TIME ebola

Watch How Word of Ebola Exploded in America

Exclusive Twitter data shows how conversation about the virus has escalated dramatically

As Ebola has taken more lives and crept into more countries, the virus has come to dominate both news headlines and social media conversation. On Twitter, a whopping 10.5 million tweets mentioning the word “Ebola” were sent between Sept. 16 and Oct. 6 from 170 countries around the world. The map below, based on data TIME obtained exclusively from Twitter, shows how the conversation blew up in early October.

The country where Ebola dominates conversation most is Liberia, where the virus has already claimed more than 2,000 lives. In terms of sheer volume, though, most Ebola tweets are sent from the United States. Global conversation about the disease exploded after a Liberian man was diagnosed with the disease at a Dallas hospital on Sept. 30. On the night of Oct. 1, Twitter users were firing off missives about Ebola at the rate of more than 6,000 per minute, up from about 100 per minute before Sept. 30. Check out the heat map of Ebola tweets below to see how quickly talk of the virus spread following its arrival in the U.S.

Here’s a breakdown of the tweets per minute about Ebola over the last several weeks:

Research scientists who study the way we communicate on social networks borrow much of the terminology that’s used by health officials who are trying to control an epidemic. Internet users who pick up misinformation and false rumors are known as the “infected,” and they can infect others with every errant tweet or Facebook post. Much of what has been posted on social media about Ebola has been helpful—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s illustrated tweet explaining how the virus spreads has been retweeted more than 4,000 times—but there have also been bogus rumors about Ebola reaching Idaho and an unwarranted panic after a passenger became sick on a flight in Newark, N.J.

TIME Companies

Meet the Woman Heading Facebook’s Huge International Growth

Key Speakers At The Dublin Web Summit
Nicola Mendelsohn, vice president for EMEA at Facebook Inc., gestures as she addresses delegates during the Dublin Web Summit in Dublin on Oct. 30, 2013. Aidan Crawley—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Like many of the U.S. tech giants, Facebook is increasingly betting its financial future overseas. The company, whose social network has already achieved widespread adoption in North America and Western Europe, is focusing more of its resources on fast-developing markets like Africa, the Middle East and India. In April Facebook announced that it had 100 million users in India, and it reached the same milestone in Africa in September.

The company is trying to get more people in these regions online through its Internet.org initiative, which aims to beam Internet connectivity to remote areas. At the same time Facebook is courting marketers by offering up region-specific advertising units that are tailored to the different ways people communicate around the world.

During New York’s Advertising Week, TIME sat down with Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s Vice President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, to discuss the growth of Facebook’s business abroad, how privacy concerns differ across cultures and whether Yo isn’t such a crazy app idea after all.

TIME: Obviously Facebook’s mobile transition has been a big story the past couple of years. But here when people think about it, they think of smartphones. Was Facebook’s feature phone business one that happened after smartphones or was it happening concurrently?

Mendelsohn: Two thirds of the world are accessing Facebook through feature phones, so it’s a hugely important part of how people access the platform. What we’re trying to do is make the world more open and connected so people can share more. Mobile means many different things depending on where on the planet you are and how you access Facebook and the Internet.

We’ve made a change in how we go to market in terms of our advertising products. It used to be that we had exactly the same advertising product all around the world. We’ve now started to place more and more resources in the developing markets, like Africa, like India, like Indonesia, to really understand how people are using Facebook, how they’re using mobile and come up with different products that work better there.

One is an insight borne out of what we saw in India. Data is expensive, and for a lot of people it can be prohibitive in terms of how they access Facebook or the Internet. What we saw was a whole “missed calls” phenomenon that was going on. Between us we’d create our own language—one missed call means go pick the kids up, two means let’s meet for a drink, three means I’ll meet you for lunch or whatever it is. We set up the missed call product so that advertisers could have the opportunity to tap into this meme and deliver information to people, some of whom are coming onto the Internet and to Facebook for the very first time and who are actually really excited to get messaging from advertisers. That’s the first place that we’ve done this, and the results are such that we’re going to look to do this in South Africa as well.

TIME: You just mentioned that a lot of people in these markets might be excited about seeing advertising because they haven’t been exposed to the Internet as much. Is the appetite for ads there higher than in America, where people are exposed to ads all the time?

Mendelsohn: People like advertising if it’s relevant and entertaining and useful to them. What we see in some of the high-growth markets is that brands are talking to them for the very first time, and there is an excitement about that because it’s new and it has not happened before. We see behaviors where people actually share the adverts that they see with other people because it’s of interest and it’s new information.

