California Net Neutrality Bill Was ‘Hijacked,’ Lawmaker Says

Last month the California Senate passed what would be the country’s toughest net neutrality protections, which go even further than the repealed Obama-era Federal Communications Commission rules. But Wednesday, a California Assembly committee amended the bill, removing many protections in the original.

The amended version of the bill still bans broadband providers from blocking or throttling legal content, and from creating “fast lanes.” But critics of the changes worry that they could create loopholes that would allow broadband providers to undermine net neutrality. Perhaps most important is the removal of a prohibition on broadband providers charging access fees to content providers. Depending on how courts interpreted the bill, this could create a loophole that would allow companies like Verizon or Comcast to charge companies like Facebook or Netflix additional fees to make their content available and block access to content from companies that don’t pay.

“The bill got hijacked today,” state Senator Scott Wiener, the bill’s sponsor, tells WIRED. “The bill as amended doesn’t protect net neutrality anymore. I do not support those amendments, and I’m not interested in passing a bill that is watered down so severely.”

Wiener says he will work with the Assembly to restore key protections, and says he’s willing to compromise on some issues. But he says he might withdraw the bill if he’s not satisfied with the outcome of negotiations.

California is one of many states trying to pass its own net neutrality laws since the Republican-led FCC voted to repeal its rules last December. Washington state, for example, passed its own protections earlier this year, but they are weaker in some ways than the Obama-era FCC rules. Wiener aimed to provide a model for the rest of the country to follow with his more comprehensive bill. A similar bill was recently introduced in New York.

His original bill included all the major provisions of the FCC’s old rules, which banned broadband providers from blocking, throttling, or otherwise discriminating against lawful content. But it went further than the FCC rules by banning companies from blocking or throttling content as it enters their network from other networks, under so-called interconnection agreements. This is important because as data moves across the internet, it generally travels across networks owned by more than one company, providing many opportunities to content to be slowed. Internet users can definitely feel the results. In 2014, an interconnection dispute between several large broadband providers and Netflix and some of its network providers resulted in degraded Netflix streaming for many consumers.

Wiener’s bill also went further than the old FCC rules by banning providers from exempting certain content from data limits, a concept known as “zero rating.” For example, the bill would likely have banned AT&T from exempting its DirecTV Now service from customers’ data limits while still counting data from competitors like Dish’s SlingTV.

But amendments offered by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, the chair of the Communications and Conveyance committee, remove the sections on zero rating and interconnection arrangements. The amendments, which the Communications and Conveyance committee approved Wednesday in an 8-0 vote, also remove several definitions from the text, which Wiener says could make the law harder to enforce.

Santiago, a Democrat from Los Angeles, characterizes his changes as a return to the FCC’s 2015 rules. “Trump’s rollback of these [net neutrality] regulations are a concern to me, as they should be for every American,” he said in a statement.

Critics of the changes seized on how the resulting bill departs from the 2015 rules. For example, the amended version of the bill does not prohibit broadband providers from charging access fees. Ryan Singel, a fellow at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society and former WIRED editor, says the amendment makes it harder for the law’s defenders to argue that such access fees are covered by the bill’s prohibition against blocking lawful content. He also points out that Verizon sued the FCC in 2012 over an earlier version of its rules over this very point, arguing that blocking a company for not paying an access fee is different from blocking content for other reasons and is not prohibited by a simple no-blocking rule. A court ultimately threw out this version of the net neutrality rules for other reasons.

Verizon didn’t respond to a request for comment. In a 2016 blog post, Verizon called for Congress to pass laws banning blocking, throttling, and paid fast lanes, but didn’t specify if access fees should be included in the ban.

The repealed FCC rules didn’t apply bright-line rules to interconnection arrangements, and didn’t include a blanket ban on zero rating. But they did include a “general conduct” rule that banned unreasonable interference or disadvantaging of users or content providers and reserved the authority to intervene on issues related to data caps and interconnection on a case-by-case basis.

The amended version of the California bill still bans broadband providers from “unreasonably interfering with, or unreasonably disadvantaging” internet users from accessing lawful content or content providers from offering lawful content.

Critics accuse Santiago of weakening the bill on behalf of the telecommunications industry. He received at least $54,000 from the industry since the 2016 election. Santiago’s office didn’t respond to questions about the donations.

But Santiago vowed to fight both the Trump administration and the industry in any legal battles that arise from the bill. When the now Republican-led FCC voted to jettison its net neutrality rules last December, it also passed rules banning states from passing their own protections, and the telecommunications industry group US Telecom has vowed to challenge state net neutrality laws. Legal experts are unsure whether the FCC has the authority to preempt state laws in this case.

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How a Child Moves Through a Broken Immigration System

As an immigration attorney working along the US-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas, Carlos García says he’s seen “a lot of sad stuff” over the years. But what he encountered at the McAllen federal courthouse Tuesday left him lost for words.

“You walk into the courtroom and there are 90 people waiting to be prosecuted for illegal entry,” he says. “When you talk to parents about losing their children and having their children taken away from them, it’s a different feeling. I can’t even describe it.”

García is one of several lawyers affiliated with the Texas Civil Rights Project who have offered legal assistance to detainees awaiting their fate at the local courthouse, after the Trump administration began implementing its zero-tolerance policy in April. The policy refers all illegal border crossings for criminal prosecution, including asylum seekers and regardless of whether crossers are traveling with children. Since May, the government has separated 2,342 children from their families, according to the Department of Homeland Security, stoking widespread outrage as reports of the separations and photos of children sleeping in cages circulated on social media over the weekend.

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that would keep children with their parents in detention indefinitely. In a conference call with reporters, Gene Hamilton, counselor to the attorney general, said the order is effective immediately. But that still leaves thousands of families waiting to be reunited. Asked what happens to the kids currently being held, Hamilton said, “I’m going to have to defer to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services as to the specific answer to that question.” The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to repeated requests for comment from WIRED.

Before the order was signed, the Texas Civil Rights Project’s lawyers interviewed more than 300 detainees over the last two weeks, none of whom have been confirmed to be reunited with their children.

“A couple parents asked me, ‘How do I know I’m not going to be deported and my child won’t stay in the US?’” García says. “I didn’t have an answer for them.”

That’s because there are no easy answers. The system that tracks children from their initial capture at the border to their detention at group shelters and finally to their release to sponsors is as labyrinthine as it is opaque. (It took WIRED more than 20 rounds of emails to get answers from the three government agencies involved about how the process works.)

“The families I work with can’t find their kids. Across the board their experience is that they continue to ask their deportation officers where their children are and they are not told,” says Austin-based attorney Kate Lincoln Goldfinch, whose firm works with hundreds of asylum seekers at a time.

The Women’s Refugee Commission is putting together recommendations for Congress and the White House to “establish a clear and consistent process by which DOJ, DHS, and HHS” record and track families who are separated, according to senior policy adviser for migrant rights Emily Butera. Among WRC’s recommendations are specifics like including the place separation occurred in every child’s case file, and providing parents with written and verbal information about where their children are being sent, as well as contact information for that facility, and the process for locating their child in detention. WRC also calls for regular phone calls between family members, a ban on time limits for those phones, and the promise that parents will be notified of and allowed to participate in any immigration court proceeding affecting their child, free of charge.

“This administration has separated children from their parents with no clear process for putting that family back together,” says Butera.

According to former government officials familiar with the current protocol, the system for handling children being separated from their parents is based on a process, designed around 2014, for unaccompanied minors crossing into the United States on their own. Often, these were teenagers with phone numbers memorized, US sponsors in mind, and parents back home awaiting their calls. Now, however, that same system is handling infants and toddlers, children who never planned on being on their own and whose parents are being moved between detention centers with limited access to phones. The already tenuous communication channels available to both parents and children in detention have been rendered relatively useless.

“I’m horrified,” says one former official at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked on the program that handled the influx of unaccompanied minors into the US during the Obama administration and spoke anonymously because of restrictions instituted by a current employer. “The long-term challenges of separating these kids and putting tender age children into a system that was designed to care for teenagers puts a significant burden on the system and will create terrible long-term impacts.”

Piecing together how exactly a child moves through the system isn’t easy, but according to responses from the Customs and Border Patrol, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, legal experts, and former HHS officials, it goes something like this: When a child is detained at the border, CBP is responsible for collecting their information in a database called the Unaccompanied Children Portal. Both DHS and HHS have access to this portal. It’s where border agents enter details, including the child’s name, age, gender, country of origin, date of birth, and, if the child is a girl, whether she is visibly pregnant.

When children are separated from their parents at the border, they’re considered unaccompanied children and are entered into that database. Border Patrol assigns each person—child or parent—their own unique alien number, used to identify and track them through government databases. The UC Portal does contain a field where border agents can write that a child has been separated from a parent and include the parent’s alien number. But this note is often the only record linking the parent and child. It’s unclear if such a note is appended to the parent’s file. Neither CBP nor HHS responded to WIRED’s request for comment on how they link records between parents and children.

Once border agents upload the child’s information to the portal, that record gets sent to HHS, which scans its shelters to find an available bed. The Office of Refugee Resettlement currently operates 100 shelters in 17 states. The child’s bed assignment passes back through the portal to Border Patrol, which is responsible for transferring the child to a facility. That facility may be thousands of miles from where he or she was apprehended.

Once the child reaches the facility, he or she is assigned a case manager, who begins the process of locating relatives who can take the child into their custody. In some cases, if the relative doesn’t have proper documentation, including the child’s birth certificate, the agency uses DNA testing to confirm they’re related. When a relative can’t be found, children are kept longer at government shelters or transferred to a sponsor’s care.

A child embraces a woman as people hold signs to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order to detain children crossing the southern U.S. border and separating families outside of City Hall in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 7, 2018.

Patrick Fallon/Reuters

All the while, parents are being processed by a different agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Before their court dates, they’re given little more than a form with a number on it for the so-called Detention Reporting and Information Line, or DRIL line, which they can call for help locating their children. According to Zenen Jaimes, communications director at the Texas Civil Rights Project, that phone number wasn’t working when parents began calling in late May. Now it’s operational, but still far from perfect. Because few parents have access to their children’s alien numbers, they have to use details like name and date of birth to locate them.

“It’s very problematic, because if the border patrol officer puts one letter in their name wrong, or their birthday wrong, you can’t find them,” says Lincoln Goldfinch.

