My esteemed colleague Russell Brandom leads our policy team. He was struck by the unwarranted reaction of conservative legislators to the most recent video clip from Project Veritas, which put YouTube employees in an unfair light. Russell asked if he could take over the column today, and I was happy to oblige. I will return tomorrow with thoughts about the appearance of Mark Zuckerberg at the Aspen Ideas festival.
Project Veritas from James O & Keefe has recently been on a tear against Google the most recent salvo next Monday. Like most of O & # 39; Keefe's work, it has been deceptively edited and doesn't make much sense, but he managed to catch a manager in a rather poor word choice. In a hidden camera conversion with Jen Gennai, Head of Responsible Innovation at Google, the manager was caught on the following:
Elizabeth Warren says we have to break Google. And like, I love her, but she's very misleading, as it won't make it better, it'll make it worse, because all these smaller companies that don't have the same resources that we do will be accused of preventing the following Trump situation, it's like a small business that can't.
If you use & # 39; Cambridge Analytica & # 39; replaces with & # 39; Trump Situation & # 39 ;, that is more or less the argument that Facebook and Google have been using for years to ward off antitrust proposals. But if you are inclined to think that the entire media is biased against the president, it was exactly what you had been waiting to hear. When the video was pulled from YouTube the next day due to & # 39; privacy violations & # 39 ;, the paranoia was only fueled.
The whole situation would probably have remained silent if it wasn't for Ted Cruz, who called the video at an uncomfortable moment at the Senate Commerce hearing the next day. Cruz interviewed Google UX conductor Maggie Stanphill, who was nominally there to talk about dark patterns when designing interfaces. Cruz took her to work for the quote in the video, and again when he realized she hadn't really read the report.
"I would advise people interested in political bias at Google to view the entire report and review it myself," Cruz said. The clip was then distributed on the usual right-hand outlets (City Hall, Knitbart, PJ Media), and received a small repeat of the Homeland Security Committee the next day. After the last hearing, the scandal grew big enough that YouTube decided to publish an official denial, simply saying "we apply our policy fairly and without political preference".
It's embarrassing that Congress took this so seriously, and nobody wants to give it more attention than it deserves. But O & # 39; Keefe has played this trick time and time again, so it is worth describing exactly what is happening here.
To begin with, there is a fairly simple reason why the Veritas video was banned. YouTube Privacy Guidelines prohibit videos & # 39; s that identify people who do not want to be identified. There are exceptions for news value and public figures, but the Veritas video is clearly on the wrong side of the line. The offensive images are the hidden camera video of Gennai, who is nobody's idea of a public figure, and clearly did not allow himself to be in the video.
Even if you see Veritas as a newsworthy point about platform bias, it is hard to argue that the inclusion of Gennai & # 39; s name and face was necessary to make that point. (Hidden camera images used in news broadcasts usually blur faces for precisely this reason.) Given the general temperament of Veritas subscribers, one can only imagine the kind of abuse that was pointed to Gennai in the time since the video went live.
This type of deletion happens often enough so that we can assume that most YouTubers are aware of this, not to mention reporters who deal with YouTube issues mitigation. It is hard to believe that Ke & Keefe went to see this blind man – just as it is hard to believe that he did not know that YouTube was scheduled for a series of congress hearings in the days following the release of the video. He challenged YouTube to banish him, knowing that it would elevate a mediocre scoop to two days of Congress disapproval.
The point was not to force YouTube into better policies or more consistent enforcement. It was just brutal force, and let executives know that every time someone in the conservative clique has problems with YouTube, a legislator is ready to sweat about it. Every time Google presents itself, Google becomes a little more timidly embarrassed when dealing with striking policy violations, whether it's Alex Jones or Steven Crowder. And as long as the trick continues to work, O & Keefe and Cruz will continue to do it.
Some readers thought my column about the development of a Chinese-style social credit system in the United States was a bit too alarmist. After all, there is no evidence that the government is cooperating with any of the companies I mentioned, or even a suggestion that it wants. My goal was to provide the opportunity to encourage discussion before something like this happens – but I apologize to anyone who found my topic too sensational.
