New macOS patch protects older operating systems against Meltdown

Apple has rolled out a new security update to protect older operating systems against the Meltdown bug, the most easily exploitable of the processor vulnerabilities made public earlier this year. Patches for macOS High Sierra were released on January 8th, but the patch did not apply to older versions of the operating system. Today’s update brings the same protections to Sierra (version 10.12.6) and El Capitan (version 10.11.6).

It’s the latest in a string of patches Apple has released in response to the industry-wide processor failures. The company also developed patches to Safari and WebKit to protect against a separate exploitation of the Spectre vulnerability. It’s still unclear whether Apple plans any updates to its A-series processors, which would likely be the most difficult patch to develop and deploy.

Apple also released a new version of iOS (10.2.2.5), which includes a fix against the recent “ChaiOS” texting bug. The bug was capable of crashing the Messages app and freezing an entire phone when correctly deployed. iPhone users can trigger the update by navigating to Settings > General > Software Update.

Hackers can see your Tinder photos and figure out your matches

Tinder isn’t using encryption to keep your photos safe from strangers who are sharing the same coffee shop Wi-Fi as you, security researchers found in a report today. Researchers from the Tel Aviv-based firm Checkmarx found that Tinder’s iOS and Android mobile apps still lack basic HTTPS encryption, meaning that anyone sharing the same Wi-Fi as you can see your Tinder photos or add their own into the photostream.

The firm built a proof-of-concept app called TinderDrift, demoed on YouTube, that can reconstruct a user’s session on Tinder if that person is sharing the same Wi-Fi. Although swipes and matches on Tinder remain HTTPS-encrypted, potential hackers on the network can still tell encrypted commands apart due to the specific patterns of bytes that represent a left swipe, a right swipe, a Super Like, and a match, according to Checkmarx.

The researchers say that by combining the intercepted photos with the monitoring of the encrypted commands, hackers could figure out almost everything a Tinder user is seeing and doing. Checkmarx also suggests that hackers with knowledge of a user’s sexual preferences and other private information could potentially blackmail users, or swap the photos a user sees for inappropriate content or rogue advertising. The only thing that remains private is messages and photos sent between users after a match.

HTTPS encryption is a standard protocol used by most websites these days, according to statistics from Mozilla. As of January this year, 68 percent of the internet is encrypted with HTTPS. That means there’s a secure lock symbol next to the URL in your address bar; and while HTTPS isn’t foolproof, it’s still basic protection from hackers.

Tinder responded in a statement to The Verge that the unencrypted photos are profile pictures, and Tinder is a free global platform, so the pictures are “available to anyone swiping on the app” anyway.

It hinted at working on more security measures: “Like every other technology company, we are constantly improving our defenses in the battle against malicious hackers. For example, our desktop and mobile web platforms already encrypt profile images, and we are working towards encrypting images on our app experience as well.”

Tinder also added that it wouldn’t give out any specific information about what those improved defenses would look like, saying, “However, we do not go into any further detail on the specific security tools we use or enhancements we may implement to avoid tipping off would-be hackers.”

Apple reportedly may release a 6.1-inch iPhone without 3D Touch

It’s officially 2018, which means the time has come to stop looking back at last year’s iPhone X and iPhone 8 models, and to start looking forward as the rumor mill starts to spin up for the next iPhones.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo already started this year’s rumor cycle off with predictions of three new iPhone models, and now he’s added some details as to what exactly to expect, via MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple will release an updated version of the iPhone X with a 5.8-inch OLED screen, a larger 6.5-inch OLED model (call it an iPhone X Plus), and a new mid-range model that will feature a 6.1-inch display and borrow elements of both the iPhone X and the cheaper iPhone 8 models.

The 6.1-inch iPhone will feature an aluminum frame similar to the iPhone 8 (instead of stainless steel), as well as the standard non-stacked logic board and rectangular battery instead of the more compact setup found in the iPhone X, according to Kuo’s research note. And while the display is said to feature the same bezel-reducing design, complete with a notch for Face ID, Kuo claims the display itself will be an LCD panel instead of OLED. In exchange, Kuo estimates that the 6.1-inch model could cost between $700-$800, which would be a healthy savings compared to the $999-plus iPhone X price tag.