Immigrants in ICE detention are supposed to have access to free phone calls to contact lawyers, consulate workers from their home countries, and government hotlines where they can try to locate their children. The phones work differently in every facility. People need to input a special code to get access to those free calls. Advocates say that in some instances parents can’t figure out how to use the free line on the phones at all. Many parents do not speak Spanish, but rather speak indigenous languages that instructional pamphlets are not translated into. Advocates say long hold times have made it difficult for detainees to get through.

Lincoln Goldfinch could point to only one instance where a client of hers was able to call their child. “And that was because a deportation officer took it upon herself to schedule [a call]. It took a deportation officer who was willing to make the extra effort,” she says. In that particular case, the client was only able to locate her child because friends and family on the outside had tracked the child down.

Once parents are prosecuted, they’re eligible to pursue asylum through yet another agency, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. That agency conducts what’s known as a “credible fear” interview: If they’re found to have a credible fear of returning to their home country, USCIS refers them to an immigration judge for a full hearing. If not, they get deported.

According to an ICE spokesperson, if the parent has been released or has been deported, it’s up to ORR whether that person’s child is returned to their custody. Now stories are surfacing of parents being deported without their children, a situation at least one Texas official equated to government-sponsored kidnapping. One mother has already sued the government after being separated from her 7-year-old son for a month.

Questions remain about how exactly the president’s executive order will be implemented in practice—or whether it’s even legal. For now, the order may prevent more families from experiencing the pain of separation. But for the thousands of families already enduring that trauma, the long and convoluted process of reuniting with their loved ones has only just begun.

“One lady told me she came here following this dream,” García says. “It turned into a nightmare.”

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Europe’s Proposed Copyright Law Could Screw Up the Internet

Even as companies around the world raced to comply with sweeping privacy rules that took effect in the European Union last month, EU lawmakers were working on another set of changes that could have a global impact on the internet.

Today a committee in the EU’s legislative branch approved a proposed model copyright law that would likely lead many apps and websites to screen uploaded content using automated filters to detect copyrighted material. The proposal will now move to a vote by the full European Parliament.

The effect would be similar to how YouTube tries to detect and block copyrighted audio and video from being posted on its site, but it would be applied to all types of content, including text, images, and software, as well as audio and video. Critics say this section of the proposal, Article 13, would lead to legitimate content, such as satire or short excerpts, being blocked even outside the EU.

Another section of the proposal would require online services to pay news publications for using their content. This has been widely referred to as a “link tax,” but hyperlinks and search engine listings are specifically exempted in the most recent draft of the directive shared by European Parliament member Julia Reda, a member of the Pirate Party Germany. The rules are widely seen as a way to force services like Facebook and Twitter that show short snippets or other previews of news stories to pay a fee to publishers, but the draft doesn’t make clear whether snippets would still be OK and, if so, how long they can be. The impact on Google is also unclear, as some of the material it displays, like its “featured snippet” information boxes, may not be considered search-engine listings.

The proposal is the latest attempt by European governments to reign in US technology giants. In addition to its privacy rules, the EU has in recent years imposed steep antitrust fines on Google, delivered Apple a hefty tax bill, and passed the digital “right to be forgotten.” Last year, Germany passed a law ordering social media companies to delete hate speech within 24 hours of it’s being published. Unlike these other rules, which focus on taxes and fees, the copyright proposal attempts to put more money into the pockets of publishers in Europe and elsewhere by mandating licensing fees.

A coalition of four European publishing groups released a statement applauding the European Parliament “for making a crucial stand for the future of a free, independent press, for the future of professional journalism, for the future of fact-checked content, for the future of a rich, diverse and open internet and, ultimately, for the future of a healthy democracy.”

The copyright proposal would be an EU “directive,” which would then be translated into laws in each EU country. Those laws could vary slightly. That, along with the vague wording of some parts of the proposal, make it hard to predict the exact outcomes of the rules.

Google head of global public policy Caroline Atkinson objected to the idea of preemptive filtering for all types of content in a 2016 blog post about an earlier version of the proposal. “This would effectively turn the internet into a place where everything uploaded to the web must be cleared by lawyers before it can find an audience,” she wrote. Atkinson wrote that paying to display snippets was not viable and would ultimately reduce the amount of traffic that Google sent publishers via Google News and search. Facebook and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

The proposal would shift the responsibility for publishing copyright-infringing work online from the users of a platform to the platforms themselves. It would mandate that services intended to store and publish copyrighted materials take “appropriate and proportionate measures” to ensure that copyrighted material is not available without the permission of its owner. It does not specify that sites must apply YouTube-style automated blocking, and it says that the “implementation of measures by service providers should not consist in a general monitoring obligation.” But critics argue that the directive will result in the widespread use of automatic filters. In some cases, platforms could avoid blocking content by licensing the content from rights holders.

The laws would only apply within EU countries, but companies might implement filtering around the world, says Gus Rossi, the director of global policy at the advocacy group Public Knowledge. He points to the way some companies, such as Microsoft, opted to follow the EU’s privacy rules globally, not just in Europe.

The way automated filters typically work is that rights holders upload their content to a platform like YouTube, and the platform’s software automatically watches for copies of those works. When the filter detects what it suspects to be infringing content, the platform blocks it from being published, or deletes it if it has already been published.

But critics say the filters will screen out content that should be legal, such as short excerpts from another work. In one ironic example, the French far-right political party National Rally (formerly known as the National Front), which supports the proposed copyright directive, recently had its YouTube channel briefly suspended due to alleged copyright violations, Techdirt reported. The channel is available again. National Rally did not respond to a request for comment.

Automated filters could be abused by people who don’t own the rights to content they try to protect, says Cory Doctorow, an author and special adviser to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Someone could upload, say, the US Constitution to a site like Medium and claim it’s their copyrighted work. Then, if Medium had implemented an automated filtering system, the platform would block anyone from citing long passages from the Constitution. Doctorow says this could be abused by pranksters, or by those who want to suppress particular content. The draft proposal has no penalties for making false claims.

Automated filters could also be expensive for smaller companies to implement. “Far from only affecting large American Internet platforms (who can well afford the costs of compliance), the burden of Article 13 will fall most heavily on their competitors, including European startups” and small businesses, says an open letter signed by more than 70 internet pioneers, including web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. The letter says filters will be unreliable, and the cost of installing them will be “expensive and burdensome.”

European Parliament member Axel Voss of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany admits that the proposal isn’t perfect and will likely lead to some false positives. But he tells WIRED that it will be better than the current system of allowing big platforms to profit by running advertising alongside copyright-infringing material. “We have to start somewhere,” he says.

Voss says the directive would affect a relatively small number of sites. Specifically, it would apply only to sites intended to be used to publish content and that “optimize” that content by doing things like categorizing it. The draft has exceptions for online retailers that mostly sell physical goods, for open-source software development platforms, and for noncommercial sites like online encyclopedias. But Reda argues that some sites might unintentionally be included under the rules, because the definition of which sites are covered is vague. For example, dating apps might have to screen the photos that users upload to ensure they don’t infringe copyrights.

The ultimate effect of the directive is murky, in part because it will be translated into law differently in different countries. That’s particularly problematic when it comes to defining when a site might need to pay to include a snippet or preview of a news article, since each country could come up with a different maximum amount of content that would be considered allowable.

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Trump Stokes Outrage in Silicon Valley—But It’s Selective

Silicon Valley is in the middle of an awakening, the dawning but selective realization that their products can be used to achieve terrible ends.

In the past few months, this growing unease has bubbled up into outright rebellion from within the rank and file of some of the largest companies in the Valley, beginning in April when Google employees balked at the company’s involvement with a Pentagon artificial intelligence program called Project Maven. On Monday, Amazon shareholders sent an open letter asking CEO Jeff Bezos to halt a program developing facial recognition software for governments pending a review by the board of directors. Also this week, as general horror built up over the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has led to the separation of more than 2,000 children from their parents, Microsoft employees objected to their company’s contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to use Microsoft’s Azure cloud services.

“We are part of a growing movement, comprised of many across the industry who recognize the grave responsibility that those creating powerful technology have to ensure what they build is used for good, and not for harm,” reads an open letter posted to the company’s internal message board Tuesday.

That same day, Microsoft president Brad Smith published a blog post calling on the government to end the zero-tolerance policy. He also pointed out that Microsoft cofounded Kids in Need of Defense, one of the largest immigrant advocacy groups that is working to reconnect children and parents, and whose board Smith himself chairs. CEO Satya Nadella sent a company-wide memo Wednesday, which he also published online, assuring employees that Azure was not used to support ICE’s separation of families. Other Silicon Valley leaders have followed suit in publicly opposing Trump’s immigration policy: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is raising money for organizations working at the border, Apple’s Tim Cook called the policy inhumane, and Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins called on Trump to end the policy, among others.

The question now is whether this is the start of a larger reflection on the role technology plays not just in government work but in all aspects of life. Silicon Valley’s internal outrage can have the most power when it’s aimed at what’s broken about itself.

You have a lot of power in these companies. Don’t waste your opportunity. There are so many other things to change

Kathy Pham, Berkman Klein Center fellow

So far, the tech employee objections have mostly centered on their companies’ work with the government on high-profile military or law enforcement projects. The pushback is powerful: Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene 1 announced Google would not renew the contract with the Department of Defense. Though Microsoft hasn’t canceled its ICE contract, it immediately moved to address its employees’ concerns.

Yet, government contracts like these are a tiny part of the problems in tech. “It’s easy to stand up against DOD and drones or ICE using your cloud. These are certain really easy tangible things to stand up against, but meanwhile your company is doing all this other stuff that deserves deeper scrutiny,” says Kathy Pham, a former product manager at Google and founding product lead at the United States Digital Service. As a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, she is currently studying how to make tech a more ethical industry.

Where, she and others wonder, is this level of concern over Silicon Valley’s own policies and products that disenfranchise, divide, or otherwise harm people?

Everyday Ethical Concerns

When Pham first read the Google Maven news, she wondered why Googlers were only now realizing that the company’s products could be used in damaging ways. Where was the outcry over the ways Google Maps are used for surveillance? Her question echoes the thoughts of author Yasha Levine, who pointed to ICE’s use of Google Maps, telling my colleague Nitahsa Tiku on Monday, “Does that make Google complicit in Trump’s immigration policies? I say, yes.” Levine is concerned about all the many mundane ways tech is used by powerful interests, writing on Twitter today: “When everyone was freaking out over Cambridge Analytica I reminded people that powerful interests use tech like that all the time, including Charles Koch and Co.”