In the meantime, ProPublica has published an article on Tuesday about another technology that brings us in the direction of social credit within schools. Jack Gillum and Jeff Kao report:
The students helped ProPublica test an aggression detector that is used in hundreds of schools, health centers, banks, stores and prisons around the world, including more than 100 in the US Sound Intelligence, the Dutch company that makes the software for the device, is planning to open an office this year in Chicago, where the chief executive will be located.
California-based Louroe Electronics, which has loaded the software on its microphones since 2015, advertises the devices in school safety magazines and law enforcement conferences, and said it has between 100 and 1,000 customers in front of them. Louroe & # 39; s marketing material says that the detection software allows security staff to "immediately engage antagonists, resolve the conflict before it turns into physical violence."
I suppose this is more a surveillance system than a "social creditworthiness" system, as such. But the lines are blurred, the technology is developing fast and it seems like a good time to keep connecting the dots.
On the one hand, who cares? The president talks about things like this all the time. On the other:
The president's comments during an interview with Fox Business came just weeks after federal competition regulators divided the control of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google with the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, which could suggest that the government is at an early stage of an investigation into those tech giants.
Will Sommer broke the news that a notorious subreddit dedicated to the president has been "quarantined", meaning that visitors will see content advice during their visit. It is also considered as a first step to be banned. "Users would have threatened law enforcement to find Republican senators in Oregon who had come to vote for the climate change bill," Sommer writes.
The_Donald was controversial at Reddit long before Wednesday's quarantine. Prior to the 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, the moderators from The_Donald spurred a message encouraging members to attend the rally to the top of the page. The users of the subreddit vote content regularly from white supremacists and other extremists to the front page of the forum. The subreddit was also an early hotbed for conspiracy theories about the murdered Democratic National Committee staff member Seth Rich, with The_Donald posters that regularly claim that Rich was murdered by Hillary Clinton.
Emily Stewart reports that the president is blocking the debate against democratic presidential candidates tonight with a giant ad on YouTube:
President Donald Trump's re-election campaign has purchased YouTube's "masthead" – actually the ad at the top of YouTube's homepage – for Wednesday, the first night of democratic debates. That means that everyone who goes to the YouTube website is touched by pro-Trump messages. It is an expensive move and an effective one.
"It is one of the strongest possible digital ad placements," said Daniel Scarvalone, senior director of research and data at Bully Pulpit Interactive, the Democratic communications and strategy company, in an email.
Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports that Democratic candidates are well spent on Facebook prior to the debate:
About a quarter of the advertising spend of Democratic presidential campaigns on Facebook in recent months has focused on upcoming debates – a sign of how important candidates see these forums when trying to get out of a busy area.
Of the $ 9.8 million Democratic candidates spent on Facebook ads between March 30 and June 15, $ 2.5 million went to ads that mentioned the Democratic National Committee's debates, including their need to raise the required number of donors to get them to the debate stage this week, according to Facebook ad spend data analyzed by Democratic digital firm Bully Pulpit Interactive.
Cat Zakrzewski reports that Facebook and Twitter are taking extra precautions this week to defend against online discussions:
Facebook & # 39; s Menlo Park, Calif., "War room"Will be in action – with a team on guard for threats and investigating reports of abuse. The group will consist of representatives from more than a dozen of internal teams of companies ranging from data science and engineering to policy This is an extra line of defense on top of the 30,000 people that Facebook has regularly worked on safety and security measures.
Allison McCartney makes a nice visual analysis of what the thoughts of the Democratic candidates for their debate are for:
A total of 16,000 problems were mentioned in the candidate tweets. Jobs, the environment and social issues – including women's rights, LGBTQ rights and race – are the topics most discussed in their tweets, together accounting for 37% of the issues mentioned.
Some hot button issues are not yet popular in the Democratic field. Infrastructure is hardly registered. On average, candidates only mentioned it in tweets eight times this year and tweeted about trade wars and pricing issues for Trump – even fewer.