The 6.1-inch device is also rumored to drop several of the iPhone X’s more advanced features, with just a single rear camera instead of a dual camera system, 3GB of RAM instead of the rumored 4GB that Kuo claims the updated X and X Plus models will have, and no 3D Touch (which has been included on every new iPhone model since the release of the iPhone 6s, barring the throwback iPhone SE.)

It’s still early days when it comes to iPhone rumors, but Kuo does have a decent track record when it comes to predicting Apple’s plans, so there’s a chance we’ll all look back come September and marvel how accurate this all was.

iPhone users can now ask Siri to read daily news podcasts

Apple’s latest iOS beta release, under version number 11.2.5, arrived today with support for the company’s new HomePod speaker. More importantly, for those who don’t intend to buy Apple’s $350 Sonos competitor, this newest iOS release is also bringing a Siri-delivered news briefing. Now, iPhone and iPad owners can ask Siri to read the news and get a daily podcast briefing from The Washington Post, which is the default. Other options include Fox News, NPR, and CNN. News of the Siri update was first reported by 9to5Mac and has been confirmed with the public beta release notes out now.

It’s not a huge change, but news briefings have become one of the most basic functions for voice-based artificial intelligence with the rise of Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. Right now, however, asking Siri to read you the news only results in a fixed list of headlines and links copied from Apple’s News app. If you don’t have the News app installed, you just get headlines culled from Safari. So adding a new, more interactive, and multimedia-focused approach to daily news briefings with podcast dictation is certainly a step up for Siri.

Tesla Model S plows into a fire truck while using Autopilot

The driver of a Tesla Model S who crashed into a fire truck on a California freeway says he was using Autopilot at the time of the accident, and so far, Tesla isn’t refuting this claim.

“Autopilot is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver,” a Tesla spokesperson said when asked to confirm the driver’s assertion that he was using Autopilot when his vehicle smashed into the back of a fire engine at 65 mph. Tesla has the ability to examine a vehicle’s data logs to determine whether Autopilot is engaged during certain incidents.

Now, Bloomberg is reporting that the federal government is “gathering information” on the accident, but has not yet decided to formally open an investigation. A spokesperson for the National Traffic Safety Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while a Tesla spokesperson declined to comment.

There have been a handful of reports of Tesla vehicles involved in accidents with Autopilot engaged. The most prominent — and tragic — occurrence was in 2016 when a Florida man named Joshua Brown was killed after his Model S smashed into the side of a truck. Brown had been using Autopilot at the time, but the NTSB ruled that Tesla was not complicit in the crash. A preliminary report issued in July 2016 stated his vehicle was going 74 mph at the time of the crash on a highway with a 65 mph speed limit.

While the board faulted Brown for not paying attention in the seconds before the crash, they noted Autopilot did an inadequate job of detecting other traffic and did not inform the driver early enough to allow for sufficient reaction time. In response, Tesla said it would be “extremely clear” about communicating to its customers the need to stay attentive while using Autopilot.

The conundrum, of course, is that advanced driver assistance systems like Autopilot can often lull drivers into a state of inattentiveness by virtue of their effectiveness. Tesla’s Autopilot was never intended to be a hands-free system, but some drivers abused the system by uploading videos of themselves reading newspapers while driving down the highway. In 2016 Tesla tweaked the software to require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel or get locked out of the system. (Since then, some drivers use oranges wedged under the wheel to mimic the pressure of the human hand.)

GM claims to solve this problem by monitoring the driver’s eye movements with infrared cameras mounted on the steering column. Super Cruise, GM’s semi-autonomous driving system, will deactivate if drivers turn their gaze away for more than several seconds, which some experts have praised as an effective way to keep the driver engaged.

Correction: Tesla’s Autopilot was never intended to be a hands-free system. A previous version of this story misstated that fact.

Samsung announces the 860 Evo and 860 Pro as successors to the most popular SSDs ever

Samsung’s 850 line of SSDs has basically ruled as the most popular and reliable solid-state drive for most consumers since it was released back in 2014. And while Samsung has released a few incremental updates over the years to increase storage capacity, the company has announced the first true successor to the iconic 850 Evo and 850 Pro drives: the 860 Evo and 860 Pro.

