amazon, is based in Seattle.

On a rainy Tuesday in San Francisco, Apple executives took the stage in a crowded auditorium to unveil the fifth-generation iPhone. The phone, which looked identical to the previous version, had a new feature that the audience was soon buzzing about: Siri, a virtual assistant.

Scott Forstall, then Apple’s head of software, pushed an iPhone button to summon Siri and prodded it with questions. At his request, Siri checked the time in Paris (“8:16 p.m.,” Siri replied), defined the word “mitosis” (“Cell division in which the nucleus divides into nuclei containing the same number of chromosomes,” it said) and pulled up a list of 14 highly rated Greek restaurants, five of them in Palo Alto, Calif.

“I’ve been in the A.I. field for a long time, and this still blows me away,” Mr. Forstall said.

That was 12 years ago. Since then, people have been far from blown away by Siri and competing assistants that are powered by artificial intelligence, like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. The technology has largely remained stagnant, and the talking assistants have become the butt of jokes, including in a 2018 “Saturday Night Live” sketch featuring a smart speaker for seniors.

The tech world is now gushing over a different kind of virtual assistant: chatbots. These A.I.-powered bots, such as ChatGPT and the new ChatGPT Plus from the San Francisco company OpenAI, can improvise answers to questions typed into a chat box with alacrity. People have used ChatGPT to handle complex tasks like coding software, drafting business proposals and writing fiction.

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And ChatGPT, which uses A.I. to guess what word comes next, is rapidly improving. A few months ago, it couldn’t write a proper haiku; now it can do so with gusto. On Tuesday, OpenAI unveiled its next-generation A.I. engine, GPT-4, which powers ChatGPT.

The excitement around chatbots illustrates how Siri, Alexa and other voice assistants — which once elicited similar enthusiasm — have squandered their lead in the A.I. race.

Over the past decade, the products hit roadblocks. Siri ran into technological hurdles, including clunky code that took weeks to update with basic features, said John Burkey, a former Apple engineer who worked on the assistant. Amazon and Google miscalculated how the voice assistants would be used, leading them to invest in areas with the technology that rarely paid off, former employees said. When those experiments failed, enthusiasm for the technology waned at the companies, they said.

Voice assistants are “dumb as a rock,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in an interview this month with The Financial Times, declaring that newer A.I. would lead the way. Microsoft has worked closely with OpenAI, investing $13 billion in the start-up and incorporating its technology into the Bing search engine, as well as other products.

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Apple declined to comment on Siri. Google said it was committed to providing a great virtual assistant to help people on their phones and inside their homes and cars; the company is separately testing a chatbot called Bard. Amazon said that it saw a 30 percent increase in customer engagement globally with Alexa in the last year and that it was optimistic about its mission to build world-class A.I.

Alexa, the voice assistant, was embedded in Amazon’s Echo devices.
Grant Hindsley for The New York Times

The assistants and the chatbots are based on different flavors of A.I. Chatbots are powered by what are known as large language models, which are systems trained to recognize and generate text based on enormous data sets scraped off the web. They can then suggest words to complete a sentence.

In contrast, Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant are essentially what are known as command-and-control systems. These can understand a finite list of questions and requests like “What’s the weather in New York City?” or “Turn on the bedroom lights.” If a user asks the virtual assistant to do something that is not in its code, the bot simply says it can’t help.

Siri also had a cumbersome design that made it time-consuming to add new features, said Mr. Burkey, who was given the job of improving Siri in 2014. Siri’s database contains a gigantic list of words, including the names of musical artists and locations like restaurants, in nearly two dozen languages.

That made it “one big snowball,” he said. If someone wanted to add a word to Siri’s database, he added, “it goes in one big pile.”

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So seemingly simple updates, like adding some new phrases to the data set, would require rebuilding the entire database, which could take up to six weeks, Mr. Burkey said. Adding more complex features like new search tools could take nearly a year. That meant there was no path for Siri to become a creative assistant like ChatGPT, he said.

Alexa and Google Assistant relied on technology similar to Siri’s, but the companies struggled to generate meaningful revenue with the assistants, former managers at Amazon and Google said. (In contrast, Apple successfully used Siri to entice buyers to its iPhones.)