LGBTQ Google employees are asking SF Pride to remove the company from celebrations
Megan Farokhmanesh reports that LGBTQ employees at Google are requesting a petition from San Francisco Pride to kick the company off the official festivities this weekend. (Pride refused to do this.)
"We urge you to withdraw Google & # 39; s sponsorship of Pride 2019 and exclude Google from representation in the Prato Parade in San Francisco on June 30, 2019," reads Medium message with the full petition, posted on the site on Tuesday. The name includes nearly 100 signatures from employees who are "forced to speak" despite possible repercussions.
The petition, addressed to the San Francisco Pride Board of Directors, was first reported by Bloomberg. Prior to the public existence of the petition, a source told The Verge that the & # 39; extremely controversial & # 39; was within the Gayglers group, but it had collected dozens of signatures before Tuesday night.
Nathaniel Popper reports that some of the signatories to the Libra project may not be fully involved:
One of the biggest plus points of Facebook's ambitious plans for its new cryptocurrency, Libra, was that the social media company had 27 partners, including prominent outfits such as Visa, Mastercard and Uber, who are contributing to the project.
But some of those partners approach Libra carefully. They signed non-binding agreements to participate in the effort, in part because they knew they were under no obligation to use or promote the digital token, and could easily return if they didn't like where it went, executives said to seven of those companies, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
Facebook & # 39; s cryptocurrency Libra, explained
Elizabeth Lopatto has a skeptical (and very funny) explanation about Libra:
Do you remember Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss? The twins whose Mark Zuckerberg pulled the original idea for Facebook? Yes, so they have one cryptocurrency exchange Gemini called. As every comic lover will tell you, both Scale and Twins his air signs and Geminis are stereotypically scarier than Libra. Gemini is the sign of twins and is associated with two faces. Moreover, it is a movable air sign, which makes it somewhat unstable. Libra, like a cardinal sign, is slightly more stable. Libra sees both sides; Gemini tries to be both sides.
On the other hand, astrology is made up. On some theoretical third hand: that's how money is!
Technical giants work together to set benchmarks to help other companies measure the effectiveness of artificial intelligence, Agam Shah reports:
A consortium of technology companies, including Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc. & # 39; s Google, has released a series of benchmarks for evaluating the performance of artificial intelligence tools, aimed at helping companies navigate the fast-growing field.
The benchmarks – which relate to image recognition, object detection and spoken translation – are intended to help companies compare different AI tools to see which work is best for them while pursuing their own AI initiatives, Peter said Mattson, president of the consortium, MLPerf, which has 40 companies as members.
With CBD popping up in an increasing number of products, Facebook is relaxing its total ban on advertisements that promote it, Kerry Flynn and Kristina Monllos report:
Advertisers may display advertisements for current hemp on Facebook. Advertisers can display ads that refer to landing pages with recordable hemp and current CBD. But the advertisements cannot specifically contain these products. Facebook still prohibits ads for recordable CBD, including ads that refer to landing pages with those products.
The founder of Something Awful finds YouTube sucking on moderation
Bijan Stephen talks to Rich Kyanka from the influential web forum Something Awful about his favorite ways to moderate content. Among them: reserves the right to ban a user for any reason, and asks people $ 10 to create an account.
At Something Awful the mods were organically chosen by the administrators: they were part of the community, with the same sense of humor and priorities as the admins, but close and dear to the user base of the forum. "Because no one knows your community better than the people in charge of cleaning up the community," Kyanka told me. The mods should be the basis of the community. That means that the site must have a real, solid identity. It cannot just be a game for engagement or advertising; you need to know what kind of person you want on your platform. "And hopefully, if that message is passed on properly, it will be a much easier way to have moderators doing the job well and being transparent about it."
Tora Agarwala, Surbhi Gupta and Karishma Mehrotra report on how TikTok sweeps India:
TikTok is not as easy as Facebook. This is an element of skill. "Do you know how hard it is to get one TikTok-like? On Facebook you just put a photo and those streams come in. We have to work hard here." Medhi admits that he was naive at first. "I would make photo collages from my trips to Kaziranga and add some background music." But that would not have worked. "The viewer takes everything into account: is our lip-sync matching? Are our clothes suitable for the mood of the music? Are our expressions correct?"