As one might be able to guess from the incremental shift in the names, the new models aren’t a massive leap forward, but a more evolutionary advance for Samsung’s models. The biggest change is a shift from 48-layer 3D NAND to 64-layer 3D NAND, along with an updated MJX SSD controller, and LPDDR4 DRAM instead of the previous-generation LPDDR3 DRAM.

Like before, Samsung is still selling both budget Evo models and more premium Pro versions of the 860. The Pro line offers slightly faster speeds and is rated for twice as many overall writes as the Evo line, largely due to the fact that it uses 2-bit MLC technology, instead of the slower, less reliable, but generally cheaper 3-bit MLC 3D NAND (also known as TLC, or triple level cell) in the Evo series.

All in all, it’s not the biggest update. If you already have an 850 in your computer, it’s probably not something you’ll want to rush out to get. But if you’re looking to pick up a new SSD, it seems worthwhile to pick up the updated 860 version.

The 860 Evo line is available in 4TB, 2TB, 1TB, 500GB, and 250GB capacities in a 2.5-inch size, as well as 2TB, 1TB, 500GB, and 250GB capacities for the m.2 form factor and 1TB, 500GB, and 250GB options for mSATA. Prices start at $94.99 for the 250GB model and maxing out at a hefty $1,399.99 for the 4TB size.

The 860 Pro comes in 4TB, 2TB, 1TB, 512GB, and 256GB sizes, and is only available in a 2.5-inch size. Prices range from $139.99 to $1,899.99.

Both models will be available later this month.

Here are some obvious questions about the HomePod

Today, Apple finally announced a shipping date for its smart speaker, the HomePod. And something about the launch of this Apple music device reminds me of the launch of that other Apple music device, the iPod.

“No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame,” said Rob “CmdrTaco” Malda on Slashdot on October 1st, 2001. (The Nomad, if you’re wondering, was a pre-iPod MP3 player that was the size and shape of a Sony Discman in its early incarnations. So.) At the time, Slashdot was the most important online community for talking about tech. And at the time, tech news meant for discussion (a lot of Linux) was posted with brief news snippets submitted by readers, snarky one-liners from the people who posted, and even snarkier tags. The iPod came “from the well-thats-not-very-exciting dept.”

CmdrTaco’s comment has become the canonical “tech people don’t get Apple” quote. It didn’t give nearly enough credit to the things that Apple was quickly becoming great at doing in 2001: design, both in hardware and in software. It focused on tech specs instead of usability. It dismissed Apple as a toy company. Basically, every time you see an Apple fanatic with a chip on their shoulder defending the company, it goes back to the kind reaction to that quote evokes.

It’s still a powerful feeling today, even though Apple is (by any reasonable metric) the most powerful and influential company in consumer tech. It’s powerful because that reaction has been justified a few times over the years. The original iPhone launched with slow 2G wireless and no apps. The Apple Watch was slow, overpriced, and confusing at launch. The iPhone went on to become the greatest consumer product of all time. The Apple Watch overcame its overhyped launch and has quietly become a hit.

There are parallels. Both are devices launching into an already crowded market, where companies are battling it out for market share and mindshare. Both are limited at launch to working well within Apple’s own ecosystem. Both are more expensive than much of their competition. Both purport to be more elegant and user-friendly than everything else out there. Both are laser-focused on music. Both have the word “Pod” in their product name.

Both are launching with serious questions about their functionality and ability to succeed in the marketplace.

Since my only real experience with the HomePod was a 10-minute controlled demo on launch day, I’m basically in the same place Malda was those 17-odd years ago. The thing has been announced, we know what’s been claimed, and not much else. We especially don’t know what it’s like to actually use the HomePod, and using the iPod is what convinced you it was different.

So, I’m not eager put myself out on a limb and say that the HomePod is or is not going to replicate the iPod’s success. But I can’t stop from feeling like the smart speaker market is further along in its evolution now than the MP3 player market was when the iPod was announced. I also can’t stop thinking that consumers are smarter and more demanding about gadgets now than they were then.