After Amazon released the Echo, a smart speaker powered by Alexa, in 2014, the company hoped the product would help it increase sales in its online store by enabling consumers to talk to Alexa to place orders, said a former Amazon leader involved with Alexa. But while people had fun playing with Alexa’s ability to answer weather prompts and set alarms, few asked Alexa to order items, he added.

Amazon may have overinvested in making new kinds of hardware, like now-discontinued alarm clocks and microwaves that worked with Alexa, which sold at or below cost, the former executive said.

The company also underinvested in creating an ecosystem for people to easily expand Alexa’s abilities, in the way that Apple had done with its App Store, which helped stoke interest in the iPhone, the person said. While Amazon offered a “skills” store to make Alexa control third-party accessories like light switches, it was difficult for people to find and set up skills for the speakers — unlike the friction-free experience of downloading mobile apps from app stores.

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“We never had that App Store moment for the assistants,” said Carolina Milanesi, a consumer technology analyst for the research firm Creative Strategies who was a consultant for Amazon.

Late last year, the Amazon division working on Alexa was a major target of the company’s 18,000 layoffs, and a number of top Alexa executives have left the company.

Kinley Pearsall, an Amazon spokeswoman, said Alexa was much more than a voice assistant, and “we’re as optimistic about that mission as ever.”

Google Assistant was included in the company’s home devices, such as the Google Home Mini smart speaker.
Smith Collection/Gado, via Getty Images

Amazon’s misfires with Alexa may have led Google astray, said a former manager who worked on Google Assistant. Google engineers spent years experimenting with its assistant to mimic what Alexa could do, including designing smart speakers and voice-controlled tablet screens to control home accessories like thermostats and light switches. The company later integrated ads into those home products, which did not become a major source of revenue.

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Over time, Google realized that most people used the voice assistant only for a limited number of simple tasks, such as starting timers and playing music, the former manager said. In 2020, when Prabhakar Raghavan, a Google executive, took over Google Assistant, his group refocused the virtual companion as a marquee feature for Android smartphones.

In January, when Google’s parent company laid off 12,000 employees, the team working on operating systems for home devices lost 16 percent of its engineers.

Many of the big tech companies are now racing to come up with responses to ChatGPT. At Apple’s headquarters last month, the company held its annual A.I. summit, an internal event for employees to learn about its large language model and other A.I. tools, two people who were briefed on the program said. Many engineers, including members of the Siri team, have been testing language-generating concepts every week, the people said.

On Tuesday, Google also said it would soon release generative A.I. tools to help businesses, governments and software developers build applications with embedded chatbots, and incorporate the underlying technology into their systems.

In the future, the technologies of chatbots and voice assistants will converge, A.I. experts said. That means people will be able to control chatbots with speech, and those who use Apple, Amazon and Google products will be able to ask the virtual assistants to help them with their jobs, not just tasks like checking the weather.

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“These products never worked in the past because we never had human-level dialogue capabilities,” said Aravind Srinivas, a founder of Perplexity, an A.I. start-up that offers a chatbot-powered search engine. “Now we do.”

How Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant Lost the AI Race - The New York Times

Monday, March 13, 2023

What is Happening with Samsung's Camera?

Tempted by a new gadget? Keep the Golden Rule in mind before buying - The Washington Post

Tempted by a new gadget? Keep the golden rule in mind before buying.

Companies would be thrilled if you bought new devices every year. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

We get lots of questions here at the Help Desk and are always keen to tackle your most troublesome tech conundrums. But if there’s just one I’ve heard the most over the years, it is: “I’ve had [insert gadget name here] for [usually not a long time] — should I get the new one?”

Tech reporter Chris Velazco helps his colleagues decide whether or not they should consider upgrading their smartphone. (Video: Monica Rodman/The Washington Post)

Oftentimes, that question is born of honest curiosity — someone really wants to know if the promises a company has made about some new product are worth buying into. Other people, however, have already made up their minds about buying something new and are just looking for someone to validate their choices.

No matter why people ask, though, my answer is almost always the same: If it isn’t seriously broken, and you got whatever it is less than two years ago, don’t even think about replacing it.

That’s my golden rule for gadget shopping, and I admit it sounds like a pretty obvious rule of thumb. But as long as companies churn out new smartphones, laptops, wearable gadgets and more for sale each year — and then advertise them like crazy — it can be a little too easy to splurge on an upgrade that may not move the satisfaction needle for you.

