Technology

With partnerships at major children’s hospitals, Manatee seeks clinical validation of its CBT-based app

When Manatee founder Damayanti Dipayana’s brother was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the family took all the steps to ensure that he was properly cared for. All of the things that could have been an obstacle to getting treatment weren’t for Dipayana’s family.

A comfortably middle class background, a supportive family and ready access to care were all available, but still the therapy didn’t take. For Dipayana, it was witnessing the breakdown between the care provided at sessions and the differences in treatment at home, that led her to create Manatee.

“Therapy just sucks for kids,” Dipayana said. “My brother hated it.. It can’t be the best thing for children to put them in a room with an adult and have them talk about their problems for an hour.”

Now the graduate from Techstars Los Angeles has $1.5 million in funding from investors including the Michigan-based investment firm, Grand Ventures; Telosity, a fund launched by Vinaj Ventures & Innovation, that invests in companies improving children’s and young adult’s mental health; and the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, will pursue clinical validation for its suite of apps and services to provide a continuum of care for children with cognitive and behavioral disorders. 

Beginning with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Manatee has started a trial with ten clinicians and fifty families to evaluate the commercial use case for Dipayana’s service.

The first targets for care are anxiety and oppositional disorder, Dapayana said.

Image credit: Manatee

“I really want to focus on children. From a social [return on investment] perspective it seems insane to me that we don’t invest more in the early wellbeing of children,” said Dipayana. “If we did then we probably wouldn’t have to deal with a  ballooning juvenile detention system.”

From the company’s earliest days the stars seemed to align for Dipayana. She found her technical co-founder, Shawn Kuenzler, thanks to a post on AngelList. A veteran in the health tech startup world, Kuenzler ran engineering at Health Language and Zen Planner and has two exits under his belt. If that wasn’t serendipitous enough, Kuenzler’s wife is a clinical psychologist.

The two Denver-based entrepreneurs then took their startup on the road to the Techstars Los Angeles accelerator. It was there that they were introduced to contacts at companies including Headspace and LA Children’s Hospital that are paving the way for clinical validation of digitally delivered cognitive behavioral healthcare.

“We’re going to spend money and resources on launching our research with Children’s LA to understand the impact for a health system,” Dipayana said. “We position it as everyday therapy for kids. We provide the platform for providers to make it the day-to-day therapy for kids.” 

Manatee sells its services directly to healthcare systems to ensure that it can reach the broadest population of users rather than just ones who could afford to access the company’s app-based offerings. Doctors use Manatee as a clinical dashboard and way to communicate to both a child and their family around care plans and treatment.

“I thought about this really long and hard… Looking from my personal experience. Parents and families that have kids with autism… there’s so much snake oil that gets pushed down their throat that they’ll try anything,” Dipayana said. “It was very important to me that one i understand the clinical workflow and understood how the workforce manages behavioral healthcare and whether the work we were doing was valuable.”

Nvidia’s Ampere GPUs come to Google Cloud

Nvidia today announced that its new Ampere-based data center GPUs, the A100 Tensor Core GPUs, are now available in alpha on Google Cloud. As the name implies, these GPUs were designed for AI workloads, as well as data analytics and high-performance computing solutions.

The A100 promises a significant performance improvement over previous generations. Nvidia says the A100 can boost training and inference performance by over 20x compared to its predecessors (though you’ll mostly see 6x or 7x improvements in most benchmarks) and tops out at about 19.5 TFLOPs in single-precision performance and 156 TFLOPs for Tensor Float 32 workloads.

“Google Cloud customers often look to us to provide the latest hardware and software services to help them drive innovation on AI and scientific computing workloads,” said Manish Sainani, Director of Product Management at Google Cloud, in today’s announcement. “With our new A2 VM family, we are proud to be the first major cloud provider to market NVIDIA A100 GPUs, just as we were with NVIDIA’s T4 GPUs. We are excited to see what our customers will do with these new capabilities.”

Google Cloud users can get access to instances with up to 16 of these A100 GPUs, for a total of 640GB of GPU memory and 1.3TB of system memory.

Microsoft secretly seized domains used in COVID-19-themed email cyberattacks

A court has granted a bid by Microsoft to seize and take control of malicious web domains used in a large-scale cyberattack targeting victims in 62 countries with spoofed emails in an effort to defraud unsuspecting businesses.

The technology giant announced the takedown of the business email compromise operation in a Tuesday blog post.