Here is a simple list of the things that are troubling about the HomePod vis-à-vis its competition, Alexa and Google Assistant speakers:

  • Price. The HomePod is $349. You can buy into either the Alexa or Google ecosystem for 50 bucks (often for way less).
  • Diversity of products. There is one HomePod, and it costs 350 bucks. There are dozens of different speakers that support Alexa; Amazon itself offers at least four current models. There are soon to be dozens of Google Assistant speakers; Google itself offers three models. Both of those ecosystems will have speakers with full displays (if that’s what you want).
  • Software compatibility. Alexa and Google have a significant lead with their intelligent assistants compared to Siri. That’s a strange circumstance, given that Apple was first to market with Siri and sells millions of devices with Siri on them. But both Amazon and Google have been building out compatible voice-only capabilities with third parties to work with their speakers, while Apple has taken a slower, more deliberate approach. Apple’s description of Siri on the HomePod is a “musicologist” and only mentions its broader capabilities as a side note.
  • Software compatibility, part 2. The HomePod only works with Apple Music. Alexa and Google not only work with Spotify, Pandora, and TuneIn (and more!), but they’ll even let you set a competing music service as the default playback option. Also, Apple Music has no free option: to make a HomePod work, you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription fee.
  • Features incomplete. The HomePod is launching without key features for a home speaker. AirPlay 2 is apparently necessary for multiroom audio and even stereo pairing of two speakers, and it won’t be on the HomePod at launch. It’s “coming this year in a free software update.” (Also can we take another moment to ask what the heck is up with AirPlay 2? It still feels very mysterious.) Meanwhile, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Sonos are all offering these features.

That’s probably enough. But as I write every single one of those doom-and-gloom bullet points, I hear a tiny voice in the back of my head. It says “No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.” What if all that naysaying is just more out-of-touch techy nonsense, and “real people” will love it more than Alexa or Google Home?

The bet on the HomePod is the same as the bet on almost every new Apple product: that the spec list doesn’t add up to the whole experience. It’s a bet that there will be some special Apple design magic in the hardware and the software that just makes it feel better to use.

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It’s also a bet that even though the pundits (raises hand) say that Apple is too late to the market, it’s really not. That’s what happened with the iPod and the iPhone: people thought those markets were mature, but in reality, they were tiny and ready to become massive. Apple was the catalyst that made it happen.

The same could be true for smart speakers. But as easy as it is to draw parallels to the iPod, the differences seem bigger to me. Apple’s competitors are far, far better at making consumer products than they were 17 years ago. Apple’s consumers are savvier (and, yes, nerdier) than they were 17 years ago. People love Google and Amazon; they’ve both learned a lot of Apple’s tricks and released clever devices that people enjoy using.

This is an unfair comparison because these devices set a very high bar. But still, when the iPod and iPhone launched, the people who got them “got it.” They knew immediately that what they were using was better than what existed before and portended a different kind of future. Will people who get the HomePod feel the same way?

Right now, I doubt it.

A man bit a smartphone battery as a test, and it exploded

A man at an electronics store in China decided to give a smartphone battery his own litmus test by biting it. The battery ruptured and caused a small explosion. The spectacle, captured by the store’s CCTV security cameras, was uploaded to Miaopai, a Chinese video sharing platform similar to the now-defunct Vine. It has since garnered 4.69 million views.

According to Taiwan News, the man was in the store on January 19th to replace his iPhone battery. It’s not clear which store he was in, but the side of the shop has big characters that read “Professional screen change.” The man began to look closely at the battery and, to check if it was real, decided to bite down on it, triggering the explosion. Despite the fact that the blast was inches from the man’s face, and other onlookers, no one was reportedly injured.

“The battery is not gold, why are you biting it?” a Chinese netizen joked.

While it’s true that faulty and counterfeit lithium-ion batteries may sometimes explode or simply overheat, this man’s method of testing the battery was pretty suspect, as we won’t know whether the battery exploded because it’s fake or because he damaged it with his teeth.

After Apple admitted last month it was throttling iPhone CPUs to combat older batteries’ random shutdowns, the company offered battery replacements for $29 instead of the usual $79, which will possibly lead to more people deciding to replace their devices’ batteries.

I Think We’re Alone Now is a quiet, contemplative look at life after the apocalypse

Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our brief breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special event releases. This review comes from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

Over the past decade, the world post-apocalypse has become a familiar setting, with numerous movies and TV shows exploring what happens to people when the order and structure of society falls down around them. For her newest film, I Think We’re Alone Now, director Reed Morano (The Handmaid’s Tale) jumps into that setting with both feet, telling the story of a man (Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage) who’s enjoyed his contented, solitary last-man-on-Earth life — until it’s upended by the appearance of a young woman (Elle Fanning).