Our advice: Resist that temptation whenever you can. Not only will your bank account thank you, but the upgrade you do invest in down the road also is likely to feel fresher and more capable because you’ve allowed for the underlying technology to mature further before embracing it.

As straightforward as my rule is, there are a few things about it that we should unpack, such as why the threshold is two years, and what qualifies as “seriously” broken.

Barring accidents and, say, defects stemming from production, the first year with a new gadget is likely to be your best year with it. And by the time you tiptoe past the first anniversary of your purchase, you’ve probably built up some considerable experience with it — which means you have a pretty good sense of how well it’s supposed to run.

Keep that baseline in mind as you continue using your device.

In my experience, it’s after the second year that things you may have taken for granted before — like performance or battery life, if the gadget in question has a battery — can really start turning south.

These kinds of consumer gadgets receive software and security updates for more than two years; in fact, it’s not uncommon for products from companies including Samsung and Apple to receive four or more years of updates. The hardware, by comparison, may struggle to last as long.

That’s not to say a phone, laptop or a smartwatch will suddenly go batty after two years; the process is usually much more subtle than that. Hang onto a device long enough, though, and you’ll hit a point where it runs too slowly or the battery doesn’t last long enough for your comfort. It’s only after that point that we’d recommend you think about upgrading — or if possible, repairing — your device.

What makes a device ‘seriously’ broken?

Let’s say that you have a smartphone that does everything you want it to and that you’ve been satisfied with everything about it except its battery life. It wasn’t always this way, though; early on, you could count on your phone to last full days, but now it barely gets you through lunchtime.

Is it worth upgrading then?

We don’t think so. The details will depend on your phone’s model, but you can generally expect to pay $100 (plus tax) or less to get a genuine replacement battery installed. You could spend even less if you felt like taking a stab at the process yourself. (I spent a weekend not too long ago dismantling old Samsung phones to remove their old bloated batteries, a process that wound up being way more pleasant and contemplative than I expected.)

Paying $100 or so to fix your phone’s biggest issue isn’t nothing, but it’s a fraction of what a brand new model would cost you. If the problem is a little more complicated, such as a shattered screen, expect potential repair costs to go up a bit. Apple’s estimates for out-of-warranty screen replacements range from $129 for aging devices like the 2016 iPhone SE to about $379 for the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Even at the high end, those costs still may make a repair a better choice than a full-on upgrade if you’re satisfied with everything else. I’d consider a device to be “seriously” broken — and therefore worth considering writing off — only once the potential repair costs hit 50 percent of the cost of a new model.

At that point, do whatever feels right for you and your budget, and don’t forget to recycle, trade in or upcycle that older device once you’ve done with it."

Tempted by a new gadget? Keep the Golden Rule in mind before buying - The Washington Post

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Opinion | ‘The Death Knell for Higher Education in Florida’ - The New York Times

The Chatbots Are Here, and the Internet Industry Is in a Tizzy

"The new technology could upend many online businesses. But for companies that figure out how to work with it, A.I. could be a boon.

An illustration of a man’s face, partly hidden by blocks that resemble parts of a computer.
Anthony Gerace

SAN FRANCISCO — When Aaron Levie, the chief executive of Box, tried a new A.I. chatbot called ChatGPT in early December, it didn’t take him long to declare, “We need people on this!”

He cleared his calendar and asked employees to figure out how the technology, which instantly provides comprehensive answers to complex questions, could benefit Box, a cloud computing company that sells services that help businesses manage their online data.

Mr. Levie’s reaction to ChatGPT was typical of the anxiety — and excitement — over Silicon Valley’s new new thing. Chatbots have ignited a scramble to determine whether their technology could upend the economics of the internet, turn today’s powerhouses into has-beens or create the industry’s next giants.

Not since the iPhone has the belief that a new technology could change the industry run so deep. Cloud computing companies are rushing to deliver chatbot tools, even as they worry that the technology will gut other parts of their businesses. E-commerce outfits are dreaming of new ways to sell things. Social media platforms are being flooded with posts written by bots. And publishing companies are fretting that even more dollars will be squeezed out of digital advertising.