The problem goes beyond government integrations, and beyond any one tech company. Where is the public outcry over about biased search results? The mundane surveillance economy? Or racist facial recognition software? These issues have received sustained of attention from academia and the press, but haven’t stoked rebellion from inside the companies using and developing them.

We haven’t seen public criticism from Google employees over the ways Google Plus is being coopted by Nazis after they are kicked off of Twitter and Facebook, or the privacy nightmare of how it tracks people. We haven’t even seen much public criticism from within Facebook over the role its platform plays in the dissemination of false political propaganda, such as during the 2016 US election and around the world in places like Sri Lanka, despite facing so much external criticism.

Facebook was forced to respond in some way to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and has since taken steps to clean up fake news on the site. But those efforts seem to lack a wider self-awareness about the scope of the issues and the ways in which disinformation flourished on the site by taking advantage of features, not bugs, in the platform. Zuckerberg’s mealy-mouthed congressional testimony, and the subsequent silence in the valley, recently led longtime resident and management expert Tom Peters to tell Recode that Silicon Valley had become a “moral cesspool.”

Former Facebook employee Sandy Parakilas wrote on Twitter Tuesday, “To the tech execs who made the bad decisions that got us here, and who are tweeting their horror at the child separation policy: THIS IS YOUR FAULT! Don’t ever forget that.” In a follow-up with WIRED, he explained he was specifically upset that tech leaders, like Zuckerberg, whose design and product choices helped get Donald Trump elected, would now come out against his policies without any acknowledgment of their own culpability.

To make it worse, he says, “so few of them have called Trump out by name. I think it’s cowardly to express outrage at the policy while continuing to do business with the administration, without even naming the person directly responsible.”

Selective Outrage

So why does the tech industry have a louder voice speaking out about government contracts than work cooked up in its own kitchens?

Silicon Valley workers see themselves as part of the solution to society’s ills, not the problem. And the history of government-tech partnerships is not all bad. After all, the world wide web itself was a government-funded project. The early days of the valley were nurtured by US government support. And many tech-government partnerships have admirable intentions. Take the USDS, which tries act like a startup to solve technical problems more nimbly than government bureaucracy usually allows.

But the extreme polarization of American politics has seeped into everyday life. Everything feels political now, even tech. And because the Trump administration has been so defined by controversy and policies many people find objectionable, any government-tech alliance has become suspect. That, combined with the cacophony on social media, creates an environment where people feel obligated to speak out about whatever outrage is dominating the news cycle. We saw the same thing last year after white supremacists marched in Charlottesville: Google and GoDaddy refused to host Nazi websites, and AirBnB closed white supremacist accounts. (Though even here there are limits—the gun control debate, for instance, hasn’t received the same attention from the tech world.)

Pham points out that there were problematic policies under President Barack Obama, too. She remembers when she worked at USDS that her team had to write Obama a letter explaining why a security improvement he wanted to make was a very bad idea. “We probably should have scrutinized things then, too, but because he was a much more palatable president we ignored certain contracts more,” she says.

Silicon Valley analyst and writer Ben Thompson, who last year had argued that tech CEOs can’t just refuse to work with Trump, says the zero-tolerance policy crosses a moral line that necessitates tech leaders to take action. Writing in his widely influential daily newsletter Wednesday, he concludes that “preserving – or, as has often been the case, pushing for – the fundamental human rights that underly those liberties is not just a civil responsibility but the ultimate fiduciary duty as well.”

Complicity with immoral government policies is an easy way for techies to draw a line in the sand. These contracts are clearly defined and publicized by the press. We’re familiar with the story of companies being complicit in immoral government actions—people remember how IBM worked directly with Nazi Germany, for instance. It can be harder to pinpoint how algorithms are eroding society, or what to do about it.

And while they are vocal, the employees speaking up about their companies’ cooperation with government agencies are still a minority. More than 4,000 Google employees signed a petition to cancel the Project Maven contract, but there are more than 85,000 employees at the company. As of Tuesday night more than 100 people signed the open letter at Microsoft—a company of more than 124,000.

Where Your Voice Is Loudest

Many employees are reluctant to speak out about policies within their own company even if they want to because doing so could get them fired or sued. In some cases, employees do post to internal message boards like the one used by Microsoft employees to voice their concerns, and those don’t always leak out to the press. Former employees are in a better position to speak out.

Additionally, taking a stand against something you or team created is very hard, even if you’re watching that thing be abused or misused. “Google Maps and Google tracking are people’s babies, their hearts and souls are in them,” says Pham, picking an example at random. The same is true for Newsfeed at Facebook, the very product that Russia used to sow discord during the election.

Tech leaders are increasingly taking their cues from their employees. But even they can do more than talk. Zuckerberg’s Facebook post asking people to raise money for immigration advocates, for instance, rings a little hollow to some considering his own vast personal wealth.

For the ethical awakening in Silicon Valley to be real, it needs to go beyond bandwagoning and turn its critical eye back on itself.

“Engineers have the loudest voices in companies. In my experience when engineers really rally around something the leadership really changes it,” says Pham. “You have a lot of power in these companies. Don’t waste your opportunity. There are so many other things to change… Many of these tools exacerbate injustices, many of these tools are not being used for good and it’s important to speak up.”

1Correction at 5:24pm 6/20/18: An earlier version of this story said Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the end of Google’s Maven contract. It was Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene who made the announcement.

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Beaver Builder vs Divi – Which WordPress builder is good for you, and which one isn’t? (2018)

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Beaver Builder vs Divi

So, you are looking for a new pagebuilder plugin, right? How do you choose between Beaver Builder vs Divi when these are the most popular products around?

You have done some preliminary research and have found out that the these two are the most touted choices for building websites. You may also have some experience in using one of these pagebuilder plugins.

Now you want to find out which of these popular plugins is the best. And most of all, which is worth your money?

In that case, you have come to the right place. In today’s post on CollectiveRay, we are going to explore all the important features of these pagebuilder plugins and compare them head-to-head to help you find the best one for you – and where you should spend your money.

Read on to find out which is the best pagebuilder plugin for WordPress.


  Divi Builer beaver builder logo
Price $89 (includes all ET plugins and themes) $99
Free Version No Yes
Real-time editor Yes Yes
Frontend / Backend Both Both
Target Audience Developer / Designer / User Web Developer / Designer
Elements supported 46  31 
Clean Code No Yes
Pre-made templates / layouts 100+ 50+
Cool Feature A/B Testing Beaver Themer
What we liked  Very powerful solution for creating any type of layout  Simple user interface
   Superior layout management options  Content remains intact even after deactivating the plugin
   Attractive pricing with access to lots of other themes and plugins  Unique editor mode for clients
     Allows you to use WordPress widgets in the layouts
What we didn’t like  Takes some time to get used to  More expensive than the other pagebuilders
   Frontend editor takes some time to load.  No undo, redo, or history option
Winner ?  
Website Visit ET (20% OFF) Visit BB

Why use Beaver or Divi?

BB Logo

BB Logo

If you’re relatively new to the WP world, you might not know the full history of pagebuilders and how they have come about.

Essentially, up to a few years ago, WP had the ability to create either pages or posts. Both of these content items are very similar in nature.

They supported mostly texts and images and your run-of-the-mill website content such as video etc.

If you wanted anything fancier, you had to use plugins and / or shortcodes as necessary.

Now, shortcodes were great, because they allowed you to insert specific features and functions wherever you wanted to in a page.

But they still had their limitations – you still had to install a bunch of different plugins to be able to achieve and use multiple different elements in a page. If you wanted sliders, Call-To-Action buttons, videos, image galleries, and other stuff, you had to keep adding more and more plugins.

This brought with it another problem – the more products you add to your installation, the heavier your website would get and the more it was prone to security vulnerabilities coming from the various items you had to install.

This was a problem.

There was another problem. You could not create a page or post visually. You had to design a page using shortcodes and after several iterations of changes, you would arrive to a result which was close to what you desired.

Eventually, developers and WP vendors started realizing that most people wanted the ability to design and define their own pages without constraints – not use templates, which made all websites look the same.

And thus, the concept of page builders came about.

This is essentially the core of such a feature – the ability to drag and drop different elements to design and define a page or post in a way that YOU want.

Divi builder

Divi builder

We’re not too sure who came up with the first pagebuilder product, but definitely, ElegantThemes have been one of the vendors to make this concept very very successful.

As soon as people saw the potential, all of the major vendors started jumping on the bandwagon.

Today, most of the major vendors will bundle some sort of visual page builder into their themes – if they don’t have one themselves, they will partner with somebody who has to embed this feature.

So what about Divi and Beaver Builder?

ElegantThemes have been in this niche so long that they’ve really understood what people want and have given it to them – their product is one of the most popular around, with more than 400,000 sales. They are focused towards those users who want to create a website but are not really bothered with what’s going on under the hood – they just want things to work and don’t want to get technical about it or mess around with any code.

ElegantThemes Target Audience: 

People who want to get a website designed and up and running without involving a developer or knowing much about code.

Example users:

  1. Small business owners
  2. Bloggers
  3. SEOs
  4. Affiliate website owners
  5. Content writers who are doing websites
  6. Web designers
  7. Digital marketing agencies

If you had to take a look at the below image, Divi is targeted towards the designer.

Designer vs Developer

Designer vs Developer

Beaver Builder has a different sort of user. While ElegantThemes targets those who are less “technical”, BB goes after those users who are designers and developers at heart. Divi has some limitations which these developer types find frustrating, and BB identifies and fixes these issues nicely. 

This has allowed this product to take off nicely with those who identify more as developers.

If you’re interested in how ET products compare to other popular options available out there, you might want to consider the following two articles we’ve also written:


Continuing on the image above, BB would be more at home with the developer.

BeaverBulder Target Audience:

Web developers and designers who like to tinker around with the code, be in full control of what’s going on what to be able to tweak things to make them work the way they want to, not the way the vendor designed it.

Example users:

  1. Web developers
  2. Web designers who want to tinker with code
  3. Digital agencies
  4. Freelancers

With that introduction out of the way, let’s start digging into each individual product, so we can see the features, functions, PROS and CONS of using either of these two items.

Let’s start by discussing the User Interface of both of these products.

The WordPress PageBuilder User Interface and User Experience

The Divi Interface

ElegantThemes have been working on their product for quite a number of years at this point. With a strong community supporting them, giving them plenty of great feedback – these guys know how to stay on the pulse of their users.

They have built an interface which is entirely focused on a great User Experience.

They haven’t build hoards of fans by accident. Their strict focus on the design and usability of their product has been one of the key aspects of making this builder so successful.