Tom Burt, Microsoft’s consumer security chief, said the attackers tried to gain access to victims’ email inboxes, contacts and other sensitive files in order to send emails to businesses that look like they came from a trusted source. The end goal of the attack is to steal information or redirect wire transfers.

Last year, the FBI said businesses lost more than $1.7 billion as a result of business email compromise attacks.

Microsoft said it first detected and scuppered the operation in December, but that the attackers returned, using the COVID-19 pandemic as a fresh lure to open malicious emails. In one week alone, the attackers sent malicious emails to millions of users, Microsoft said.

Last month, the company secretly sought legal action by asking a federal court to allow it to take control and “sinkhole” the attacker’s domains, effectively shutting down the operation. The court granted Microsoft’s request shortly after but under seal, preventing the attackers from learning of the imminent shutdown of their operation.

Details of the case were unsealed Monday after Microsoft secured control of the domains.

It shows a growing trend of using the U.S. courts system to shut down cyberattacks when time is of the essence, without having to involve the federal authorities, a process that’s frequently cumbersome, bureaucratic, and seldom quick.

“This unique civil case against COVID-19-themed [business email compromise] attacks has allowed us to proactively disable key domains that are part of the criminals’ malicious infrastructure, which is a critical step in protecting our customers,” said Burt.

Microsoft declined to say who, or if it knew, who was behind the attack but a spokesperson confirmed it was not a nation state-backed operation.

The attack worked by tricking victims into turning over access to their email accounts. Court filings seen by TechCrunch describe how the attackers used “phishing emails are designed to look like they come from an employer or other trusted source,” while designed to look like they are legitimate emails from Microsoft.

The malicious web app that steals victims’ account access tokens. (Image: Microsoft)

Once clicked, the phishing email opens a legitimate Microsoft login page. But once the victim enters their username and password, the victim is redirected to a malicious web app that was built and controlled by the attackers. If the user is tricked into approving the web app access to their accounts, the web app siphons off and sends the victim’s account access tokens to the attackers. Account access tokens are designed to keep users logged in without having to re-enter their passwords, but if stolen and abused, can grant full access to a victim’s account.

Burt said the malicious operation allowed the attackers to trick victims into giving over access to their accounts “without explicitly” requiring the victim to turn over their username and password, “as they would in a more traditional phishing campaign.”

With access to those accounts, the attackers would have full control of the accounts to send spoofed messages designed to trick companies into turning over sensitive information or carry out fraud, a common tactic for financially-driven attackers.

By taking out the attackers’ domains used in the attack, Burt said the civil case against the attackers let the company “to proactively disable key domains that are part of the criminals’ malicious infrastructure.”

It’s not the first time Microsoft has asked a court to grant it ownership of malicious domains. In the past two years, Microsoft took control of domains belonging to hackers backed by both Russia and Iran.

Coronavirus: Airport tests may provide ‘early travel quarantine release’

A woman at Gatwick Airport Image copyright Getty Images

Passengers arriving at UK airports could soon be able to have the same type of saliva swab test used by the NHS to screen for the coronavirus.

Companies planning a trial of the scheme hope a negative result will allow early release from the government’s 14-day travel quarantine.

People will have to pay around £140 for a test, booked online before travel.

The government said the quarantine system aims to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a second wave.

BBC News has been told that a trial is expected to begin in a couple of weeks at a major UK airport.

The aim is to initially test 500 passengers a day.

Under the proposals, passengers would visit an airport clinic after immigration to take a test and self-isolate at home until they received the result.

A negative result could take as little as five hours. However, the aim will be to notify every participant within 24 hours.

‘Win-win’

Jason Holt, the boss of ground-handling firm Swissport UK, which is one of two companies involved described the scheme as a “win-win”.

“We accept that the quarantine is in place,” he said. “This will complement it and help put UK aviation back on its feet”.

The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) swab test being used is the type in operation at NHS facilities across the UK.

Nurses will carry out the airport swab tests at clinics run by medical firm Collinson.

The company says the trial is about “modifying” the quarantine.

“People will be able to go on holiday again”, Dr Simon Worrell, Collinson’s Global Medical Director, said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Greece is among the countries to introduce swab testing for passengers arriving at its airports

Dr Worrell hopes it will bring “a degree of normality” back and show people “that we’ve really turned the corner.”

The two companies are in discussions with several UK airports and the government.

However ministers have yet to confirm people who receive a “negative” result won’t have to self-isolate for the remainder of their two weeks.