But Morano and screenwriter Mike Makowsky aren’t interested in twisty plot revelations, or uncovering the mystery of what caused the world to fall to pieces. Much like Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes At Night, I Think We’re Alone Now is a tone poem of a movie, telling its story with lush, vivid imagery, and quiet, nuanced performances. Its slow, methodical pacing may not appeal to all moviegoers, and the film’s final act doesn’t entirely work. But it’s nevertheless a beautiful meditation on loneliness and the walls we put up to deal with grief and loss.

What’s the genre?

Post-apocalyptic indie drama, which is not really a formal genre, but should probably become one at some point. I bet Netflix has it as a category, at the very least.

What’s it about?

When the film opens, everybody in the world is apparently dead, except Del (Dinklage). A former librarian who worked nights and didn’t have many personal connections, Del deals with the apocalypse by methodically bringing order to the small town around him. He cleans out every house, removing and burying the owners’ dried-up corpses, dead of no clear cause. He scrubs surfaces, scavenges for batteries, and carefully marks off each house on a map after he goes through it. But he doesn’t seem upset or particularly angst-ridden. If anything, Del lives a serene, contented life, where he fishes for his dinner on a nearby lake, and enjoys each evening meal with a glass of wine while watching the sun go down.

That orderly calm is torn asunder when Grace (Fanning) arrives. She’s the polar opposite of Del: vibrant, talkative, and eager to connect, where he wants only to be left alone. Over time, they slowly begin to respect each other. His icy detachment begins to thaw, and she begins to understand why he is dealing with the loss of all human life in the way he is. However, as they become closer, something happens that makes Del think they may not be the two last people left on the planet after all.

What’s it really about?

Loss and grief, and the stubborn mechanisms we use to cope with trauma. Del was a loner before the apocalypse struck, and initially, he claims he’s happy to be living a near-monastic life of solitude and silence. But as the movie progresses, it emerges that he has lost people, too, and his dogmatic insistence on structure is covering up for a deeper, more painful sense of loss. Grace has her own version of this dynamic; she’s essentially rewritten who she was in her own mind, an effort to cover up past trauma and horror. In the end, neither can get away with following these approaches — they both have to face their respective truths if they want to survive.

Is it good?

It’s a quiet, contemplative film, which will no doubt frustrate viewers who are used to more dynamic and plot-driven takes on these particular themes. The experience of watching I Think We’re Alone Now is very much the experience of living life the way Del does, taking in and appreciating each moment, sometimes without any reassuring sense of pending pay-off or purpose.

The approach is risky, but it works as well as it does because of the work of its two leads. Dinklage is such a consistently remarkable actor, and Del gives him the opportunity to play a much more introverted, reserved character than he gets to portray in Game of Thrones. (Though Tyrion Lannister and Del do share a penchant for wine.) Fanning’s Grace, on the other hand, is full of light, life, and hope in a way that contrasts sharply with both Del and the dead that surround them. But Fanning also threads a sense of melancholy and longing beneath Grace’s glowing exterior.

Also key is Morano’s dual-duty work as both director and cinematographer. The filmmaker began her career as a director of photography, and she renders the film full of lush, golden-hour imagery and dramatic silhouettes. It’s a cliche to say that the photography in a film can become a character in its own right, but that is truly the case here, with Morano using her visual prowess to add an additional emotional layer that ties the film together.

I Think We’re Alone Now feels so cohesive for the majority of its running time that some of its third-act plot developments can’t help but be jarring. The unexpected directions it takes aren’t really justified or earned. That said, it does hold together thematically, making for an awkward but workable landing.

What should it be rated?

There are some adult themes in play, and a lot of dead bodies, but nothing that should earn the movie anything more than a PG-13.

How can I actually watch it?

There’s no distribution deal in place, but it’s a movie with the Game of Thrones guy, made by the Emmy-winning director of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’ll end up in theaters or on streaming services soon enough.