The volatility of chatbots has made it impossible to predict their impact. In one second, the systems impress by fielding a complex request for a five-day itinerary, making Google’s search engine look archaic. A moment later, they disturb by taking conversations in dark directions and launching verbal assaults.

The result is an industry gripped with the question: What do we do now?

“Everybody is agitated,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence. “There’s a lot of value to be won or lost.”

Rarely have so many tech sectors been simultaneously exposed. The A.I. systems could disrupt $100 billion in cloud spending, $500 billion in digital advertising and $5.4 trillion in e-commerce sales, according to totals from IDC, a market research firm, and GroupM, a media agency.

Google, perhaps more than any other company, has reason to both love and hate the chatbots. It has declared a “code red” because their abilities could be a blow to its $162 billion business showing ads on searches.

But Google’s cloud computing business could be a big winner. Smaller companies like Box need help building chatbot tools, so they are turning to the giants that process, store and manage information across the web. Those companies — Google, Microsoft and Amazon — are in a race to provide businesses with the software and substantial computing power behind their A.I. chatbots.

Manish Chandra, the chief executive of Poshmark, imagines new approaches to e-commerce through artificial intelligence.Jason Henry for The New York Times

“The cloud computing providers have gone all in on A.I. over the last few months,” said Clément Delangue, head of the A.I. company Hugging Face, which helps run open-source projects similar to ChatGPT. “They are realizing that in a few years, most of the spending will be on A.I., so it is important for them to make big bets.”

When Microsoft introduced a chatbot-equipped Bing search engine last month, Yusuf Mehdi, the head of Bing, said the company was wrestling with how the new version would make money. Advertising will be a major driver, he said, but the company expects fewer ads than traditional search allows.

“We’re going to learn that as we go,” Mr. Mehdi said.

As Microsoft figures out a chatbot business model, it is forging ahead with plans to sell the technology to others. It charges $10 a month for a cloud service, built in conjunction with the OpenAI lab, that provides developers with coding suggestions, among other things.

Google has similar ambitions for its A.I. technology. After introducing its Bard chatbot last month, the company said its cloud customers would be able to tap into that underlying system for their own businesses.

But Google has not yet begun exploring how to make money from Bard itself, said Dan Taylor, a company vice president of global ads. It considers the technology “experimental,” he said, and is focused on using the so-called large language models that power chatbots to improve traditional search.

“The discourse on A.I. is rather narrow and focused on text and the chat experience,” Mr. Taylor said. “Our vision for search is about understanding information and all its forms: language, images, video, navigating the real world.”

Sridhar Ramaswamy, who led Google’s advertising division from 2013 to 2018, said Microsoft and Google recognized that their current search business might not survive. “The wall of ads and sea of blue links is a thing of the past,” said Mr. Ramaswamy, who now runs Neeva, a subscription-based search engine.

Amazon, which has a larger share of the cloud market than Microsoft and Google combined, has not been as public in its chatbot pursuit as the other two, though it has been working on A.I. technology for years.

But in January, Andy Jassy, Amazon’s chief executive, corresponded with Mr. Delangue of Hugging Face, and weeks later Amazon expanded a partnership to make it easier to offer Hugging Face’s software to customers.

As that underlying tech, known as generative A.I., becomes more widely available, it could fuel new ideas in e-commerce. Late last year, Manish Chandra, the chief executive of Poshmark, a popular online secondhand store, found himself daydreaming during a long flight from India about chatbots building profiles of people’s tastes, then recommending and buying clothes or electronics. He imagined grocers instantly fulfilling orders for a recipe.

“It becomes your mini-Amazon,” said Mr. Chandra, who has made integrating generative A.I. into Poshmark one of the company’s top priorities over the next three years. “That layer is going to be very powerful and disruptive and start almost a new layer of retail.”

But generative A.I is causing other headaches. In early December, users of Stack Overflow, a popular social network for computer programmers, began posting substandard coding advice written by ChatGPT. Moderators quickly banned A.I.-generated text.

Part of the problem was that people could post this questionable content far faster than they could write posts on their own, said Dennis Soemers, a moderator for the site. “Content generated by ChatGPT looks trustworthy and professional, but often isn’t,” he said.