“The critical thing is to get government approval”, said Scott Sunderman, managing director of medical and security assistance at Collinson.

The Department for Transport said all passengers arriving in the UK – including UK nationals – are being asked to provide an address where they will self-isolate for 14 days.

“As the Home Secretary made clear when she announced these measures, they will be kept under review and informed by science to keep us all safe,” a spokesperson said.

Collinson said the testing could be scaled-up after the pilot. It believes it could, at some point in the future, potentially test “hundreds of thousands” of people a day arriving into the UK.

Swab tests for passengers are already in place at other airports abroad like Hong Kong and Vienna.

Another trial began at Jersey airport earlier this month.

The UK’s 14-day quarantine policy, enforced surprise visits and fines of could be fined up to £1,000 in England, has been described by some aviation industry bosses as a “stunt” and unenforceable.

The government has said it plans to announce wider exemptions to the quarantine by the end of June.

Officials are negotiating a number of “travel corridors” with countries that have low infection rates.

They would allow passengers travelling in both directions between the UK and certain countries to avoid having to self-isolate after each journey.

Construction safety is ‘broken’ say fire chiefs

Grenfell tower Image copyright SOPA Images

Some construction firms still can’t be trusted to make buildings that are safe from fire, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has warned.

Its safety head Nick Coombe said some building firms had barely improved since the Grenfell disaster in 2017.

The Federation of Master Builders, which represents small contractors, said it was trying to create a safer industry, with licensed firms.

Build UK, which represents the wider industry, declined to comment.

The National Fire Chiefs Council said the construction industry was “broken” and couldn’t be trusted to follow rules.

Mr Coombe said many reforms were needed, especially to building regulations, which allow builders to choose an inspector to certify their building safety.

The current inspection system was devised by the government in the 1980s to speed up the timetable for buildings.

Ministers were concerned that local council inspectors were delaying projects, so they allowed private inspectors to compete on speed of approval and cost.

Tower block “free-for-all”

The builder effectively employs the safety inspector: critics say it’s like students choosing who they’ll pay to mark their exams – except people’s lives are risk.

Mr Coombe said: “This doesn’t drive standards up. It means the developer controls the amount of visits from a building inspector. We have had people shopping around for building controllers who would accept their work.

“If you build a house extension the local authority are all over you. If you build a tower block or a shopping centre there’s a free-for-all.”

Mr Coombe’s comments amplify a recent NFCC submission to a post-Grenfell review of building regulations.

In that document the fire council warn: “It is our opinion that some within the wider industry are not acting responsibly when designing and approving buildings.

“Banning things [such as flammable cladding] is no guarantee that people will follow the rules, and it is our view that much of the combustible cladding on the side of buildings is already banned under the current regime.

“To date, there is little evidence of a culture change [since Grenfell]. There is much more to be done to ensure the safety of building occupants, now and in the future.

“NFCC advocates that the current building control system is overhauled to ensure that it is robust, independent of client and market influence, and has sufficient teeth to enforce appropriate fire safety standards as necessary.”

Safety disagreements

The response to the horrific Grenfell fire has had some side-effects. Some building firms report huge delays to construction, while developers, architects and builders argue over liability for safety.

The owner of one building firm, who didn’t want to be named, said: “Building projects are being dictated to now by the insurers. Premiums have shot up. There’s a passing of responsibility right down the food chain [from developers to architects to contractors to sub-contractors].”

The Grenfell effect has also deterred architects from designing buildings with wood in the wall construction.

Governments in the USA, Canada and Europe are promoting the use of timber in buildings to help combat climate change, because it locks in CO2 that trees have taken from the atmosphere.

The USA, for instance, has certified 17-storey wood framed buildings after extensive fire testing.

Meanwhile in the UK the government proposes that the maximum height of buildings with wood in the walls to be no more than four storeys.

Fires tests needed

Mr Coombe said the NFCC didn’t want to block the use of wood in buildings, but insisted that fire safety tests should be done in the UK to prove the safety of design.

A government spokesperson said: “The Grenfell Tower fire was a devastating tragedy and we are as determined as ever to ensure this can never happen again.

“Safety is paramount – that’s why we’ve announced the biggest changes to building safety in a generation which will deliver meaningful and lasting change for residents.

“We are carefully considering the responses to our consultation and will respond in due course.”

Brian Berry from the Federation of Master Builders said: “Our members, the vast majority of whom work in domestic repair and maintenance or are small house builders, know that quality and safety must be at the heart of building projects.

