Facebook

YouTube CEO: Facebook Should 'Get Back To Baby Pictures' (cnet.com) 119

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki won't divulge her biggest fear about competing with Facebook, but she will give them some free advice. From a report: "They should get back to baby pictures," Wojcicki said Monday at the Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, California. Video has been an obsession for Facebook, as it tries to swipe the most advertising dollars migrating off television before YouTube can get them. Facebook has been aggressively advancing the number of clips and live streams that bubble up to the top of your News Feed and has rolled out a central hub for TV-like programming called Watch. "You always have to take competition seriously. You don't win by looking backwards; you win by looking at your customers and looking forward," she said.
Privacy

German Court Rules Facebook Use of Personal Data Illegal (reuters.com) 79

A German consumer rights group said on Monday that a court had found Facebook's use of personal data to be illegal because the U.S. social media platform did not adequately secure the informed consent of its users. From a report: The verdict, from a Berlin regional court, comes as Big Tech faces increasing scrutiny in Germany over its handling of sensitive personal data that enables it to micro-target online advertising. The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzvb) said that Facebook's default settings and some of its terms of service were in breach of consumer law, and that the court had found parts of the consent to data usage to be invalid. "Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy center and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register," said Heiko Duenkel, litigation policy officer at the vzvb. "This does not meet the requirement for informed consent."
Facebook

A Facebook Employee Asked a Reporter To Turn Off His Phone So Facebook Couldn't Track Its Location (businessinsider.com) 304

Steve Kovach, writing for BusinessInsider: To corporate giants like Facebook, leaks to rivals or the media are a cardinal sin. That notion was clear in a new Wired story about Facebook's rocky time over the last two years. The story talks about how Facebook was able to find two leakers who told a Gizmodo reporter about its news operations. But one source for the Wired story highlighted just how concerned employees are about how their company goes after leakers. According to the story, the source, a current Facebook employee, asked a Wired reporter to turn off his phone so Facebook wouldn't be able to use location tracking and see that the two were close to each other for the meeting. The Wired's 11,000-word wide-ranging piece, for which it spoke with more than 50 current and former Facebook employees, gives us an inside look at how the company has been struggling to curb spread of fake news; battling internal discrimination among employees; and becoming furious when anything leaks to the media. Another excerpt from the story: The day after Fearnow (a contractor who leaked information to a Gizmodo reporter) took that second screenshot was a Friday. When he woke up after sleeping in, he noticed that he had about 30 meeting notifications from Facebook on his phone. When he replied to say it was his day off, he recalls, he was nonetheless asked to be available in 10 minutes. Soon he was on a video-conference with three Facebook employees, including Sonya Ahuja, the company's head of investigations. According to his recounting of the meeting, she asked him if he had been in touch with Nunez (the Gizmodo reporter, who eventually published this and this). He denied that he had been. Then she told him that she had their messages on Gchat, which Fearnow had assumed weren't accessible to Facebook. He was fired. "Please shut your laptop and don't reopen it," she instructed him.
AI

Facial Recognition Is Accurate, if You're a White Guy (nytimes.com) 284

Facial recognition technology is improving by leaps and bounds. Some commercial software can now tell the gender of a person in a photograph. When the person in the photo is a white man, the software is right 99 percent of the time. But the darker the skin, the more errors arise -- up to nearly 35 percent for images of darker skinned women, the New York Times reported, citing a new study. From the report: These disparate results, calculated by Joy Buolamwini, a researcher at the M.I.T. Media Lab, show how some of the biases in the real world can seep into artificial intelligence, the computer systems that inform facial recognition. In modern artificial intelligence, data rules. A.I. software is only as smart as the data used to train it. If there are many more white men than black women in the system, it will be worse at identifying the black women. One widely used facial-recognition data set was estimated to be more than 75 percent male and more than 80 percent white, according to another research study.
Social Networks