When websites thrived during the pandemic as traffic from Google surged, Nilay Patel, editor in chief of The Verge, a tech news site, warned publishers that the search giant would one day turn off the spigot. He had seen Facebook stop linking out to websites and foresaw Google following suit in a bid to boost its own business.

He predicted that visitors from Google would drop from a third of websites’ traffic to nothing. He called that day “Google zero.”

“People thought I was crazy,” said Mr. Patel, who redesigned The Verge’s website to protect it. Because chatbots replace website search links with footnotes to answers, he said, many publishers are now asking if his prophecy is coming true.

Paul Bannister, the chief strategy officer at CafeMedia, has been helping companies study how A.I. could change online advertising.Karsten Moran for The New York Times

For the past two months, strategists and engineers at the digital advertising company CafeMedia have met twice a week to contemplate a future where A.I. chatbots replace search engines and squeeze web traffic.

The group recently discussed what websites should do if chatbots lift information but send fewer visitors. One possible solution would be to encourage CafeMedia’s network of 4,200 websites to insert code that limited A.I. companies from taking content, a practice currently allowed because it contributes to search rankings.

“There are a million things to be worried about,” said Paul Bannister, CafeMedia’s chief strategy officer. “You have to figure out what to prioritize.”

Courts are expected to be the ultimate arbiter of content ownership. Last month, Getty Images sued Stability AI, the start-up behind the art generator tool Stable Diffusion, accusing it of unlawfully copying millions of images. The Wall Street Journal has said using its articles to train an A.I. system requires a license.

In the meantime, A.I. companies continue collecting information across the web under the “fair use” doctrine, which permits limited use of material without permission.

“The world is facing a new technology, and the law is groping to find ways of dealing with it,” said Bradley J. Hulbert, a lawyer who specializes in this area. “No one knows where the courts will draw the lines.”

Karen Weise contributed reporting from Seattle."

Opinion | ‘The Death Knell for Higher Education in Florida’ - The New York Times

Black Soldiers Cycled 1,900 Miles Across the U.S. So He Did, Too. - The New York Times

Black Soldiers Cycled 1,900 Miles Across the U.S. So He Did, Too.

A remarkable journey from Montana to St. Louis by 20 Black infantrymen in 1897 seemed doomed to obscurity until Erick Cedeño, a bicyclist, retraced their journey.

A man with long, silver dreadlocks and a helmet rides a bicycle outdoors in a green, grassy environment.
“I want everyone to know,” Erick Cedeño said of the 20 Black soldiers’ bicycling feat in 1897. He drew new attention to their story by re-enacting the expedition last year.Josh Caffrey

In the summer of 1897, 20 Black U.S. Army infantrymen cycled 1,900 miles on fixed-gear, state-of-the-art bikes from Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis. The Army ordered the grueling expedition to see whether soldiers could form a bicycle corps. Newspapers chronicled their progress as they pedaled 50 miles a day in mud and sand, through Montana’s snowy mountains and across Nebraska’s burning plains. The 41-day undertaking was a bit of lost military history until Erick Cedeño, a long-distance cyclist and a model based in Santa Monica, Calif., reenacted it in June of last year, on the expedition’s 125th anniversary.

“I’ve always been fascinated with history,” said Mr. Cedeño, 49, who has spent years gathering photos and documents related to the infantrymen and their journey. It was on a cycling trip from Miami to New York, about 10 years ago, when he decided he wanted to learn more about the history of long-distance cycling. His curiosity led him to the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps.

“It was the first time that I saw a Black man from that time traveling by bike,” he said, referring to the historical photos of the soldiers on their bicycles.

A black-and-white photo of Black men in a uniform that comprises slacks with suspenders, a shirt and a hat, pose with bicycles. They are standing with their bicycles on an outdoor rock formation, some standing in different elevations on the rock.
The 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps poses at Yellowstone National Park during a shorter expedition in 1896.F. Jay Haynes. Courtesy of the Montana Historical Society.

The soldiers were part of the 25th Infantry Regiment, one of the African American units whose members were also known as Buffalo Soldiers. The 20 selected men, who were joined by a physician and a journalist on the expedition, were led by Lieutenant James Moss, who was fascinated by bikes, and proposed creating a bicycle corps. Lt. Moss, who was white, had graduated last in his class at West Point (the United States Military Academy), just three years before the expedition.