Have a look at this short intro video (2 minutes). This is from the very first version of Divi (2015), many things have changed since then, but it’s great to get a quick summary of the possibilities.

But let’s take an actual look at the UI.

You can access the Divi interface both from the backend and the frontend of your website. So whether you prefer working on the frontend, or the backend of your site, it’s your choice. 

There are different reasons for doing both. Play around in the backend if you’re more of a developer type who likes to have easy access to the code and other backend features.

Work in the front-end if you’re more of a designer / creative type who is more into what things will look like rather than how they work.

The front-end real-time editor, now allows you to design and actually visualize the page you are working on on the fly.

This is frankly, a great feature, because you don’t have to “guess” or refresh the front end to see the result of the design you are working on.

You can see it as you design it.

This is what ElegantThemes are calling “A new visual experience”.

User Interface

User Interface

They have recently been working to creating a new version of the Builder (which was released as version 3.0). The crux of this version was that rather than having two separate “views” a backend view and a live view, the two will actually blend into one and the same thing. The back-end editor actually shows the live version as you are working.

This is a complete WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) experience. 

Have a look at the below image – see that design in the backend? This is exactly what it will look like when published.

To access the pagebuilder from the backend, go to Posts > Add New. On the resulting page, click the “Use The Divi Builder” button. This will open the interface, which looks like the following

Divi 3 Pagebuilder Frontend

Divi 3.1 (which we’ve already reviewed here) allows you to create separate sections for various parts of the page. It supports three types of sections – standard, full-width, and specialty.

For the standard and full-width sections, you can choose a column-based structure. There are lots of combinations including two, three, four-columns in different sizes. The specialty section features nine specially created column structures. You can add multiple rows inside a section to have multiple column structures.


Once you have chosen a layout, you can add modules to the individual columns. You will find separate options to provide the module content, configure the design options, and provide custom CSS.

You can reposition the modules, columns, rows, and sections by dragging and dropping these into their desired locations. There are dedicated buttons to delete, duplicate, and open the settings section for each of these items. It is also possible to undo, redo the last actions and revert to the previous actions by using the history feature.

To use the pagebuilder from frontend, visit the page you want to edit and click the “Enable Visual Builder” button.

Depending on the page content, it may take a while to load the interface (bear with us, the front-end editor is quite heavy and needs time to download and render).

Divi frontend interface
Divi frontend interface

Once the fronted pagebuilder loads, you can start customizing the page.

Like the backend interface, you can add a new section, choose the column structure, and enjoy complete access to all the module settings options.

Of course, a designer without drag and drop is dead in the water, but of course this product handles D & D very nicely.

In fact, not only is it, drag and drop – but it also maintains responsiveness as you are designing.

Given that you’ll be working on the actual live blocks of contents and elements, you’ll be dragging the actual pieces of content.

And of course, everything is still fully responsive.

Have a look at the following short demo of live, responsive blocks.

 Responsive Editing

You can drag and drop the modules, rows, columns and also copy, paste, delete, or edit these according to your requirements. 

Check out Divi on ElegantThemes (Get 20% off until )

PS. The above offer is only available through CollectiveRay.

So what about ElegantThemes competitor? Does it have the same flexibility? Does it work in real-time in the front-end?

Read the rest of this article to find out the answer to these questions. 

How to use Beaver Builder

Not wanting to be left behind the in the race to pagebuilder domination, BB has come out with all guns blazing.

Or teeth gnashing, if we want to keep the Beaver analogy. ?

BB offers both editing in the frontend and in the backend, so it does not lag behind in that regard.

It can be used on pages, posts and most other WP custom types, as long as they have been enabled.

By clicking on the Admin tab for the relevant custom, type you’ll see the builder being loaded so you can use it to design your content.

Before we continue, you might want to view the following short video (2 minutes) about using BB.

Essentially, in the backend method, after you log in to your dashboard first, go to Posts > Add New, and click on the “Page Builder” button. This will bring up the pagebuilder interface – something similar to the below.

BB PageBuilder UI

BB PageBuilder UI

The first step is to choose a template for the page. You can choose any of the ready-made templates or get started with the blank one to create your own template. Once you have chosen the template, the next step is to choose the row layout.

You can choose the row layout from the left sidebar. Open the sidebar by clicking the “Add Content” button on the top-left menu of the page. The menu also offers a few other buttons to change the template, open the tools, section, publish the page, and a dedicated help button.

BeaverBuilder offers several column structures including one, two, three, four, five, or six columns, and rows with left, right, or both sidebars.

Just drag the row layout into your desired position in the page.

Beaver row structure
Beaver row structure

The next step is to add modules to the columns. You will find the modules in the left sidebar.

Choose the module you want to use and drag it to the desired column in the page. At this point, you will be provided with the module settings window. There are multiple sections to manage the content and style of the module.

You can drag and drop the rows and modules to change their positions. There are separate buttons to delete, duplicate, or open the settings for any row or module. It is also possible to change the column structure of a row.

To access the pagebuilder from the frontend, visit the page you want to edit and click the “Page Builder” button. This will open the same interface as creating the page from the backend.

BeaverBuilder frontend interface
BeaverBuilder frontend interface

You can work with the existing design or choose a new layout. All the other options like adding various rows, modules, widgets, and managing them are exactly the same as the backend.

Would you like to see a free live demo of BeaverBuilder now? Click the button below. (Opens in a new window)

Try out the BeaverBuilder demo now

The Available Modules for Beaver Builder / Divi


This plugin currently comes with 46 content modules, but given the scale of development, you might probably see more as of when you are reading this article.

Among these, you will find the regular ones like:

  • text,
  • search,
  • accordion,
  • button,
  • CTA,
  • audio,
  • video,
  • custom code,
  • divider

Advanced choices of elements include:

  • counter,
  • optin,
  • portfolio,
  • login,
  • map,
  • person,
  • pricing table,
  • testimonial, and
  • video slider

Of course, these are not the only modules available, but if we kept listing them, given that there are more than 46 supported elements, we would be here for ever.

Let’s just say, you’re unlikely to come across any elements which have not be catered for.

Still, if you do, you can actually opt for 3rd party elements developed specifically for module. With version 3.1, an API has been developed and released, to you can expect custom elements and modules to start popping up all over the place.

Fun times ahead!

Let’s see what fancy stuff other developers will come up with. Stay tuned.

But enough about that, let’s have a look on how to actually use a module:

Divi builder modules
Divi builder modules

Click on your desired module to add it to the post. At this point, you have to configure the module settings. 

The pagebuilder provides you with three sections for this purpose:

  1. Content,
  2. Design, and
  3. Advanced.

The Content section includes all the options regarding the content of your chosen module.

Design allows you to choose the color, font, background style, border, margin, and padding for the module.

Lastly, Advanced includes dedicated fields for adding custom CSS ID, class, and for applying custom CSS before or after the module or to the main content.

Would you like to read more information about this plugin now? Click on the button below to visit ElegantThemes website.

Read more about Divi (and get 20% if you buy until )

PS. Offer is only available from the above link. 

Beaver Builder

BB divides the modules into two categories –

  1. Basic Modules and
  2. Advanced Modules

The basic modules include:

  • text editor,
  • heading,
  • HTML,
  • button,
  • image,
  • video, and so on.

The other category contains more advanced modules:

  • CTA,
  • content slider,
  • countdown timer,
  • menu,
  • posts slider,
  • tabs,
  • etc.

BB modules
BB modules

The plugin offers three sections to manage a module –

  1. General,
  2. Style, and
  3. Advanced.

Among these, the General section allows you to configure the settings related to the module type.

The Style section enables you to choose the color, alignment, font, and other styles for the desktop and mobile versions.

Advanced includes options to set up the visibility, animation along with dedicated fields for adding CSS class and ID.

You can see a more clear demo of the BeaverBuilder features below.

Visit BeaverBuilder Website

The next part of our Beaver Builder vs Divi review will deal with available page templates or pre-defined layouts. This is something which is bound to make your life as simple as it can get and allow you to design brand new websites in a matter of hours, even minutes, instead of weeks.

See below what we mean!

Built-in Page Templates

Built-in page templates essentially are there to shorten your design / development time. By having these in place, you only have to tweak the content and the design slightly and you’re good to go!

Divi VisualBuilder Page Templates (aka Layouts)

The new version 3.0 comes with several (more than 100) ready-made templates to help you get started as quickly as possible. You can use a template by clicking the “Load From Library” button in the post editor. This will open a list of the available templates.

divi builder templates
divi builder templates

You will find professional layouts for the landing page, coming soon, about me, contact us, team, maintenance page along with several variations for the homepage, blog, shop, and portfolio pages.

It is possible to use these layouts as they are or customize these according to your requirements.

Of course, one may have quite a large number of templates (or as ET calls them) page layouts, but the real meat is whether or not they are actually any good and usable to create your own designs.

Essentially, the basic idea is this – you load a pre-defined layout, then you customize the text, imagery and other content to suit your business and – voila – you’ve got an amazing “designed” website without requiring any real design knowledge.

This is great power in the hands of those who want to get things up and running quickly but are not very comfortable with code or design per se.

Just an FYI – there are more than 250 layouts available at the time of writing this article.

Let’s have a quick browse at what is available in terms of layouts.

Complete Website Packs

This right here is a killer-feature which we think is great for the target audience which this product is aimed for. Given that we mentioned the audience to be, people who to get something off the ground quickly, the availability of complete website packs is truly a blessing.

Essentially, these are a bundle of the essential 7 to 8 individually designed pages required for somebody to just launch a full site in a matter of minutes. 

Have a look at how Nick Roach from ET describes the value that the layouts bring to this product.

The pages are actually customized for the specific niche / industry, having the essential elements required for that specific kind of business.

All you would need to do as a user is import the design and change the content to suit your own specific requirements.

Here are some of the niches which are available as website packs. As of now, there are 31 layout packs available with a total of 250 pages designed.

  • Restaurant Landing Page – this is a pack consisting of 8 pages to provide anything which a restaurant or food-based business to launch their online presence, including the hours or operation in the footer for easy access by customers.