Is Social Media Causing Childhood Depression? (bbc.com) 131

General practitioner Rangan Chatterjee says he has seen plenty of evidence of the link between mental ill-health in children and their use of social media. "One 16 year-old boy was referred to him after he self-harmed and ended up in A&E," reports BBC. Dr. Chatterjee was going to put him on anti-depressants, but instead worked with him to help wean him off social media. "He reported a significant improvement in his wellbeing and, after six months, I had a letter from his mother saying he was happier at school and integrated into the local community," says Dr. Chatterjee. That and similar cases have led him to question the role social media plays in the lives of young people. From the report: "Social media is having a negative impact on mental health," he said. "I do think it is a big problem and that we need some rules. How do we educate society to use technology so it helps us rather than harms us?" A 2017 study by The Royal Society of Public Health asked 1,500 young people aged 11-25 to track their moods while using the five most popular social media sites. It suggested Snapchat and Instagram were the most likely to inspire feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. YouTube had the most positive influence. Seven in 10 said Instagram made them feel worse about body image and half of 14-24-year-olds reported Instagram and Facebook exacerbated feelings of anxiety. Two-thirds said Facebook made cyber-bullying worse.

Consultant psychiatrist Louise Theodosiou says one of the clearest indications children are spending too long on their phones is their behavior during a session with a psychiatrist. "Two or three years ago, it was very unusual for a child to answer their phone or text during an appointment. But now it is common," said the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital doctor. She has seen a rise in cases where social media is a contributing factor in teenage depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. These problems are often complex and wide-ranging -- from excessive use of gaming or social media sites to feelings of inadequacy brought on by a constant bombardment of social media images of other people's lives, to cyber-bullying.

Youtube

YouTube Will Remove Ads, Downgrade Discoverability of Channels Posting Offensive Videos (techcrunch.com) 314

Earlier today, YouTube barred Logan Paul from serving ads on his video channel in response to a "recent pattern of behavior" from him. Now, YouTube has announced a more formal and wider set of sanctions it's prepared to level on any creator that starts to post videos that are harmful to viewers, others in the YouTube community, or advertisers. TechCrunch reports: "We may remove a channel's eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next," Ariel Bardin, Vice President of Product Management at YouTube, writes in a blog post.

The full list of steps, as outlined by YouTube:
1. Premium Monetization Programs, Promotion and Content Development Partnerships. We may remove a channel from Google Preferred and also suspend, cancel or remove a creator's YouTube Original.
2. Monetization and Creator Support Privileges. We may suspend a channel's ability to serve ads, ability to earn revenue and potentially remove a channel from the YouTube Partner Program, including creator support and access to our YouTube Spaces.
3. Video Recommendations. We may remove a channel's eligibility to be recommended on YouTube, such as appearing on our home page, trending tab or watch next.

The changes are significant not just because they could really hit creators where it hurts, but because they also point to a real shift for the platform. YouTube has long been known as a home for edgy videos filled with pranks and potentially offensive content, made in the name of comedy or freedom of expression. Now, the site is turning over a new leaf, using a large team of human curators and AI to track the content of what's being posted, and these videos have a much bigger chance of falling afoul of YouTube's rules and getting dinged.

The Internet

Major Websites Are Planning a 'Day of Action' To Block Repeal of Net Neutrality (medium.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: Fight for the Future, a nonprofit advocacy group concerned with digital rights, has posted to medium today, revealing that many major websites, online communities, and internet users are planning a "day of action" focused on finding the final vote needed to pass the Congressional Review Act (CRA). "50 Senators have already come out in support of the CRA, which would completely overturn the FCC's December 14 decision and restore net neutrality protections," the post reads. "Several Senators have indicated that they are considering becoming the 51st vote we need to win, but they're under huge pressure from telecom lobbyists. Only a massive burst of energy from the internet will get them to move."

The day of action is scheduled for February 27, and participants include Tumblr, Etsy, Vimeo, Medium, Namecheap, Imgur, Sonos, and DuckDuckGo. "Internet users will be encouraged to sound the alarm on social media and sign up to receive alerts with their lawmaker's position on net neutrality and prompts to take action on the big day, while websites, subreddits, and online communities will display prominent alerts driving phone calls, emails, and tweets to Senators and Representatives calling on them to pass the CRA." The post notes that we're faced with an uphill battle as the fight will elevate to the House of Representatives if the CRA can pass the Senate. From there it will go to the President's desk.