TIME: Out of that 100 million users in Africa, which are the countries you are most focused on?

A: That’s Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa.

TIME: Do you expect, going forward, that the feature phone market is going to increase, or do you see with Android One and these cheaper smartphones that people are going to transition to those devices really quickly?

I think there will be an acceleration of these cheaper smartphones, driven in particular by the price. But I think they’re not going to have all the same features that the ones we have in the U.S. and the U.K. have. There will still be challenges on things like data costs. Actually the challenge becomes greater when you have the smartphone because it has access to so many more bells, gadgets, widgets. If you want to connect the planet, data and cost is something that is prohibitive to that. It’s one of the reasons that Mark Zuckerberg launched Internet.org.

TIME: Facebook’s average revenue generated per user is much lower in these emerging markets than it is in the U.S. What is Facebook’s plan to boost that number in the future?

What is the primary concern in this part of the world is how we connect everyone to the Internet. That’s the primary focus. In terms of the ARPU, that will emerge in different ways.

TIME: You’re dealing with a lot of different types of cultures across a vast number of countries. Do you see different privacy concerns in different areas? How do you deal with that on an individual basis?

For us, privacy is the most important issue and making sure that people know and are in control of the data they share and who they share it with. I think that’s important for people wherever you are the world. One of the nuanced differences that we see in some of these countries is the fact that people like to be friends with lots more people than perhaps they might in mainland Europe. We see people want to have lots of friends, including people that they’ve never never before, and share information with those people. That is a difference that might sit uncomfortably with other people in different parts of the world.

TIME: Are you familiar with the app Yo?

No, I’m not. Tell me about Yo.

TIME: All it does is send the word Yo to other people. It was actually pretty heavily mocked when it came out over the summer. But it sounds like from what you’re saying that’s a logical use case that actually exists, where people would want to send a single word that can provide context about what they’re doing.

I can’t talk to [Yo], but I think people communicate in different ways. The uptake in stickers—people sending emoticons just to express their feelings—is a different way of showing how people communicate. Not necessarily in Africa but in some of the more developed markets. People are becoming much more visual.

We’ve always seen with any new technology that’s come on since the printing press, that it causes people to think about how they communicate in different ways. One of the things that’s been surprising about this technology revolution is that it’s shortened some of the ways that we communicate with each other rather than increasing it. If the printing press meant that we could write canon of books, the mobile phone means I can write “LOL” and we both understand what that means.

TIME iPhone 6

Check Out How Much Faster Wi-Fi on the iPhone 6 Is

The iPhone 6 is a speed demon compared to its predecessors

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are not only bigger than their predecessors—they’re faster, too. A Wi-Fi speed test by iClarified shows that the iPhone 6 Plus’s throughput speed is more than twice as fast as the old iPhone 5s.

The new iPhones boast a more advanced Wi-Fi standard called 802.11ac. On its website, Apple says the improved technology can provide for throughput speeds three times faster than older iPhones. However, users must have a router that supports 802.11ac to benefit from the speed boost.

TIME Technology & Media

Facebook Changing Research Methods After Controversial Mood Study

Facebook Inc. Illustrations Ahead Of Earnings Figures
The Facebook Inc. logo is displayed an Apple Inc. iPad Air past water droplets in this arranged photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

“It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently"

Facebook has issued a mea culpa for a controversial experiment on its users that gained widespread attention over the summer, promising to revamp its research practices going forward.

In a blog post, Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer acknowledged the social network mishandled a 2012 study that altered the types of posts some users saw in their News Feeds to in order to determine whether such a change would affect the emotional tone of their own posts. The results of the study were published this June, angering some users because no one gave prior consent for the study nor did it clear any kind of review board, a step typically undertaken by academic research organizations.

“It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently,” Schroepfer wrote. “For example, we should have considered other non-experimental ways to do this research. The research would also have benefited from more extensive review by a wider and more senior group of people. Last, in releasing the study, we failed to communicate clearly why and how we did it.”

The company is now instituting a new framework for handling both internal experiments and research that may later be published. Research that is studying specific groups of people or relates to “deeply personal” content (such as emotions) will go through an “enhanced review process” before being approved. Facebook has also set up a panel of employees from different parts of the company, such as the privacy and legal teams, that will review potential research projects. The social network will also incorporate education on research practices into the introductory training that is given to new company engineers and present all the public research it conducts on a single website.

Facebook did not provide any detail on what the enhanced review process would look like or whether external auditors would review the company’s research. The company also retains the right to conduct any experiments it deems appropriate through its data use policy.