 Restaurant landing page

Restaurant landing page

  • Design Agency – the design agency pack is a 9 page bundle of creatively and professionally designed pages for an digital or design agency. Of course, prominence is given to work and style, showcasing the skills of the business in a way which converts
  • Fashion Landing Page – one industry which surely needs to look great online, is a fashion blog.  This layout pack of 8 pages focuses on allowing the blogger to brand their image as necessary. It’s all great for use by photographers and other visual businesses.
  • Travel Agency – the design here has strong focus on the user visiting the site taking action, pushing and urging the current viewer to call or book now with attractive Call To Action buttons.
  • Wedding Home Page – a perfect way to quickly launch a wedding showcase. It of course focuses very much on the aesthetics and a number of other custom features specific to weddings.
  • SaaS Company – another type of business, typically startups, which typically has little time to waste and needs to get up and running quickly. This layout pack gives them all they need to get up and running and get the necessary information out there.

Divi layouts

Divi layouts

There are plenty of other layouts available including but not limited to:

  • Learning Management System
  • Coffee shop
  • Farmers Market
  • Yoga or Fitness Studio
  • Photo Marketplace
  • Copywriter
  • Florist
  • Web Agency
  • Interior Design Company
  • Digital Payments business
  • Pottery and craft studio
  • SEO Agency
  • Business consultancy
  • Design conference
  • Food recipies
  • Law Firm
  • Author
  • etc, etc.

As time goes by, ET keep adding more and more layouts to their library to cater for specific niches. Even if you specific industry has not been catered for right now, you will definitely be able to customize one of the existing layouts and designed to suit your needs.

Check out all the Layouts Now

Beaver Builder Page Templates

BB also comes with lots of professionally designed templates. You will be asked to choose a template when creating a new post. It is also possible to change the current template by clicking the “Templates” button.

BeaverBuilder templates
BeaverBuilder templates

There are two types of layouts –

  • Landing Pages and
  • Content Pages.

Landing pages include templates for physical products, apps, professionals, restaurant, technology, fashion, photography, mobile, music, automotive, and so on.

Content Pages include templates for the necessary website pages like the about us, services, portfolio, team, contact, FAQ, blog, etc. Most of these templates are available in different styles. As the templates are provided with an image, you can easily choose the best one according to your requirement.

Let’s have a bit of a deeper look at what’s available for you as a customer of BB.

Landing Pages

BB has designed a number of landing page templates which are ready to use. Amongst these we can find:

  • Small business template – based on the Probiz template, this will help you create a presence for a small business quickly.
  • Fitness, Gym or Sporty template – fitness and sport is always a hot niche and The Body Factory template is designed specifically for clients in this industry. Yoga, Gym, or any physical fitness industry works well with this.
  • Magazine, Blogger, Fashion blogger template – Another ever smoking hot industry, the Fashion Freaks template is just right as a high-end designed look and feel screaming class, sophistication and luxury.
  • Lawyer, Law Firm Template – another hot niche, lawyers and law firms are lucrative clients, who demand a presence which is able to convert high-paying clients. The professional web presence can be easily adapted to other practice-based industries.
    We’ll only mention briefly the rest of the templates
    DJ Beaver template
  • Photography portfolio template
  • DJ / Musician / Band template
  • Restaurant / Cafe template
  • Full-screen layout template
  • Creative, web agency template
  • eBook template
  • Education or University template
  • Cars / Automotive template
  • Mobile App template
  • General business template
  • Construction template
  • Coming soon template

We highly recommend that you have a look at the demos available with each of these templates, to see how easily it is to get started with these templates.

Content Pages

While templates of full websites are fantastic, sometimes we still want to tweak or create specific pages. For this reason BB also has a number of content pages which have been designed and ready-to-use.

Content pages

Content pages

Here are some of the pages which are available for use:

  • About Us (several versions)
  • Our services 
  • Photo portfolio
  • Design portfolio
  • Our Team (several versions)
  • Contact (several versions)
  • Pricing (several versions)
  • Blog (several versions)

Of course, we only expect these to grow over time.

Click on the link below to go directly to the templates page. 

Check out BeaverBuilder templates

PageBuilder Settings 

Divi Settings

Setting up this plugin is very straightforward.

Once you install and activate the plugin, go to Plugin Options, and provide your username and API Key in the “Updates” section to receive automatic updates.

Divi settings options
Divi settings options

You will find a list of all custom layouts in the Divi Library page. There are separate buttons to manage the layout category and to import or export the layouts. Go to Divi Role Editor to define how much access different user roles will have.

Beaver Builder Settings

The settings options for BB are located in the Settings > Page Builder page. Provide your license key in the License section to enable automatic update for the plugin.

In Modules, you can enable or disable the modules. Post Types allow you to define which post types can use BeaverBuilder. In Templates, you can decide which templates will be available in the pagebuilder interface.

beaver builder settings options
beaver builder settings options

The Icons section enables you to decide which icons should be available in the interface.

The available options include

  • FontAwesome,
  • Foundation, and
  • Dashicons. 

This is an example of how BB allows you to customize and tinker with all of the options you need. If you’re not happy using FontAwesome, choose something ou like.

You will also find separate sections to clear the cache which will remove any dynamically generated CSS and Javascript.

Finally, you will find an option to uninstall Beaver Builder. This functions actually remove all BBB related data from your WordPress database – so take backups before you use it and make sure you know what you are doing.

Additional Features


The plugin from Elegant Themes comes with several other exciting features. For instance, the PageBuilder Library enables you to save customized modules and layouts so that you can use them again in the future. What’s more, it is also possible to import or export these items to and from other websites.

The superior layout spacing options also demand special mention. These options make it a lot easier to apply the exact spacing you want between the rows, elements, and sections. You will find dedicated options to define the margin, padding, vertical and horizontal spacing. It is also possible to set up the row and column widths.

Divi Spacing options
Divi Spacing options

In some instances, you may have to use the same module in multiple places. You can easily copy and paste any module, row, or column to other posts or pages. What’s more, you can mark these as global items. This allows you to make the changes to a single global item, and the changes will automatically be applied to the other places too. 

Visit ElegantThemes Website Now and get 20% off until

PS. The above offer is only available through the above link from CollectiveRay

Beaver Builder

On the other hand, BB also has some tricks up in its sleeves. First of all, the live frontend editing is really impressive. It offers an intuitive experience where you can edit the page and get the exact output without any guesswork. It also allows you to use the default WordPress widgets and custom widgets in your layouts.

Beaver Builder WordPress widgets
Beaver Builder WordPress widgets

The editor mode will be handy when delivering a project to the client. This mode allows you to limit the abilities of the client to make sure that she is not making any unwanted change in the core layout.

Another significant feature of BB is that the page content remains intact even after you deactivate the plugin. You will lose the styles, but the page will still display the content. In contrast, most other pagebuilders will leave you with a mess of shortcodes when you deactivate that plugin.

Visit BeaverBuilder website

Pros and Cons



  1. Very powerful solution for creating any type of layout,
  2. Superior layout management options,
  3. Attractive pricing with access to lots of other themes and plugins – buying it is a no-brainer, excellent value
  4. Many great designs, with plenty of customisation options,
  5. Extensive documentation and great, responsive support


  1. Take some time to get used to,
  2. Frontend editor takes some time to load and adding modules to pages is much slower than BB
  3. You are limited to the modules available and developed by ET (although version 3.1 now supports a developer API, which means developers will start to integrate their plugins with it)
  4. Cannot remove the data it adds to the database, making moving away from Divi a pain

Beaver Builder


  1. Simple user interface,
  2. Content remains intact even after deactivating the plugin,
  3. Unique editor mode for clients,
  4. Allows you to use WordPress widgets in the layouts.
  5. Fast, snappy, responsive UI which is easy to understand interface
  6. Large selection of professional templates to help you get started with your design
  7. Supports WP native widgets so you can use anything plugins available for WP in BB


  1. More expensive than the other pagebuilders
  2. No undo, redo, or history option which makes it a hassle if you make a mistake

Pricing of Divi vs Beaver Builder


You have to be an Elegant Themes member to use their plugins – and access comes at the below rates. 

There are two plans available for you – Yearly Access and Lifetime Access.

The yearly access plan is priced at $89 per year. On the other hand, the lifetime access allows you to enjoy all these benefits for a one-time payment of $249.

Fortunately, there is an EXCLUSIVE to CollectiveRay 20% offer going on right now, until

so get yourself a bargain today. While you’re at it, might as well get the Lifetime Access given this limited time period discount.

Both plans offer unlimited access to all the themes and plugins developed by ElegantThemes.

Divi pricing
Divi pricing

You will get timely updates, premium support, and a 30-day money-back guarantee as well.

Visit ElegantThemes Now (Get 20% off until )

Beaver Builder

Beaver Builder pricing
Beaver Builder pricing

Beaver Builder offers three pricing plans. The Standard plan is priced at $99, which allows you to use the plugin on one website, gets you one year of support, and access to premium modules and templates.

Pro is priced at $199, which includes all the benefits of the standard plan, plus the BB theme and multisite-compatibility.

Lastly, Agency is priced at $399 and enjoys all the features of Pro along with complete white labeling permission.

Buy BeaverBuilder Now

Which Pagebuilder should You Choose?

Now we come to the (difficult) part where we need to make a choice among these pagebuilders.

As you have noticed, both plugins offer tremendous value for the money. They deliver an excellent user interface and makes it a lot easier for you to create custom layouts.

As both plugins have their use cases, you need to find out which one meets your requirements the most. Let me help you with that –

  • Choose Divi if you want complete control over the layout. Once you get used to the available options, it is a very powerful tool allowing you to create any type of layout you want.
    Final result: 5 out 5.
  • Go with Beaver Builder if you want to get started quickly. As this pagebuilder doesn’t use any shortcodes, you can easily scrap the current design and try a new one with a few mouse clicks.
     Final result: 4.5 out 5

Final Words: Beaver Builder vs Divi

Divi and Beaver Builder are two of the most popular pagebuilder plugins right now. Unless you have used both plugins extensively, it is really challenging to choose one over the other. This comparison post should help you make that decision.

We are of the opinion that ElegantThemes gives you more value overall, given that you are actually getting access to a ton of themes and plugins, but BB is also a great choice.

Buy Divi from ElegantThemes Now (exclusive 20% off until )

Buy BeaverBuilder Now

So, which one have you chosen? Let us know in the comments below. 

Why Lyft Is Trying to Become the Next Subscription Business

In many US cities, ride-sharing is a commodity. Both drivers and riders pull up Uber and Lyft interchangeably on their phones, weighing which to use based on price and wait time.