Media

Viacom To Launch Its Own Streaming Service this Year (techcrunch.com) 64

Viacom said today it's planning to launch its own ad-supported streaming service by September 2018, the end of its fiscal year. The service will include "tens of thousands of hours of content" from across Viacom's library. From a report: Viacom had hinted about its plans in streaming before, but it shared a few more details on the call about what the service will include. The company, which owns cable TV channels like MTV and Comedy Central, already licenses some of its content to other streaming services like Sling TV and DirecTV Now, as well as newcomer Philo. "It's going to be rolled out in the U.S., in terms of the amount of content that it's going to have, it's going to have tens of thousands of hours of content that cut across the library we have on a global basis," the company said.
Media

Twitch To Ban Users For 'Hate' on Other Platforms (bbc.com) 155

Twitch has updated its guidelines so that abuse taking place on other platforms can contribute to a suspension on the streaming site. From a report: Directing "hate or harassment" towards someone on Twitch using other services will be considered a policy violation. Conduct Twitch deems "hateful" on any platform will result in an "immediate indefinite suspension." Sexual conduct rules have also been changed to consider the "context" of a stream. Moderators will pay attention to clothing, the title of a stream, camera angles and chat moderation when deciding whether something is sexually inappropriate.
Bitcoin

Russian Nuclear Scientists Arrested For 'Bitcoin Mining Plot' (bbc.com) 84

Russian security officers have arrested several scientists working at a top-secret Russian nuclear warhead facility for allegedly mining crypto-currencies, BBC reported Friday, citing local media. From the report: The suspects had tried to use one of Russia's most powerful supercomputers to mine Bitcoins, media reports say. The Federal Nuclear Centre in Sarov, western Russia, is a restricted area. The centre's press service said: "There has been an unsanctioned attempt to use computer facilities for private purposes including so-called mining." The supercomputer was not supposed to be connected to the internet -- to prevent intrusion -- and once the scientists attempted to do so, the nuclear centre's security department was alerted. They were handed over to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian news service Mash says. "As far as we are aware, a criminal case has been launched against them," the press service told Interfax news agency.
Media

VLC 3.0 Adds Chromecast Support and More as the Best Free Media Player Gets Even Better (pcworld.com) 131

Ian Paul, writing for PCWorld: The best free media player is getting even better. After three years of development, VLC 3.0 'Ventari' is rolling out to all platforms, and it's packed full of goodies such as Chromecast support. The latest version of VLC contains a lot of great additions, as well as a tweaked UI. Chromecast discovery tops the list. It's only available on Windows desktop and Android right now, but Videolan says the feature's coming to VLC's iOS and the Windows Store apps in the future. [...] VLC 3.0's refreshed UI isn't a fresh, new look from previous versions, but it is noticeably different. The icons at the bottom of the window are cleaner, and the small icons used within menu items are also new. Version 3.0 also adds support for 360-degree video and 3D audio, readying features for a VR version of VLC slated to roll out in mid-April. The new VLC also adds hardware decoding across all platforms for better performance and less CPU consumption, especially when dealing with more resource-intense video.
Communications

Turkey Rolls Out Domestic Rival To WhatsApp, Raising Surveillance Concerns (reuters.com) 36

Turkey has launched a domestic messaging app to rival Facebook's popular WhatsApp Messenger service, raising concerns among government critics that Ankara (capital of Turkey) could use the new platform to tighten surveillance and bolster an 18-month-old crackdown. From a report: The app, called PttMessenger after Turkey's Post and Telegraph General Directorate (PTT), was introduced in a limited roll-out to state institutions and some private companies this week. It is expected to be publicly available in six months. PttMessenger will provide a "system safer than WhatsApp," government spokesman Bekir Bozdag told a news conference. "Since no data is stored with the host, it will be impossible to access these data. A system safer than WhatsApp has been developed." Critics cast doubt on the suggestion PttMessenger data could not be retrieved, fearing it will give authorities greater ability to monitor dissent, pointing to the widespread crackdown that was launched after a failed military coup in July 2016.
Democrats

32 Senators Want To Know If US Regulators Halted Equifax Probe (engadget.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Earlier this week, a Reuters report suggested that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) had halted its investigation into last year's massive Equifax data breach. Reuters sources said that even basic steps expected in such a probe hadn't been taken and efforts had stalled since Mick Mulvaney took over as head of the CFPB late last year. Now, 31 Democratic senators and one Independent have written a letter to Mulvaney asking if that is indeed the case and if so, why.