“Most of the people did not want to work west of the Mississippi,” Mr. Cedeño said. “So west of the Mississippi was left to the last in the class. And most of the time, west of the Mississippi meant that you had to work with African American troops.”

It was these troops who achieved a remarkable feat in both Black and cycling history — one that Mr. Cedeño has drawn new attention to by following in their bicycle tracks and telling their stories. I spoke to him about it in February, after he gave a talk about the journey at the Explorers’ Club, a members-only society in New York City.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

You reenacted this journey. What were the highs and lows for you?

I started my expedition at 5:30 a.m. on June 14, 2022, precisely the hour and date the soldiers set off. It was 42 degrees when I was riding in Montana, and as someone who lives in Southern California, that’s pretty cold. It was windy but there was no snow, which they dealt with. On the lower plains into Nebraska, it became really hot, about 105, 106 degrees almost every day. Luckily for me, I was not on an army expedition, so I was able to take my shirt off. Every 10 miles, I would go into a convenience store and ask if I could go into the beer cooler. I would eat my snacks inside the beer cooler. People were so great. Once I told people what I was doing, they were like, ‘yeah, please, whatever you want!’ The soldiers didn’t have that opportunity to go into a beer cooler. They also rode in uniform and carried heavy rifles on their backs. These guys were almost superheroes, you know, like superpowered.

Tell me a little bit about the bikes.

They had the latest bike at the time, an 1897 Special Spalding that cost about $75, which at that time was a lot of money for a bike. The Spalding company donated the bikes in the hope that the Army would buy more if it worked out. So, single speed. In 1886, the bikes had wooden wheels and no chain guards. In 1897, they saw that ‘if we’re going through snow and rain, we’re going to have to change the wooden wheels to steel wheels and add the chain guard.’ Which they did.

How did they manage to feed and hydrate themselves?

There was a water issue that started when they crossed Wyoming to South Dakota. They drank some contaminated water and a few of them got ill. Regardless of what was going on, they had to keep moving. There were times when they rode almost 50 miles without water. They had bacon, flour, coffee, left at drop-offs near the railroad every 100 miles. Along the way, they would buy meat and eggs from farmers.

Black, uniformed men wearing hats pose with bicycles in the street. It is a historical photo that has been colorized.
A colorized photo of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps in Livingston, Mont., in 1897.Edward Boos. Courtesy of The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula.
A man with long, gray dreadlocks poses with a bicycle in a street. It is the same street as in the photograph before, except now there are cars and modern signs.
Mr. Cedeño in Livingston in 2022.Rob Park

The racist response to the men increased as they moved east and south. Why was it so much easier to be a Black man in Montana at that time?

I don’t know if it was better. I mean, they still dealt with some racism there, but they were part of the community, and they did so much for the communities that people realized they had to give them respect. The 25th Infantry Regiment was stationed out there doing Army things, like helping restore order during mining strikes.

They encountered increasing racism as they got farther east and south, especially in Missouri. But then when they got to St. Louis, over 10,000 people showed up to celebrate them. Some 300 cyclists rode the last few miles with them. That made me happy.

What happened to the corps? You learned that at least one of the men — the mechanic — was buried in an unmarked grave.

The Army never created a corps, although I hear they tried them in Poland and India. In 1898, some of the Buffalo Soldiers were sent to fight the Spanish War in Cuba. Some returned to Missoula, Mont. Some were sent to Brownsville, Texas. In 1906, there was an incident there for which the Black soldiers were wrongly blamed. They were cleared by local law enforcement, but Teddy Roosevelt dishonorably discharged them anyway. First Sergeant Mingo Sanders, the oldest rider in the expedition, was near retirement and pension. I have seen a letter to the president pleading that he not be discharged. But he was. That hurt me a lot.

This is only 41 years after slavery, where some of their dads, their moms, were enslaved. And for the first time, they had a job. They felt like part of society. They felt like, we’re equal. They’re fighting for this country. They just came from war. We have the names of 20 riders. These men are somebody’s grandparents, somebody’s great-grandparents. They don’t know how badass they were. I want everyone to know."

Black Soldiers Cycled 1,900 Miles Across the U.S. So He Did, Too. - The New York Times