That’s a problem for ride-sharing companies. In an industry where new apps like Via, Juno, and Gett are coming online regularly, riders have myriad choices. Uber and Lyft can’t keep undercutting each other and everyone else to win riders forever; eventually, they’ll have to charge enough to retain drivers and also turn a profit, competing on the strength of their products and their brands. Both companies wish to be the one app we open every time we need to go anywhere. Lyft and Uber are attempting to compete for this alpha slot by improving their technology, boosting the quality of the service, and providing the most competitive prices.

But to become the one platform that people trust with their transportation needs, these companies will need to lock their riders in. That’s why Lyft’s new subscription service is so interesting.

Lyft has been testing versions of the plan since December, and last month it began rolling out the tests more broadly. “You’ll subscribe to a Lyft plan like you would subscribe to Netflix or a Spotify Premium plan,” president and cofounder John Zimmer explained when I visited the company’s San Francisco headquarters recently. He didn’t say how many people were enrolled in the program but pointed out that it was now being tested in every market.

The subscription program is still in the early stages, but it’s easy to see how Lyft would benefit. Indeed, many startups have adopted the subscription model to form a durable bond with sporadic users. “Spotify, Amazon, and others have employed ‘land grab’ strategies like this to change behavior and build new habits, as a means of forging loyalty in a moment of disruptive change,” says Robbie Kellman Baxter, consultant and author of The Membership Economy, a book that addresses subscription businesses.

Many startups, like Netflix and Spotify, have adopted the subscription model to form a durable bond with sporadic users.

Subscription business models are very popular among investors, and that could be important as Lyft prepares for an initial public offering. “Wall Street loves them,” says Daniel Ives, the head of technology research for GBH Insights. He calls this approach a “golden business model” because it locks in repeat customers over time. “This is something that, as the company goes from private to public, would be looked on very favorably,” he says.

In recent years, digital startups have launched subscriptions in nearly every industry. You can get monthly razor deliveries and weekly dinner supplies. For $10 a month, cinephiles can watch a movie every day with MoviePass. You can listen to music with Spotify, get free delivery (and just about everything else) with Amazon Prime, and take fitness classes with ClassPass.

But ride-sharing subscription businesses have challenges that other industries, like software, do not. “Up until recently, most of the subscription-oriented businesses were for digital offerings—where variable costs were negligible,” Kellman Baxter says. “But with rides, there is a real cost for each ride.” Drivers must be paid enough to make it worth their while, regardless of the cost to riders. “The biggest concern is going to be coming up with pricing that doesn’t bankrupt them but is still compelling,” she says.

Since 2016, Lyft and Uber have experimented with membership passes—testing similar, simple programs. A rider pays an up-front fee and then gets reduced-cost rides for a month. (Prices and services vary according to the individual market.) But two years in, these passes remain experimental and hard to search out. Riders discover they are eligible through the app, and they can only try it for one month.

While Uber has no immediate plans to move the program out of its testing phase, Lyft’s subscription program takes the concept much farther. Right now, riders have two options. They can subscribe to the “All-Access Plan” for $299 per month and get 30 rides of up to $15. If a ride costs more than $15, a rider will be charged the difference. Or, they can subscribe to the “Commute Plan” and pay $3.99 month in exchange for 45 Lyft rides between work and home, set at one personalized price.

One early tester, a Chicago rider named Rachel Morrison who is a competitive intelligence analyst for the company Arity, blogged about her experience. “The deal was no joke,” she wrote. She payed a $135 monthly subscription fee for 30 ride using Lyft Line, the carpooling service, that cost up to $10 each.

In Morrison’s case, at least, the subscription had the intended loyalty-generating side effects. Morrison blogged that after signing up, she buried her Uber app in a folder on her iPhone’s last screen and moved her Lyft app to a prominent place on the opening screen so she’d remember to check it first every time. She also reported that she’d begun to use the service more, and had opted for taking a Lyft Line over public transportation to commute to work more often.

A subscription business also sets Lyft up for a future where its riders use more forms of transportation, like renting bikes and scooters, and turn to the Lyft app to figure out when to use a car and when to take the bus. Zimmer plans to expand this even further in a bid to be a full replacement for car ownership. “If we have a rental car program now that has tens of thousands of vehicles for drivers, we could potentially offer that to passengers,” Zimmer told me.

A subscription business also sets Lyft up for a future where its riders use more forms of transportation, like renting bikes and scooters

Ride-share loyalty could help these other revenue streams thrive: If riders are opening the app nearly every day to call the Lyft Line, for example, they’re more likely to discover and experiment with these new services. But changing behavior is hard. When it comes to ride-sharing, most people are looking for the best price, and it will take a lot to train them to stop searching for something better.

I checked in with Morrison, the woman who’d blogged about her experience with Lyft’s membership, to see if she was still using the service. She loved it the first month, she told me. But rather like a gym membership, she didn’t use it as much the second month, and so she let her subscription lapse.

More Great WIRED Stories

How to Setup a Simple Apache Web Server in a Docker Container

If you are a Linux system administrator who provides support for developers, chances are you’ve heard of Docker. If not, this software solution will make your life easier beginning today by helping you reduce operating costs and accelerate deployments – among other benefits.

But it’s not magic. Docker as a platform leverages containers – packages of an application along with all the tools it needs to run to eliminate differences between environments.

In other words, containerized software will operate and can be managed consistently regardless of where it is installed. Additionally, containers are much easier to set up, start, stop, and maintain than good old virtual machines. If you’re interested in knowing more about the differences between these two technologies, the official Docker website provides a great explanation.

To illustrate, in this article we will explain how to install Docker on CentOS 7 and Ubuntu 16.04, and spin up an Apache 2.4 container from Docker Hub.

We will then use it to serve a simple web page from our home directory – all without the need to install a web server on our host.

Installing Docker on CentOS and Ubuntu

To begin, let’s install Docker using the following command. This will download and run a shell script that will add the Docker repository to our system and install the package.

# curl -fsSL | sh

Next, use systemctl command to start the main Docker service and check its status.

# systemctl start docker
# systemctl status docker

At this point we can simply execute.

# docker

to view the list of available commands or to get help.

# docker COMMAND --help
# docker ps --help

will tell us how to list containers present on our system, whereas

# docker run --help

will print all the options that we can use to manipulate a container.

Setting Up an Apache Container

One of the amazing things about the Docker ecosystem is that there are tens of standard containers that you can easily download and use. In the following example we will instantiate an Apache 2.4 container named tecmint-web, detached from the current terminal. We will use an image called httpd:2.4 from Docker Hub.

Our plan is to have requests made to our public IP address on port 8080 be redirected to port 80 on the container. Also, instead of serving content from the container itself, we will serve a simple web page from /home/user/website.

We do this by mapping /home/user/website/ on the /usr/local/apache2/htdocs/ on the container. Note that you will need to use sudo or log in as root to proceed, and do not omit the forward slashes at the end of each directory.

# sudo docker run -dit --name tecmint-web -p 8080:80 -v /home/user/website/:/usr/local/apache2/htdocs/ httpd:2.4

At this point our Apache container should be up and running.

$ sudo docker ps
Check Apache Docker Container

Check Apache Docker Container

Now let’s create a simple web page named docker.html inside /home/user/website directory.

# vi /home/user/website/docker.html

Add the following sample HTML content to file.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<meta charset="UTF-8">
<title>Learn Docker at</title>
<h1>Learn Docker With Us</h1> </body>

Next, point your browser to AAA.BBB.CCC.DDD:8080/docker.html (where AAA.BBB.CCC.DDD is your host’s public IP address). You should be presented with the page we created previously.

Check Apache Page

Check Apache Page

If you wish, you can now stop the container.

$ sudo docker stop tecmint-web

and remove it:

$ sudo docker rm tecmint-web

To finish cleaning up, you may want to delete the image that was used in the container (omit this step if you’re planning on creating other Apache 2.4 containers soon).

$ sudo docker image remove httpd:2.4

Note that in all the above steps we never had to install the web server on our host.


In this article we explained how to install Docker and manipulate a container. Unfortunately, these are just the basics – there are entire courses, books, and certification exams that cover Dockers (and containers in general) more in depth.

If you want to learn more about Docker, we have already covered a 3-article series, that explains how to install Docker, run applications into containers and automatically build docker images with dockerfile.

  1. Install Docker and Learn Basic Container Manipulation in CentOS and RHEL 7/6
  2. How to Deploy and Run Applications into Docker Containers on CentOS/RHEL 7/6
  3. Automatically Build and Configure Docker Images with Dockerfile on CentOS/RHEL 7/6

Consider this as your starting point and let us know if you have any questions or comments – we look forward to hearing from you!

Anatomy of a perfect pull request

Writing clean code is just one of many factors you should care about when creating a pull request.

Large pull requests cause a big overhead during the code review and can facilitate bugs in the codebase.

That’s why you need to care about the pull request itself. It should be short, have a clear title and description, and do only one thing.

Why should you care?

  • A good pull request will be reviewed quickly
  • It reduces bug introduction into codebase
  • It facilitates new developers onboarding
  • It does not block other developers
  • It speeds up the code review process and consequently, product development

The size of the pull request

The first step to identifying problematic pull requests is to look for big diffs.

Several studies show that it is harder to find bugs when reviewing a lot of code.

In addition, large pull requests will block other developers who may be depending on the code.

How can we determine the perfect pull request size?

A study of a Cisco Systems programming team revealed that a review of 200-400 LOC over 60 to 90 minutes should yield 70-90% defect discovery.

With this number in mind, a good pull request should not have more than 250 lines of code changed.

Image from small business programming.

As shown in the chart above, pull requests with more than 250 lines of changes usually take more than one hour to review.

Break down large pull requests into smaller ones

Feature breakdown is an art. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

What do I mean by feature breakdown?

Feature breakdown is understanding a big feature and breaking it into small pieces that make sense and that can be merged into the codebase piece by piece without breaking anything.

Learning by doing

Let’s say that you need to create a subscribe feature on your app. It’s just a form that accepts an email address and saves it.

Without knowing how your app works, I can already break it into eight pull requests:

  • Create a model to save emails
  • Create a route to receive requests
  • Create a controller
  • Create a service to save it in the database (business logic)
  • Create a policy to handle access control
  • Create a subscribe component (frontend)
  • Create a button to call the subscribe component
  • Add the subscribe button in the interface

As you can see, I broke this feature into many parts, most of which can be done simultaneously by different developers.

Single responsibility principle

The single responsibility principle (SRP) is a computer programming principle that states that every module or class should have responsibility for a single part of the functionality provided by the software, and that responsibility should be entirely encapsulated by the class.

Just like classes and modules, pull requests should do only one thing.