“We are leading moves to create a more professionalised industry and advocate licensing of all UK construction companies.”

BuildUK has a very broad membership across the industry and on some issues its members find it difficult to reach a consensus.

‘Having my identity stolen cost me £10,000’

Gemma Combellack Image copyright Gemma Combellack
Image caption Gemma Combellack says she was refused a mortgage after criminals stole her identity

“It just seemed to go on and on, it’s just been really upsetting.” Gemma Combellack, 30, is talking about her six month fight to reclaim her identity after it was stolen by criminals last year.

She discovered she’d become a victim of ID theft when she was refused a mortgage over a payday loan in her name that she knew nothing about.

A bank account had also been opened by fraudsters using her identity.

“I’ve been in tears at my desk at work in terms of the impact it’s had on me and my stress levels.

“At the time it made me so angry, the fact that we were having to go through all this trauma and stress and no one could give me answer.

“It’s just that it was so out of our control and that’s the most frustrating thing about it.”

Gemma’s not alone. Last year ID theft happened more than 223,000 times, up 18% on the year before, according to Cifas, the counter fraud organisation which runs the National Fraud Database and works with police and financial institutions to try to tackle fraud.

Lucrative business’

Its chief executive, Mike Haley, says there are a number of factors fuelling that rise.

“Criminals are using more sophisticated methods, more of us are doing more things online and we’re all using cash less which is something fraudsters are able to exploit.

“Criminals are targeting ID fraud as a lucrative business model and they’re getting sophisticated in their use of social engineering [on the phone, text messages or on social media] which involves persuading people to give up personal information,” Mr Haley said.

Combined with large scale data breaches and data theft from companies and organisations, “and you have the raw ingredients [for ID theft],” he added.

Very often criminals carrying out these attacks on people in the UK aren’t even based here. “This can all be done at a distance,” he said. “Now you can sit behind a computer anywhere in the world and commit crime on a vast scale.”

Also, there is very little risk of getting caught as “criminals are able to use the anonymity of the internet,” he said.

The rise in ID theft

2015: 169,5922016: 172,9182017: 174,5232018: 189,1082019: 223,163

Cifas

For Gemma, the personal cost of having her identity stolen ran into thousands of pounds. “In terms of the financial implications we weren’t able to get a mortgage and therefore had to continue to pay rent on our property for six months.

“We’d also instructed a solicitor and had the flat valued so, overall, the costs are looking at the £10,000 mark.

“It just feels like I haven’t progressed in nine months. It feels like we’ve just been really financially hit by something that was completely out of our hands, and it just seems really unfair.”

Image copyright Gemma Combellack
Image caption Gemma says it took her months of stress and anxiety before she was able to reclaim her identity

Gemma’s also worried about her financial future.

“If it can happen once it can happen again,” she said. “It’s made me really, really nervous about it happening again because there are no signs, you don’t know it’s happening to you.”

Mike Haley says he expects the number of ID thefts to be even higher this year and next as criminals look to exploit people’s vulnerabilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “During this period criminals haven’t taken a holiday, they’ve been using this time to harvest information.

“They’ve been upping their activity to capitalise on the crisis, we all have our guard down because, understandably, we’re all worried about other things.

The advice from experts is always avoid clicking on links or replying to text messages and phone calls that come out of the blue.

There is also a national campaign trying to raise awareness of fraud and advice for people on how they can try to help themselves to avoid becoming a victim.

You can hear more on BBC Radio 4’s Money Box programme by listening again here.

Follow Money Box and Dan on Twitter.

Coronavirus: Designer develops mobile plastic shield

Plastock, a UK plastics company, has developed a personal, mobile plastic shield for use by the public during coronavirus, called the Persona 360 or “Tube Tube”. At the moment it has to be ordered on a bespoke basis and costs more than £100, but if there’s enough interest the company plans to mass produce it.

Filmed and edited by digital reporter Dougal Shaw

‘I’m having to survive on a third of what I had’

Kenya Williams Image copyright Kenya Williams
Image caption Kenya Williams is trying to make it on $200 a week

Kenya Williams doesn’t know what to do. For 22 years, she’s worked as a nanny in New York. But when coronavirus swept through the city in March, her employers asked her to stay home.

At the start, they covered the majority of her salary. In June, they cut her wages to just $200 (£159) a week – less than a third of her usual rate.

Ms Williams is paid off the books, so she can’t file for unemployment without risking an audit of her employers. She’s not sure where to turn.