In their letter, the senators expressed their concern over these reports and reiterated the duty the CFPB has to not only investigate the breach but to bring action against Equifax if deemed necessary. "Consumer reporting agencies and the data they collect play a central role in consumers' access to credit and the fair and competitive pricing of that credit," they wrote. "Therefore, the CFPB has a duty to supervise consumer reporting agencies, investigate how this breach has or will harm consumers and bring enforcement actions as necessary."

Media

US Suicides Spiked 10 Percent After Robin Williams's Death, Study Finds (bbc.com) 245

dryriver shares a report from the BBC: U.S. suicide rates spiked in the months after Robin Williams killed himself in 2014, according to researchers. In the five months after the actor's death there were 10% more suicides than might be expected, or 1,841 extra cases, PLOS One journal reports. The potential risk of copycat incidents after celebrity cases is known to public health bodies. It cannot be known for certain if his death led to the spike but it appeared to be connected, the new study said. Experts say "irresponsible" media coverage of suicides can play a big part in copycat cases. At the time of his death, the Samaritans warned about a large number of news articles giving too much detail about the nature of his suicide, against media guidelines. Guidance from the World Health Organization, the Independent Press Standards Organization's editors' code of practice, the Ofcom broadcasting code and the BBC's editorial guidelines all advise against going into explicit detail about the methods used. However, researchers said there was "substantial evidence" that many media outlets had tended to deviate from these guidelines.

For the latest study, they looked at the monthly suicide rates from the U.S. government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between January 1999 and December 2015 to see if there had been a spike. They found there were 18,690 suicides between August and December 2014 compared with the 16,849 cases they would have expected. In the weeks after Williams's death, there was a "drastic" increase in references to suicide and death in news media reports, as well as more posts on an internet suicide forum researchers monitored, the study found. David Fink, one of the study's authors, from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said research had previously shown that suicide rates increased following a high-profile celebrity suicide, but this was a first time such a study had been done within the era of the 24-hour news cycle. Lorna Fraser, from the Samaritans' media advisory service, said: "This study builds on a strong body of research evidence that shows that irresponsible or overly detailed depictions of suicide can have a devastating impact. In the case of celebrities, the potential for someone at risk to make an emotional connection and over-identify with them is greater, in some cases even to interpret their death as affirmation that they could take their own life."

Google

Now Google Might Make a Game Console and Game-Streaming Service (fastcompany.com) 90

Google could try to get serious about gaming with a rumored console and game-streaming service, according to the Information. From a report: The service, codenamed "Yeti," would stream modern games over the internet instead of processing them on locally, allowing them to run weaker hardware such as Google's Chromecast dongles. Several other companies, including Nvidia and Sony, already offer their own game-streaming services, but the problems are always the same: Publishers tend to support these services halfheartedly or not at all, and even with an excellent internet connection, the experience isn't as responsive or dependable as a powerful home console. It's unclear how Google might solve those problems, but the company is reportedly considering a holiday 2017 launch.
AI

Pornhub Is Banning AI-Generated 'Deepfakes' Porn Videos (vice.com) 124

On Tuesday, Pornhub told Motherboard that it considers deepfakes to be nonconsensual porn and that it will ban these videos. "Deepfakes" is a community originally named after a Redditor who enjoys face-swapping celebrity faces onto porn performers' bodies using a machine learning algorithm. Motherboard reports: "We do not tolerate any nonconsensual content on the site and we remove all said content as soon as we are made aware of it," a spokesperson told me in an email. "Nonconsensual content directly violates our TOS [terms of service] and consists of content such as revenge porn, deepfakes or anything published without a person's consent or permission." Pornhub previously told Mashable that it has removed deepfakes that are flagged by users. Pornhub's position on deepfakes is similar to statements made by Discord and Gfycat, and in line with its existing terms of service, which prohibit content that "impersonates another person or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person."
Facebook