Following the SRP reduces the overhead caused by revising a code that attempts to solve several problems.

Before submitting a PR for review, try applying the single responsibility principle. If the code does more than one thing, break it into other pull requests.

Title and description matter

When creating a pull request, you should care about the title and the description.

Imagine that the code reviewer is joining your team today without knowing what is going on. He should be able to understand the changes.

The image above shows what a good title and description look like.

The title of the pull request should be self-explanatory

The title should make clear what is being changed.

Here are some examples:

Make a useful description

  • Describe what was changed in the pull request
  • Explain why this PR exists
  • Make it clear how it does what it sets out to do— for example, does it change a column in the database? How is this done? What happens to the old data?
  • Use screenshots to demonstrate what has changed.


Pull request size

The pull request must have a maximum of 250 lines of change.

Feature breakdown

Whenever possible, break pull requests into smaller ones.

Single Responsibility Principle

The pull request should do only one thing.


Create a self-explanatory title that describes what the pull request does.


Detail what was changed, why it was changed, and how it was changed.

This article was originally posted at Medium. Reposted with permission.

The Man Who Saw the Dangers of Cambridge Analytica Years Ago

In December 2014, John Rust wrote to the head of the legal department at the University of Cambridge, where he is a professor, warning them that a storm was brewing.

According to an email reviewed by WIRED, Rust informed the university that one of the school’s psychology professors, Aleksandr Kogan, was using an app he created to collect data on millions of Facebook users without their knowledge. Not only did the app collect data on people who opted into it, it also collected data on those users’ Facebook friends. He wrote that if just 100,000 people opted into the app, and if they had an average of 150 friends each, Kogan would have access to 15 million people’s data, which he could then use for the purposes of political persuasion. Journalists had already begun poking around, and Rust wanted the school to intervene, arguing Kogan’s work put the university at risk of “considerable media attention, almost entirely adverse.”

“Their intention is to extend this to the entire US population and use it within an election campaign,” Rust wrote of Kogan and his client, a little-known political consulting firm that went on to be called Cambridge Analytica. He predicted, “I simply can’t see this one going away.”

Six months later, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States, and launched a campaign that depended, in part, on Cambridge Analytica’s work. His shocking election victory in 2016 thrust the firm into the spotlight, earning the company contracts with major commercial clients around the world. But more than a year after it helped get Trump in the White House, news broke that Cambridge Analytica had hired Kogan to harvest the data of tens of millions of American Facebook users without their consent, stoking international outrage from those who felt their privacy had been violated.

As director of the university’s Psychometrics Centre, which researches and develops psychological tests, Rust knew better than most how Facebook data can be manipulated. It was researchers in his own lab who first discovered that Facebook likes could be used to deduce all sorts of sensitive information about people’s personalities and political persuasions. But he says the goal of that research—and the goal of his 40 years in the field—was to warn the world about what can be done with this data and the dangers of allowing it to be so freely traded.

Years later, Rust takes no joy in being proven right. “We could see even four years ago the potential damage it would do, and there was nothing we seemed to be able to do to stop it,” he says today.

Facebook now acknowledges that Kogan collected the Facebook data of up to 87 million Americans and sold it to Cambridge Analytica. But as CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team attempt to clean up the mess, Rust is hardly being hailed as some digital Paul Revere. Instead, his entire department and indeed his entire legacy have been swept up with both Kogan and Cambridge Analytica, accused by Zuckerberg himself of committing the very violations that Rust tried to warn against. “Our number one goal is to protect people’s data first and foremost,” says Ime Archibong, Facebook’s director of product partnerships. “We have an opportunity to do better.”

Since this spring, when news of the scandal broke, Facebook has cut off several apps used in the Psychometrics Centre’s work, and in his testimony before Congress earlier this year, Zuckerberg suggested that “something bad” might be going on within the department that required further investigation from Facebook. In written responses submitted to Congress last week, Facebook mentions the Psychometrics Centre 16 times, always in conjunction with Kogan, who briefly collaborated with the researchers there.

Now Rust and others await the results of Facebook’s investigation, which is itself on hold until UK regulators finish their own probe. And yet the Centre’s reputation already seems inextricably bound to the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Rust fears the condemnations from Facebook have not only tainted the legacy of the department, they’ve brought a key area of research to a halt at a time when Rust insists it’s needed most.

Rust believes the science of psychometrics was born to be abused. At its most basic, it is the science of measuring people’s mental and psychological traits, strengths, and weaknesses. It forms the basis of the SAT and IQ tests, but it’s also been used for all manner of dark and disturbing ends, including eugenics.

“It has a long history of being a science where people say, ‘Gee, that’s amazing. It will change the world.’ And it does, but it doesn’t always change the world in the way people want it,” Rust says. He is sitting near the almost empty row of computers that comprise the tiny Psychometrics Centre. It is modestly demarcated with a slender sign resting on a cabinet and a finger puppet of Sigmund Freud and his couch propped up against it.

Early on in his career studying psychology, Rust saw how IQ tests and other aptitude tests were being used to justify discrimination against people of different races, locking them out of academic and professional opportunities. One of his PhD professors, Hans Eysenck, was a prominent proponent of the theory that people of different races were genetically predisposed to have different IQs.

“There I am stuck in a field, which was shifting increasingly to the right, and I felt there was an obligation to show their approach was wrong,” says Rust, who describes himself as an anarchist in his younger years. “Most people would have just given up the field. I didn’t. We had to address all of these issues.”

Rust launched the Psychometrics Centre at the City University of London in 1989, where he initially focused on developing an intelligence test for children. In 2005, he moved the Centre over to the University of Cambridge. But it wasn’t until 2012, and the arrival of an academic named David Stillwell, that the Centre’s work shifted to social media. While most personality tests are administered by schools and businesses that never show participants their results, Stillwell had developed an app that let people take personality tests on their own and get their results. They could also opt to share the results with the researchers.

The app, called myPersonality, also plugged into Facebook and asked participants to opt in a second time if they wanted to share data from their Facebook profiles. It only collected data on the people who opted in, not their friends, and included a disclaimer saying the information could be “stored and used for business purposes, and also disclosed to third parties, for example (but not limited to) research institutions, in an anonymous manner.” MyPersonality went viral, amassing data on 6 million participants between 2007 and 2012, about 30 to 40 percent of whom opted to share their Facebook data with the researchers, as well.

‘We could see even four years ago the potential damage it would do, and there was nothing we seemed to be able to do to stop it.’ John Rust, Psychometrics Centre director

In March of 2013, Stillwell, a PhD student named Michal Kosinski, and a third researcher coauthored a now-famous paper showing that Facebook likes, even for seemingly benign topics like curly fries or thunderstorms, could be used to predict highly sensitive details about people, including their sexual orientation, ethnicity, and religious and political views. At the time, Facebook Page likes were still public, meaning anyone could collect information on everyone who liked a given Page on their own. The paper warned about how these predictions “could pose a threat to an individual’s well-being, freedom, or even life,” and concluded with a plea for companies like Facebook to give users “transparency and control over their information.”

“It was scary. It still is,” Rust says of the revelation. “It showed communicating through cyberspace was completely different than writing a letter or having a telephone conversation. A digital footprint is like your avatar.”

He says he hoped the research would bring about a crucial conversation about what it really means to let algorithms run amok on massive data sets—conversations that were happening largely behind closed doors in Silicon Valley. The paper, and the ones that followed, earned the two researchers, and the Psychometrics Centre, international attention. In 2013, the Centre began licensing the anonymous data set for other academics to use, leading to dozens of additional research papers. Those collaborators had to agree to terms that prohibited sharing the data, de-anonymizing the data, or using it for commercial purposes.

At the time, Facebook’s terms prohibited selling data or transferring it to data brokers. But it did allow app developers to share data for academic research under certain terms. Users needed to consent to their data being shared, for example. The developer also needed to ensure other researchers agreed to the terms before accessing it—you couldn’t just put data sets up on a website. Facebook’s terms are continually changing, and according to the company, developers are bound by the most current ones. That means the onus is on developers to ensure their apps are aligned with Facebook’s terms every time they change.

Rust says the researchers in his department believed they were complying with all of Facebook’s rules, and back then, at least, Facebook seemed to agree. In 2011, the company paid Stillwell’s way to a workshop on using Facebook data for research, and in 2015 a Facebook researcher invited Kosinski to present his findings at a conference in Long Beach, California. If there was anything wrong with the work they were doing, neither Facebook nor the researchers seemed aware of it.

Around 2012, Rust invited Kogan, a new professor working in the university’s psychology department, to meetings at the Psychometrics Centre. Kogan had established the Cambridge Prosociality and Well-Being Lab, which, according to its website, studied “the psychology of human kindness and well-being.”

“I thought this was a nice, hospitable thing to do to a new university lecturer,” Rust says of the invitation. He now regrets that decision.

Kogan became intimately familiar with the Psychometrics Centre’s data and its models. He was even an examiner on Kosinski’s dissertation. Then, in 2014, a year after Stillwell and Kosinski’s landmark paper published, Kogan and his partner Joe Chancellor launched a firm called Global Science Research. Its client, SCL Elections, which would later become Cambridge Analytica, wanted Kogan to work with the Psychometrics Centre to amass Facebook data on the American electorate and use it to understand people’s personality types for the purpose of political advertising. But the relationship between Kogan, Stillwell, and Kosinski soon soured over contract negotiations that would have left the Psychometrics Centre with a much smaller cut of the budget than originally discussed. Stillwell and Kosinski ultimately declined to work with Kogan, and afterward, the university made Kogan sign a legal document saying he wouldn’t use any of the university’s resources—including its data—for his business.

“We were just watching in a state of, what’s going to happen next?” Rust says.

What happened next is the stuff of breaking news push alerts. Over the summer of 2014, Kogan and Chancellor recruited people to take personality quizzes through their own app called This Is Your Digital Life, thereby gaining access to their Facebook data, as well as the data on tens of millions of their friends. Over the course of that summer, they amassed 50 million records, 30 million of which they sold to Cambridge Analytica, despite Facebook’s prohibition on selling data. Kogan maintains he didn’t know he was violating Facebook’s policies, which he argues the company rarely enforced anyway.

As Rust heard reports about this work from PhD students working with Kogan, he says he grew increasingly concerned. Meanwhile, a reporter from The Guardian, who went on to break the story about Kogan’s methods in 2015, had begun poking around, asking Kogan, Stillwell, and Kosinski questions. According to emails reviewed by WIRED, the researchers worried their work would be lumped in with Kogan’s. It was in this environment at the end of 2014 that Rust decided to sound the alarm.