“It’s really hard,” she says. “Do I leave them and find new work? Do I find something temporary?”

“I’m still smiling because that’s all I can do.”

As lockdowns lift across the US, people are starting to go back to work. But millions more remain at home, unsure when – or if – they will return.

For America’s 2.2 million domestic workers, the majority of them women of colour, the crisis is particularly acute.

Industry in crisis

More than 70% saw their incomes cut or jobs eliminated at the start of the pandemic, according to a survey by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, an organisation that advocates for nannies, housecleaners and home health aides.

With wages that average about $12 (£9.50) an hour, few have robust financial cushions. And because of informal work arrangements or immigration status, many are not eligible for the relief offered by the government.

“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of women who have absolutely no access to protection or support,” says Tatiana Bejar, a New York City-based organiser at Hand-in-Hand, a non-profit that advocates for domestic workers.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The pandemic has upended childcare in the US

Ms Williams prefers to receive her wages under the table because it allows her to qualify for public health insurance rather than face the prohibitively expensive private market. She still pays taxes on income at the end of the year.

The pandemic hasn’t changed changed her mind, she says, but it has reminded her of the risks.

“Our profession, I found out during this time, we just don’t matter. We have to fight so hard for things that other people get easily,” she says. “I would just like to be able to be like, ‘Ok, I know I’ll be ok to some extent.”

Disproportionate impact

The hardship faced by Ms Williams matches global patterns, which show women, minorities and people working in the informal economy have been hit particularly hard by the lockdowns. In the US, the unemployment rates among Hispanic and black women approached 20% last month – nearly double that of white men.

The uneven economic impact is likely to add “significantly to existing vulnerabilities and inequalities”, the International Labor Organization warned this spring. It called on governments to respond by increasing efforts to extend social protections to those people, like maids and nannies, whose work often occurs beyond the reach of government rules.

But the response so far doesn’t bode well for those efforts. In the US, many shutdown orders didn’t think to address in-home help at all. Official guidance on how to handle return has also been sparse.

Hand-in-Hand, which aims its actions at employers, has urged families to keep nannies at home at full pay, but the official ambiguity means figuring out what to do has often been a fraught family-by-family decision.

“Just because domestic work continues to be invisible, therefore employers of them were also invisible,” Ms Bejar says.

Trade-offs

Image copyright Sandra
Image caption Sandra continued to work despite the health risks

Sandra, an undocumented immigrant who has worked as a nanny in New York for 20 years, asked to continue working, after her partner, a construction worker, lost his job. Her family in Guatemala – her 87-year-old father, daughter and granddaughter – depend on her too.

At first, she commuted by subway, but she grew so worried about infection she started to get physically ill. Eventually, she raised the issue with her employer, who agreed to pick her up and cover the cost of a taxi for the return trip.

“Even if I wanted to stay home, I couldn’t do it,” she says. “I have to keep going.”

Formal protections

Such trade-offs speak to the need for bigger changes, says Haeyoung Yoon, policy director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

The group has proposed a national bill, which would grant domestic workers labour protections, such as a right to paid sick days. But the bill faces long odds.

Currently, the US has no national law requiring paid sick leave – even for workers in the formal sector. While Congress introduced some emergency leave due to the pandemic, those requirements were temporary.

“The coronavirus pandemic has really put a spotlight on the structural inequities that workers were already living through,” Ms Yoon says. “We need to really address these issues at a structural level so that workers are able to have access to good wages and good working conditions.”

“But just because working people are reminded, doesn’t mean that our policymakers are going to legislate and change policies to meet the needs,” she adds.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption With schools shut, it has put a spotlight on the role of childcare

Ms Williams says she hopes pressure for change is growing.

Two years ago, she joined the Carroll Garden Nanny Association, an activist group, drawn primarily by the offer of CPR training.

But her interest in wider employment matters has blossomed and she says an uptick in participation in the group’s chats and Zoom calls since the start of the pandemic suggests she’s not alone.

Ms Williams knows much of the new interest reflects the current crisis, and people at home with time on their hands.

“I only hope that when things get back to some type of normalcy that they stay focused,” she says.

Apple’s annual developer showcase overshadowed by app row

App icons are shown during the 2019 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference on June 3, 2019, in San Jose, California Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Apple’s annual WWDC usually takes place in front of a cheering crowd but will be online this year

Apple is facing mounting pressure over how it runs its app store ahead of its major global developers’ conference, which starts on Monday.