YouTube is introducing changes to give people more control over recommended videos
YouTube has new features that give you more control over the recommendations, reports Julia Alexander:
YouTube is introducing changes to two crucial browsing functions regarding growing above malicious content that spreads through the platform's recommendation algorithm.
Sortable topics and filter options are added to the YouTube home page and the following recommended categories, according to a new blog post. The goal is to give users more control over what they see on the site. From the top of the home page, people can click on certain topics they want to explore, such as do-it-yourselfers or music videos. The same filter type applies to & # 39; next & # 39 ;, which allows users to specifically determine what type of video & # 39; s they want to see as recommendations and from which video makers they want to see video & # 39; s. Similar product changes were first gossiped earlier this year.
WhatsApp test function that shares your status with Facebook and other apps
WhatsApp increases sharing options without explicitly linking your account to Facebook, which entails legal risks, says Jon Porter:
WhatsApp tests the idea to let its users share messages from their WhatsApp status with other apps. Starting today, users in WhatsApp & # 39; s beta will begin to see a new sharing option under their status, which can be used to post a status directly to their Facebook story or to another app such as Instagram, Gmail or Send Google Photos. WhatsApp status is the Instagram Stories feature in the service that allows you to place images, text and videos & # 39; s on your profile that disappear after 24 hours.
Instagram will start placing ads on the Explore page
Instagram is finally addressing one of my biggest concerns, namely that there are no ads available that I can view on any surface of the app. Ashley Carman:
Today, the social media platform has announced that it will quickly place ads on the Discover page, where users discover new content that matches their interests. The ads are not displayed in the Explore grid itself, but they are displayed as soon as a user taps an Explore post and starts browsing that detection feed. The ads are photos & # 39; s and videos & # 39; s and the first ad – for IGTV – will go live today. The team will work with selected partners in the coming weeks with the aim of having everyone open advertisements for everyone in the coming months.
Taylor Lorenz says that Twitter and Instagram need to review their verification systems:
Instead of having a binary system where users are either flagged or not, and the lucky ones get access to special benefits that all users would likely appreciate, Twitter, Instagram and the like need to rebuild the entire system and use new features to meet needs of users. "When I ask friends how they are verified, nine out of ten say they know someone," says Siqi Chen, Sandbox VR product manager. "It seems to be a predictable symptom of the fact that you need to know someone to be verified. But when Instagram and Twitter depend on personal relationships, this offers the potential for scams. Anyone can say: & # 39; I know someone at Insta that you can have verified & # 39 ;, and there is no way to prove or refute that. & # 39;
Shira Ovide asks honestly what the director of Alphabet has already done in the past …. many years:
Page seems to want it in two ways. He wants the power of a CEO to be granted on his own a $ 150 million payment of shares to an investigated staff member for sexual harassment, according to a lawsuit, but he does not want the responsibility of a CEO for once unfortunate employees to appear at regular meetings, to answer questions from annoyed shareholders or to verbally absorb strokes of members of the Congres. (Alphabet has challenged the characterization of the Page's role in the share price.)
As the technology industry faces increasing government attention, this may not be the time for a visionary, chimeric CEO. Everyone just wants to do the interesting parts of a job and skip the unpleasant or boring tasks. That is not how adult life works, and that is not how a government company should work.
And finally …
Most of us get on Facebook for a specific reason: we want to post the album cover for the iconic 1973 album by Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Saint. Unfortunately, the cover photo was banned for taking pictures of unclothed children … So far, Shira Feder reports:
Facebook reversed the ban this week and said they recognized that it was a culturally significant image. "Our nude policy has become more nuanced over time," says Facebook in its guidelines. "We understand that nudity can be shared for various reasons, for example as a form of protest. Where such an intention is clear, we take the content into account."
I have a lot of love for this decision, personally.
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