Last Thursday, Aleksandr Kogan walked into a Starbucks just south of Central Park, looking almost Zuckerbergian in his light blue t-shirt and jeans. He and his wife have been living in New York since November, a few months before, as he puts it, “one hell of a nuclear bomb” dropped into their lives. In March, The New York Times and The Guardian broke the story that made Kogan front-page news and led to him being banned from Facebook. The company has repeatedly cast Kogan as a singularly bad apple, while the armchair sleuths of the internet have used his Russian heritage and research ties to St. Petersburg University to accuse him of being a Russian spy. Now, as he waits for his contract at Cambridge to run out, he knows his career in academia is over.

“This has not worked out well for me, personally,” Kogan said loudly, unafraid of who might be listening. This is one of many reasons that he’d make a lousy spy, he added with a laugh.

Kogan has already testified in front of the UK Parliament, and on Tuesday, he’ll appear at a Senate hearing, too. When he does, he’ll have a different version of events to share than Rust. For starters, Kogan has claimed repeatedly that Stillwell and Kosinski’s methods for predicting people’s personalities and other traits weren’t actually all that effective. That argument is hard to square with the fact that Kogan sold these very methods to Cambridge Analytica. And yet, he’s not alone in making this claim. Other academics and political operatives familiar with Cambridge Analytica’s work have accused the company of selling snake oil.

‘This has not worked out well for me, personally.’

Aleksandr Kogan

Kogan also says Rust is writing a revisionist history of events, casting himself as a whistle-blower when, Kogan says, the Psychometrics Centre wanted in on the project up until contract negotiations fell through. “When they couldn’t get back on the project, they were like, ‘This is an ethics violation,’” Kogan says, pointing a finger sarcastically in the air. “Never has greed served someone so well.”

He concedes, though, that everyone would have been better off had they heeded Rust’s warning back then, and admits that, as he gobbled up this data, he was blind to the risk of public backlash. He’s sorry about the chaos he’s created. “If people are upset, then fuck yeah, we did something wrong,” he says.

But he insists he’s not the only one. The core problem, he argues, is not that “something bad” is happening at the Psychometrics Centre but, rather, that Facebook gave user data away to developers with minimal oversight for years. The company celebrated the work of Stillwell and Kosinski. It hired Chancellor, Kogan’s partner, for its research team and gave Kogan specially curated data sets for his own research. Now Facebook insists it was unaware that any of these academics may have been violating its policies.

“We had no understanding of the violations that were potentially happening,” says Facebook’s Archibong. “This is the reason we’re stepping up and investigating now.”

The University of Cambridge says it is also conducting its own investigation. “We are undertaking a wide-ranging review of all the available information around this case,” a spokesperson said. “Should anything emerge from this review, or from our request to Facebook, the university will take any action necessary in accordance with our policies and procedures.”

But for Kogan, all of this scapegoating of academics is a distraction. If Cambridge Analytica had collected the data itself, instead of buying it from Kogan, no one would have violated Facebook’s policies. And yet, tens of millions of people would still have had their data used for political purposes without their knowledge. That’s a much deeper problem that Facebook—and regulators—have to grapple with, Kogan says. On this point, at least, he and Rust see eye to eye.

Since this spring, Facebook has suspended just about every app the Centre ever touched. Archibong says the company will reinstate the apps if it finds no evidence of wrongdoing, but that may take a while. Facebook is waiting out an investigation by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office before it proceeds with its own audit. In the meantime, the company won’t comment on what policies the Psychometrics Centre’s apps may have violated, leaving the researchers in limbo.

“It’s just a PR exercise for them to say they’re doing something about it,” says Vesselin Popov, director of business development for the Psychometrics Centre.

In addition to myPersonality, Facebook suspended an app called YouAreWhatYouLike, developed in partnership with a company called CubeYou, which has also been banned from Facebook. (Facebook says CubeYou was suspended because of a “suspected violation independent of its ties to the Psychometrics Centre.”) That app showed people their personality predictions from Facebook likes, as well as predictions about their friends. According to CubeYou, the company never sold that data, but did get consent from users to store and share it anonymously, in accordance with Facebook’s terms at the time. Facebook also suspended a tool developed by the Centre called Apply Magic Sauce. It included both a consumer-facing app that let users take personality quizzes, as well as an API, which businesses could use to apply the Centre’s personality-profiling models to their own data sets. The Centre says it never sold that data, either, though it did make money by selling the API to businesses.

Facebook’s decision has radically reduced the Centre’s ability to conduct social media research at a time when, Popov argues, it’s crucial. “One of Facebook’s responses to this is we’ll set up an academic committee that we’ll fund and staff with senior academics we consider worthy,” Popov says. “That, for me, is a total farce. It’s the people causing the problem pretending they’re the ones fixing it.”

Of course, Facebook’s leaders might say the same thing about the researchers at the Psychometrics Centre. In May, The New Scientist reported that login credentials to millions of anonymized records collected by Stillwell and Kosinski had been uploaded to Github by an academic at another university.1 That’s despite the strict terms Stillwell and Kosinski had in place. The data was exposed for four years. Stillwell declined to comment for this story, but in a statement on the app’s website, he wrote, “In nine years of academic collaborations, this is the only such instance where something like this has occurred.” The breach shows there’s no guarantee that even well-meaning developers can keep Facebook data secure once it’s been shared.

If Rust accepts any blame, it’s that he didn’t foresee earlier that the research his department was conducting into the misuse of Facebook data might, in fact, inspire people to misuse Facebook data. Then again, even if he had, he’s not entirely sure that would have stopped him. “I suppose at Cambridge if you know the research you’re doing is groundbreaking, it can always be used for good or bad,” he says.

Rust says he is cooperating with the Information Commissioner’s Office’s investigation. The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, wouldn’t comment for this story beyond saying she is “considering the allegations” leveled against the Centre by Facebook. Rust, however, says he’s submitted emails and other documentation to Denham’s office and has tried to impress upon them the urgent need for regulatory oversight in the field of artificial intelligence.

“AI is actually a bit like a psychopath,” he says. It’s adept at manipulating emotions, but underdeveloped morally. “In a way, machines are a bit like that. They’re going through a stage of moral development, and we need to look at how moral development happens in AI.”

Of course, when Rust says “we,” he’s not talking about himself. He plans to retire next year, leaving the work of solving this problem to a department he hopes can survive the current turmoil. At age 74, he’s already seven years past retirement age, but still, leaving with things as they are isn’t easy. From behind his horn-rimmed glasses, his eyes look melancholy, and maybe even a little glassy, as he reflects on the legacy he’s leaving behind.

“You come into academia trying to solve the world’s problems and work out how the brain works,” he says, hands clasped over crossed legs. “Ten years into it you say, ‘Well I’ll just get my next grant for my next paper, because I want to be a lecturer or senior lecturer.’ It’s only when you come out the other end that you say, ‘Where’s my life gone?’”

He came into this field to start a conversation about why using data to sort and organize people could end up tearing them apart. As frustrating as it’s been to be cast as a villain by some of the most powerful people in the world, he’s thankful this long-awaited discussion around data privacy has finally begun.

“We’re at a point where it could go in so many different directions. It could be a big brother, Brave New World combination where a group of individuals can completely control and predict the behavior of every single individual. Or we have to develop some regulatory system that allows these newly created beings to evolve along with us,” he says. “If anything we’ve done has influenced that, it will have made it worthwhile.”

1Update: 10:23 AM ET 06/19/2018 This story has been updated to clarify that a subset of Stillwell and Kosinski’s data was exposed, not the entire database.

More Great WIRED Stories

A Merger That Would Have Made Crypto Investing Easier Fails

In January, BitGo, a Silicon Valley bitcoin wallet startup, announced plans to acquire Kingdom Trust, a Kentucky company that has quietly become a leading player in a thriving market serving cryptocurrency funds.

The move would have positioned BitGo to compete with a small but growing pool of players offering custodial service—in essence, storage of crypto assets—to high-net-worth individuals, institutions, and funds. It was designed to merge BitGo’s tech products, which offer a secure way for individuals to store bitcoin and crypto assets, with Kingdom’s custody services, which serve institutions. Having a trust charter, as Kingdom Trust does, would have given the combined entity a leg up on competition from Coinbase, Gemini (an exchange run by the Winklevoss twins), Ledger, ItBit, and Nomura, the Japanese bank which in May announced plans to offer crypto custody.

But the charter wasn’t enough to make the merger of a risk-averse financial trust in Kentucky with a venture-backed startup in Silicon Valley work. Kingdom gained regulatory approval for the change of control in April, but a month later, the companies dissolved their merger plans.

According to Kingdom CEO Matt Jennings, the deal fell through in final negotiations. “As with all mergers, there were many details that had to be negotiated and worked through. We simply could not work through the final details,” Jennings said. Jennings said disagreements were not specific to crypto, but “the typical final negotiations between two companies in these sorts of deals.”

BitGo CEO Mike Belshe did not elaborate on the reasons for the merger ending beyond a blog post announcing that the company has applied for a trust charter to build its own custodial solution.


The WIRED Guide to Bitcoin

As a result of the split, BitGo and Kingdom find themselves in competition with each other, as BitGo builds its custody offering. “We have worked closely with customers to understand their custodial needs and have realized that to offer the best custodial solution, we needed to build our own qualified custodial offering,” BitGo product marketing executive Robin Verderosa wrote.

Kingdom continues to offer its custodial services from Murray, Kentucky. Jennings says the split changes nothing about Kingdom’s plans to expand and upgrade its products. “We were the leader in digital asset custody long before any merger was contemplated and plan to keep pressing forward as the leader in the market,” he says.

Meanwhile, Coinbase, the largest and best-known digital currency exchange and wallet in the US, has launched its much-anticipated custody option, and Nomura’s announcement shows that some traditional banks also want a piece of the crypto action.

Institutional custody is a small but important part of the movement to legitimize crypto investing. Crypto hedge funds have proliferated over the last 18 months, with an estimated 100 new ones launching in 2017. A late-2017 surge in the price of bitcoin and other crypto assets meant lots of small funds found themselves suddenly managing large portfolios of crypto assets. Hedge funds with more than $150 million in assets are required to store their assets with a qualified custodian. In a February interview, Belshe estimated that two dozen hedge funds crossed that threshold last year, but were not complying with the rule. This year’s slump in crypto prices may have solved the problem for many.

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