The firm has been accused of creating “hostile” policies within its fee structure, and is dealing with two EU competition probes announced this week.

But it is also embroiled in a row with some of its own developers.

That has now widened into a debate involving politicians and other major technology firms.

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference often features new product announcements but is mainly an event for software developers working on Apple’s platforms – some of whom are now voicing discontent about its pricing.

The argument was ignited in part by an email app called Hey, created by developer David Heinemeier Hansson. It had an update rejected by the Apple app store early this week because it does not allow in-app purchases – from which Apple takes a 30% cut.

Many developers do not offer in-app subscriptions to avoid that levy – or raise the price of in-app subscriptions for the end user.

But not all apps are affected, Mr Hansson says. He pointed to email apps from Gmail and Microsoft’s Outlook, which he says are treated differently, but which Apple would not discuss with him.

Hey’s annual subscription of $99 (£80) is available only directly from the company online, and the app does not tell users where to buy it – so the firm believed it was following all the rules, similar to other email apps.

But Apple told him the app should never have been approved in the first place – and could be removed.

“If we don’t like the deal Apple is offering us – which is to either pay them 30% or get kicked out – what are we going to do about that? Where are we going to go?” he told the BBC.

‘Outrageous’ decision

“If you launch a new piece of software today, and you’re not available on the iPhone, you’re invisible.”

The cry has now been taken up by others, including blogger John Gruber, whose blog, Daring Fireball, is widely read among Apple developers. He wrote that if Hey’s issues were not a mistake, the decision was “outrageous”.

Such issues are behind an anti-competition probe announced by the EU this week, prompted by a complaint from Spotify. The Swedish firm also takes issue with Apple’s approach to charging subscriptions and the cut it takes.

The anti-competition probe, coinciding with the row over Hey’s business model, has snowballed into a much bigger argument.

Microsoft President Brad Smith entered the debate, saying that regulators on both sides of the Atlantic should have a “focused conversation” about app stores and the rules in place – though he did not mention Apple by name.

Microsoft has itself been the subject of competition probes, hit with hefty fines over its dominant market position with Microsoft Windows and its web browser.

But he said the restrictions and demands placed on developers today are far higher than anything that existed 20 years ago, at the height of Microsoft’s software dominance.

Facebook, meanwhile, told the New York Times that its Gaming app had been rejected from Apple’s app store five times.

Sources who spoke to the newspaper said it might be because the app offers simple games that do not have to be downloaded in the traditional way – through Apple’s store.

Even the chairman of the House antitrust committee – the group of politicians that deals with competition law in the United States – has voiced his concern.

“Because of the market power that Apple has, it is charging exorbitant rents – highway robbery, basically – bullying people to pay 30% or denying access to their market,” David Cicilline told The Verge.

“It’s crushing small developers who simply can’t survive with those kinds of payments. If there were real competition in this marketplace, this wouldn’t happen.”

The committee has asked the heads of major tech companies – including Tim Cook at Apple – to attend a session about competition in the tech sector. Mr Cook, it is reported, has yet to agree to attend.

But despite the international attention on Apple’s policies, its head of marketing, Phil Schiller, told Techcrunch the company was not considering any changes to its rules.

Katie Hopkins permanently suspended from Twitter

Katie Hopkins is seen sitting in front of a microphone Image copyright Getty Images

Controversial commentator Katie Hopkins has been permanently suspended from Twitter for violating its hateful conduct policy, the social media giant said.

Ms Hopkins, who had more than one million followers, was previously suspended in January for a week.

But Twitter said her latest ban is permanent.

The social network did not, however, say which tweets Ms Hopkins had posted, to result in the ban.

“Keeping Twitter safe is a top priority for us – abuse and hateful conduct have no place on our service and we will continue to take action when our rules are broken,” it said.

The cited hateful conduct policy bans promotion of violence or direct written attacks and threats on other people, based on a wide range of personal characteristics such as race, gender or sexual orientation.

Ms Hopkins is well-known for both her media appearances and controversial right-wing viewpoints.

She has been re-tweeted by US President Donald Trump on several occasions.

Twitter has recently taken a firmer line against Mr Trump himself over tweets it says break its policies.

The US President has seen warnings placed on some of his tweets and others hidden from general view, although they remain online.

But leaving such tweets up in the public interest is an exception Twitter makes for world leaders – other accounts like Ms Hopkins’ risk being suspended when they break Twitter’s rules.

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