Jake Paul’s school for social media stars will teach you all the wrong lessons

Jake Paul, like his brother Logan, is the personification of social media-driven success. He got his big break on the shortform video platform Vine, where he amassed over 5 million followers with his slapstick comedy and pranks. He briefly starred in the Disney social media comedy Bizaardvark, started a self-branded clothing line, and now vlogs on multiple YouTube channels, including one with 13 million subscribers. It’s no wonder so many young people look up to him — not just as a celebrity, but as a model for achieving online stardom.

At the start of 2018, Jake Paul quietly launched a new educational platform for up-and-coming influencers called Edfluence — a questionable portmanteau of “education from influential people” — to provide fans and aspiring social media stars with pro tips for social media fame. If you want to become an influencer, Edfluence asks, why not learn from one of the most popular rising social stars today?

It’s a savvy business move, given the huge influence of social media personalities on pop culture — and on its future. Kids are more interested in YouTubers than traditional celebrities, and there’s even a summer camp in Los Angeles where aspiring influencers can learn the ropes of social stardom.

Edfluence is far less immersive and uses a series of short videos to provide tips and tricks from Paul and the other members of Team 10, his influencer squad. “This roadmap lays out every step that I and Team 10 have taken to get to where we are today. It’s literally the roadmap to becoming social media FAMOUS,” writes Paul. With a little help from Edfluence, he promises, viral stardom can be yours.

Naturally, there’s a price for all this information — but that comes later.

Image: Edfluence

First, you need to take a quiz that determines what sort of Team 10 influencer you are, a four-category distinction divined through prompts like “my game of choice.” Your options are board games, Call of Duty, Angry Birds, or being social with friends. It’s a sorting hat crossed with a nonsensical BuzzFeed quiz, and it’s hilariously unhelpful in helping a would-be influencer chisel away at their specialties. The result doesn’t matter even in the context of the program. (It’s not like Paul tailors his lessons toward the four categories.)

Regardless of your answers, the quiz dumps you into the same promotional video to sell you on his program and his lifestyle. “It wasn’t always fancy cars and nice hotels,” the 21-year-old declares seconds after he hops out of a gold McLaren and strolls through the lobby of a fancy hotel. He was once just a regular kid in Ohio, Paul explains, who fell into making videos out of sheer boredom. Now he lives a glamorous life in Los Angeles with his best friends, and he’s quick to emphasize how much money he’s making. “I get to do what I want,” says Paul. “And I get paid millions of dollars to do it… We live in a new world now where you get to decide your destiny, where you create your own fate.”

Basic admission to this destiny-creating knowledge is $7, which earns you a video with a broad explanation of social media — and Paul’s success — that sounds more like an infomercial than an educational resource. “The people who will win are the ones who know exactly how to take advantage of social media in its early stages,” says Paul, going in for the hard sell. “Will you be one of those people?” He asks, pointing at the camera.

The $7 video involves a lot of cliché showboating about how “content is king,” and absurdly basic advice about studying popular influencers and keeping to a schedule. Paul tops it off with an over-the-top promise that is dishonest at best, and predatory at worst: “If you do social media right, and really take this course seriously, you can buy all of the things that you’ve dreamed of and make millions of dollars. It’s not a joke.”

Yes, only Jake Paul can save you from the horrors of an average life with a bad boss and a 9-to-5 job in a cubicle. But first, you need to pay him an additional $57.

If it feels like you’ve just shelled out money to watch a glorified commercial for the real program, you’re not wrong. Full access to the Edfluence content, beyond the first section, is gated behind the “inner circle,” a package of 12 multi-episode chapters covering platforms like Instagram and YouTube, as well as video editing advice and broader tips dubbed “keys to success.” These chapters are made up of anywhere from four to eight videos, aka “episodes,” that delve into specific topics.

In one lesson, he provides a shockingly inept lesson about the history of social media. “It all started with Myspace,” he declares. “This was the first generation of social media stars we saw.” Instead of mentioning people like Jennifer Ringley, aka Jennicam, who became the first “lifecaster” in the ‘90swithout the help of Myspace, Paul name-drops Tila Tequila as an example of early online stardom.

He calls Vine the first wave of social media as it’s known today, because “this is when brands, Hollywood, and people and your moms and dads started to pay attention to what this was, because of how crazy the phenomenon of this was.” Nevermind that major YouTube influencers like PewDiePie rarely used this platform, and were getting coverage in TheNew York Times when Vine was still new to the scene.