TIME Economy

Why Everyone Who Lives in Alaska Is Getting $1,884 Today

North slope oil rush Alaska
The North slope oil rush in Alaska, circa 1969 Ralph Crane&—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

That's enough to buy a trip to somewhere warmer

If polar bears and Snow Dogs weren’t enough to make you want to move to Alaska, consider this: You can get paid thousands of dollars a year just for living there.

Today, Oct. 2, almost every permanent resident of Alaska — even babies — will get paid $1,884 as a dividend from the state’s Alaska Permanent Fund, a government fund that invests proceeds generated from the state’s oil reserves to ensure future wealth for the state.

When the first dividend checks were issued to residents in 1980, TIME predicted that the windfall would be long-lasting:

Nor is there any end in sight to the flow of dividends from the oil fund, which by the end of this year is expected to total more than $1 billion. Oil price increases could also continue to swell the fund. While most Americans complain bitterly every time OPEC members raise prices, Alaskans have reason to applaud. With the price of domestic oil now decontrolled, Alaskan crude can rise to the world level; thus the state’s royalties will grow with each foreign price hike.

Today the Alaska Permanent Fund is valued above $50 billion, and the dividend paid to residents this week will total $1.1 billion.

And for the individual who’s squirreled away his dividend payment each year since the program launched in 1980? He’s made a cool $37,000 just for being loyal to the state.

Read more about the origins of the Alaska Permanent Fund in TIME’s archives: Alaska Bonanza

TIME Connected Life

New Apps for the Brain

These programs turn learning into a game

It’s common these days to hear of a new mobile game that racks up impressive downloads and sales almost overnight–and then disappears just as fast. A growing raft of gamelike apps hope to stay in your pocket for the long term. How? By offering users the ability to learn a new language, practice web coding or improve their memory. As smartphones become a constant part of the human experience, more and more people are wondering what their phones have done for them lately. So-called brain-training apps propose we spend our downtime bulking up our minds. “There’s a long-term secular trend and consumer interest in health,” explains Kunal Sarkar, the CEO of brain-training company Lumosity. “Taking care of your mind is another part of that.”

The difference from past generations of educational software–think programs that teach typing or basic math–is that these apps feel like games, not homework. More than 18 million people have downloaded Lumosity, a puzzle program created by neuroscientists in collaboration with game designers, since it launched last year. Duolingo, an app that teaches foreign languages, grants users experience points and badges as they learn new grammar skills, much as console titles like Call of Duty do. And Codecademy teaches the basics of computer programming in short tutorials.

Brain apps are hardly a cure-all. Conversing with native speakers remains the best way to learn a foreign language, for example, and some experts question Lumosity’s long-term mental benefits. At the very least, though, these apps work on the same basic concept that teachers have been trying to drill into our heads since kindergarten: learning can be fun.

I WANT TO…

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LEARN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

DUOLINGO

AVAILABLE FOR: Web, iOS, Android

COST: Free

This language-learning app offers courses in Spanish, French, Italian, German and Portuguese. And it’s not all reading and writing–it uses the phone’s microphone to gauge users’ pronunciation skills as well.

IMPROVE MY MEMORY

LUMOSITY

AVAILABLE FOR: Web, iOS, Android

COST: Free trial; $14 per month

Lumosity aims to improve users’ thinking abilities by using simple games and tests that adapt to your cognitive level to improve memory, attention and decisionmaking speed. The company says no two users will have the same experience.

BECOME A PROGRAMMER

CODECADEMY

AVAILABLE FOR: Web, iOS

COST: Free

Programming skills are increasingly important in the digital age, and Codecademy offers in-depth lessons in HTML, JavaScript and other languages. Novices can download the Hour of Code app and learn the basics of programming syntax on the go.

KNOW MORE ABOUT ART

DAILYART

AVAILABLE FOR: iOS, Android

COST: Free

Each day the app presents a different classic painting from storied artists such as van Gogh and Monet. Even if you already know the work, you may not know all the fascinating details the app serves up on the backstory of the art.

BECOME A WORDSMITH

VOCABULARY.COM

AVAILABLE FOR: Web, iOS, Android

COST: $2.99 on mobile

Never again get embarrassed using the wrong word at a dinner party with this app. It boasts more than 120,000 questions that can help you learn over 12,000 words. Users can even battle their friends to see who’s the bigger word geek.

BE A HISTORY BUFF

TODAY’S DOCUMENTS

AVAILABLE FOR: iOS, Android

COST: Free

The U.S. National Archives manages this educational app, which serves up a historical document or photo each day of the year. Past docs have included everything from a letter by Woodrow Wilson creating Mother’s Day to a photo of Gerald Ford as a toddler.