Facebook is Talking About Expanding Its TV-like Service, Watch, Into a Rival To YouTube (cnbc.com) 33

Facebook is talking about expanding its TV-like service, Watch, into a rival to Google's YouTube by opening the platform to more individual creators, CNBC reports citing people familiar with the plans. From the report: This would increase the amount of long-form video content that Facebook can sell ads against, and could reverse a decline in the time users are spending on the site. Facebook wants to allow more people to create their own shows on Watch, according to three media agencies who asked they remain anonymous because the conversations are private. Instead of buying rights to these shows, however, Facebook wants to create a system where creators can upload their shows for free, then earn a cut of the revenue from ads placed on that content -- similar to how YouTube pays its online creators. Another source with knowledge of the situation said Facebook's ultimate goal is to create a sustainable ad-supported video platform, where it won't have to pay for the majority of content.
Youtube

Senator Warns YouTube Algorithm May Be Open To Manipulation By 'Bad Actors' (theguardian.com) 179

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The top-ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee has warned that YouTube's powerful recommendation algorithm may be "optimizing for outrageous, salacious and often fraudulent content" or susceptible to "manipulation by bad actors, including foreign intelligence entities." Senator Mark Warner, of Virginia, made the stark warning after an investigation by the Guardian found that the Google-owned video platform was systematically promoting divisive and conspiratorial videos that were damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

"Companies like YouTube have immense power and influence in shaping the media and content that users see," Warner said. "I've been increasingly concerned that the recommendation engine algorithms behind platforms like YouTube are, at best, intrinsically flawed in optimizing for outrageous, salacious and often fraudulent content." He added: "At worst, they can be highly susceptible to gaming and manipulation by bad actors, including foreign intelligence entities."
YouTube's algorithm determines which videos to promote in the "Up next" column beside the video player. The Guardian found that "the algorithm was six times more likely to recommend videos that was damaging to Clinton than Trump, and also tended to amplify wild conspiracy theories about the former secretary of state."
Social Networks

Former Google/Facebook/Mozilla Employees Will Fight Addictive Technologies (qz.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes Quartz: A new alliance made up of former Silicon Valley cronies has aseembled to challenge the technological Frankenstein they've collectively created. The Center for Humane Technology is a group comprising former employees and pals of Google, Facebook, and Mozilla. The nonprofit launches today (Feb. 4) in the hopes that it can raise awareness about the societal tolls of technology, which its members believe are inherently addictive. The group will lobby for a bill to research the effects of technology on children's health... On Feb. 7, the group's members will participate in a conference focused on digital health for kids, hosted by the nonprofit Common Sense.
The group also plans an anti-tech addiction ad campaign at 55,000 schools across America, and has another $50 million in media airtime donated by partners which include Comcast and DirecTV.

The group's co-founder, a former Google design ethicist, told Quartz that tech companies "profit by drilling into our brains to pull the attention out of it, by using persuasion techniques to keep [us] hooked." And the group's web page argues that "What began as a race to monetize our attention is now eroding the pillars of our society: mental health, democracy, social relationships, and our children."
Media

Are Music CDs Dying? Best Buy Stops Selling CDs (complex.com) 295

An anonymous reader quotes Complex magazine: The future of physical music isn't looking good. According to Billboard, consumer electronics company Best Buy will no longer carry physical CDs and Target may be following suit in the near future. Best Buy notified music suppliers that they will cease selling CDs at stores beginning July 1. The move is sure to hurt the already declining sales of CDs as consumers are switching to streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal in large numbers. CD sales have already dropped by a sizable 18.5 percent in the past year, Billboard reports.
Billboard also reports Target has given an "ultimatum" to music and video suppliers. "Currently, Target takes the inventory risk by agreeing to pay for any goods it is shipped within 60 days, and must pay to ship back unsold CDs for credit... Target has demanded to music suppliers that it wants CDs to be sold on what amounts to a consignment basis..."

"If the majors don't play ball and give in to the new sale terms, it could considerably hasten the phase down of the CD format."

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