He then skims across platforms like YouTube and Twitter, but instead of jaw-dropping tips that will help you achieve fame, his advice, even within specific categories, is a neophyte collection of basic information that often seems more common sense than clutch. “People naturally want to retweet and engage on super funny videos and memes,” he says in one of his videos about Twitter, proving only that he’s been on the platform for more than three minutes.

Other hot tips include: following as many people as possible to encourage them to follow you back, or sucking up to famous accounts in hopes of getting exposure. The majority of videos last for five minutes or less, though it often feels even less substantial as many spend up to a full minute on cold-open goofs and intro reels. This wasted time only gets more frustrating as time wears on, with each new gag becoming more and more like a modern “Oh, I didn’t see you there” opening. Here’s Paul making shadow puppets or sniffing his own shoe while pretending to not realize the camera is on. Wacky!

From a pedagogical standpoint, there’s no opportunity for would-be students to engage with his videos through comments, test what they’ve learned, or easily search for specific topics in text. If you can’t remember exactly what Paul said on a subject, you’ll have to go back and scrub through all the videos to find it. There’s also a lot of information that won’t be helpful to influencers who are just starting out, which is particularly frustrating given the abbreviated length and cursory coverage of the videos. It might be interesting to know that your asking price for brands should be in the $10K range for every 1 million followers, but it’s not very useful for an amateur audience since very few influencers will ever get there.

Even for 21-year-old Jake Paul, much of the advice already seems out of touch with the sort of everyday users he explains he once was. In one video, he talks about creating a video where he lit his pool on fire, which attracted cops and fire trucks. Is this a good idea for the average up-and-coming influencer? Not at all. He doesn’t mention safety precautions, accusations that he’s terrorizing his neighborhood, or even legal concerns.

This gets to the heart of the real problems with Paul’s Edfluence course, which spends no time on safety or harassment. In one video, he mentions that, as a Viner, it was normal for 4–5 fans to wait outside his apartment for a month to meet him; as a vlogger, he claims there are now 20–30 people outside his house at any given time. Paul breezily mentions this fact with no attention to the issue of security or the potential for stalking.

There’s also no care given to making good content decisions, an especially timely lesson given the critical backlash to his brother Logan. Logan’s choice to vlog a suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara forest was met with immediate backlash and eventual consequences. (Logan has since been removed from YouTube’s Google Preferred ad program, and his YouTube Red projects have been shelved.) Jake has seen his fair share of controversy as well, from using racial slurs to questionable images uploaded as YouTube thumbnails, as well as the aforementioned neighborhood drama.

Like many celebrities, Jake Paul’s story of self-made success is aspirational for many of his fans. And there’s no doubt that Paul, like all well-known influencers, puts a lot of time and effort into his craft. But pretending that viral fame is simply a matter of “deciding your destiny” isn’t just simplistic; it’s manipulative.

Paul is selling a dream tailored to kids who want to escape their average lives in ways that prey on these naive, younger viewers. He wows them with promises of fame and millions of dollars, supported by the backdrop of his own lavish lifestyle, and tells them that all of this can be within their grasp. Even when he’s not namedropping his sports cars or bragging about his checks, the promise lurks unspoken against the background of beautiful resort pools, LA’s skyline, or his luxurious home. All this could be yours, these videos quietly promise, if only you work hard enough, if only you pay money to listen to Jake, if only you get on his radar.

Influencers, who often rise to prominence without any guiding editorial hand, desperately need experienced hands and educational resources to teach them about best practices — not just for achieving fame, but for doing so responsibly. But that person is not Jake Paul, nor is it Edfluence in its current state.

At the very least, YouTubers are getting something out of it: content. In the weeks since Edfluence’s launch, YouTube has been filled with creators speculating on whether or not it’s all one big scam. “It’s like a fricken pyramid, ponzi-scheme piece of shit,” says Taylor A, who posted a video of his experience. “This is a PSA to parents, I guess you could say: do not buy this,” says Scott Mulligan, noting that Paul’s audience skews young.

“There are so many different ways to learn about influencing and making YouTube videos — in fact there are so many on Youtube for free that you can watch in order to kind of step up your game,” says Miranda Mendelson pointing to Edfluence’s “shady” business model. “You don’t have to pay Jake Paul $7 to tell you what he could teach you for $57, that’s for damn sure.”