TIME Technology & Media

This Small Cable Operator May Help Unravel the Pay TV Industry

Obama Appears On Daily Show With Jon Stewart
President Barack Obama chats with Daily Show host Jon Stewart during a commercial break in taping on October 27, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Pool—Getty Images

Suddenlink has dropped Viacom channels from its lineup, perhaps permanently. That's a cardinal sin in the world of pay-TV.

A cable company and a TV network have been in a dispute over how much the network’s content is really worth. This may sound like a familiar tale, but there’s an unusual ending this time. Suddenlink, a St. Louis-based operator with more than 1.1 million subscribers, dropped Viacom’s collection of well-known TV channels from its lineup Wednesday, and they’re probably not coming back anytime soon.

Negotiations over carriage fees, the amount that pay-TV operators pay network owners to carry their channels, often turn into very public spats. Time Warner Cable kicked CBS-owned networks off its channel lineup for a month in 2013, and The Weather Channel went so far as to lobby Congress to force DirecTV to keep the channel on its airwaves earlier this year. In both instances, the two sides eventually reached a truce.

That doesn’t appear to be in the cards this time. Because Suddenlink couldn’t come to an agreement with Viacom on appropriate carriage fees, the cable company has replaced mainstays on the channel dial like MTV and Comedy Central with new additions such as FXX and the Hallmark Channel. Suddenlink thinks its customers won’t miss Viacom’s offerings much. “It’s unfortunate we could not reach agreement,” spokesman Pete Abel said in an email. “But we have moved on and are excited about the new channels we’re adding and our customers have told us they would like to have.”

In the traditional pay-TV model, a cable company dumping Viacom’s channels could be viewed as a cardinal sin. Historically, network owners and cable operators have worked in lockstep to keep their highly lucrative system intact. Operators agree to buy up channels from media conglomerates like Viacom in unwieldy bundles, which means a 26-year-old bachelor is stuck paying for Nickelodeon. Network owners in turn make sure that having a pricey cable subscription is pretty much the only legal way for viewers to see TV shows as they’re airing. Content creators also charge new entrants to the pay-TV space a higher carriage fee for their channels, according to Erik Brannon, a TV industry analyst at IHS Screen Digest. Intel had been planning a pay-TV service that would deliver live television content over the Internet, but the costs of acquiring programming were prohibitively high.

Suddenlink tried to upend this long-standing formula by asking Viacom to sell just a few of the channels that are popular with its customers, like TV Land and Comedy Central. Suddenlink says that Viacom responded by increasing its price demands even more. On a website about the dispute, Viacom says that Suddenlink abruptly stopped negotiating and reneged on a last-minute proposal that met the cable operator’s demands. “We remain committed to reaching a deal so that our viewers will be able to watch their favorite shows,” Viacom wrote on the site. Viacom did not respond to an email from TIME seeking further comment.

The Suddenlink decision could inspire other small and mid-size operators, already being squeezed by subscriber declines, refuse carriage fee increases from media giants. Sixty smaller cable companies, including one with half a million subscribers, lost Viacom’s channels in the spring and haven’t yet restored them. “Mid-tier operators and small operators are going to have to look at the profitability of carrying networks vs. their viewership,” Brannon says. “When you’re in the position of Suddenlink . . . you absolutely do not have the buying power that Comcast or DirecTV have.”

At the same time, channel owners are becoming more receptive to the Internet-based TV services of which they were once wary. Viacom has agreed to offer 22 of its channels on a new, Internet-based TV service that Sony is launching later this year, the first such deal the media giant has made public. The revenue generated from that deal, which Brannon says probably included a guarantee by Sony of a minimum number of subscribers, might make Viacom less concerned about the activities of the smaller traditional cable companies.

Whether these strategic shifts will benefit consumers, networks or cable operators remains to be seen. Suddenlink is hoping that losing Viacom won’t hurt its subscriber numbers, but Cable One, the largest of the sixty cable companies to dump Viacom in the spring, doubled its subscriber loss the quarter it removed Viacom’s channels. And while Internet-based pay-TV services like Sony’s promise an improved user experience, no one has yet broached the topic of offering channels “a la carte” and allowing customers to pick exactly what content they’d like to buy.

Still, the once-sacred marriage between cable operators and network owners is under obvious strain. That leaves room for new entrants to claim a piece of the market—hopefully for many, with business models that are more in line with customer preferences. “Carriage fee negotiations are going to become increasingly contentious,” warns Brannon. “Not only at Viacom but other channel groups.”

TIME Startups

Reddit Gets $50 Million in Venture Funding

A big step for a major Internet hub

The popular online message board Reddit has secured $50 million in new venture capital funding, the company announced Tuesday. The website known as the “front page of the Internet” is getting a cash infusion from a long list of investors that includes Y Combinator president Sam Altman, Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz and the rapper Snoop Dogg.

Reddit is well-known for its primitive website design and laissez-faire attitude toward moderating its users. The company is a former subsidiary of Conde Nast that was later spun off into an independent company. CEO Yishan Wong said the new funding will help Reddit grow its relatively small staff of 60 and improve its app and ad products. “An investment like this doesn’t mean we’re rich or successful,” Wong said in a blog post. “Money can become worthless very quickly, value is something that is built over time through hard work.”

Reddit faced criticism earlier this month for allowing users to link to a vast number of stolen nude photos of celebrities. The startup defended the right of its users to post controversial content but ended up banning the page with the nude photos because some of the images were of minors.

With more money may come more pressure for Reddit to both generate profits and conform to the standards of traditional media companies. For now, though, Reddit is still playing by its own rules. The startup, which acknowledged it was still unprofitable earlier this year, has agreed to give 10% of its 2014 ad revenue to charity. The company promised Tuesday that investors involved in the latest funding round will give 10% of their shares back to the Reddit community (details on the practicality and legality of this are still to come, Wong said).

Reddit is no longer a scrappy startup underdog. It’s a company with a valuation pegged as high as a half-a-billion dollars that has hosted a conversation with the President, among other leaders. But Wong remains confident that backers will let the newly-rich Reddit keep being weird.

“We have been entrusted with capital by patient, long-term investors who support our views on difficult issues,” he said. “We believe in free speech, self-governing communities, and the power of voting. We find that this freedom yields more good than bad, and we have chosen investors based on this belief.”

TIME Smartphones

Apple’s iPhone 6 Is Headed to China

CHINA-APPLE-US-TELECOMMUNICATION
A young boy uses an iPhone to take photos in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on September 30, 2014. Greg Baker—AFP/Getty Images

New device faced security concerns from Chinese regulators

Apple’s iPhone 6 will soon arrive on China’s shores. The company’s latest flagship device, along with its bigger cousin the iPhone 6 Plus, will go on sale in China on Oct. 17, while pre-orders will begin on Oct. 10.

For Apple, China has become a critical market that now comprises 16% of the company’s overall sales. The iPhone 6 launch had reportedly been delayed there because China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology was slow to approve the new device. Regulators said as much in a statement on Tuesday, noting that Apple had to address security concerns related to third party access to user data before the device could be sold in China.

Apple has previously been forced to deal with concerns over iPhone security in China. Over the summer, a Chinese state-backed TV station issued a news report calling the iPhone a “national security concern” because of its location-tracking features. Apple issued a swift response pointing out that it doesn’t have access to that location data. CEO Tim Cook has since stressed Apple’s commitment to security in another statement, saying that the company had never allowed a government agency access to its servers. U.S. tech companies have been facing a chilly reception from foreign regulators since Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass government surveillance by the National Security Agency.

Even with security concerns assuaged, Apple faces challenges in China. A new crop of domestic phone manufacturers like Xiaomi now offer smartphones with robust feature sets at a fraction of the iPhone’s cost. Indeed, Apple is not even one of the top five phone makers in the country — but analysts say the jumbo-sized iPhone 6 Plus will appeal to Chinese users’ tastes and could be a big hit there.

TIME iPhone 6

Apple Defends Against Allegations of Bending iPhone 6 Plus

Only nine customers have formally complained, Apple said

Following days of silence, Apple is defending the new iPhone 6 Plus against allegations that it bends easily. The company told The Wall Street Journal that only nine customers have contacted Apple to complain about a bent iPhone 6 Plus. Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus passed requisite stress tests that mimicked normal use, Apple said.

In videos and on social media, some iPhone 6 Plus owners have claimed they can bend the device in their pockets or even in their hands. The issue, now known as “Bendgate” or “Bendgazi” online, is just one headache Apple is dealing with this week. Wednesday the company pulled an update to iOS 8 after customers complained that the new software was causing problems with cellular service and Touch ID. Apple later apologized for the faulty update and issued directions for users to revert to the original iOS 8 software.

The mix of bad news has put a beating on Apple’s stock, which fell more than 3% in trading Thursday, dipping well below $100 per share, though other tech companies have also had rough days on the market.

Apple did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

[WSJ]

 

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