Pakistan temporarily blocks social media

Pakistan has temporarily blocked several social media services in the South Asian nation, according to users and a government-issued notice reviewed by TechCrunch.

In an order titled “Complete Blocking of Social Media Platforms,” the Pakistani government ordered Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Telegram from 11am to 3pm local time (06.00am to 10.00am GMT) Friday.

The move comes as Pakistan looks to crackdown against a violent terrorist group and prevent troublemakers from disrupting Friday prayers congregations following days of violent protests.

Earlier this week Pakistan banned the Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan after arresting its leader, which prompted protests, according to local media reports.

An entrepreneur based in Pakistan told TechCrunch that even though the order is supposed to expire at 3pm local time, similar past moves by the government suggests that the disruption will likely last for longer.

Though Pakistan, like its neighbor India, has temporarily cut phone calls access in the nation in the past, this is the first time Islamabad has issued a blanket ban on social media in the country.

Pakistan has explored ways to assume more control over content on digital services operating in the country in recent years. Some activists said the country was taking extreme measures without much explanations.

#asia, #facebook, #pakistan, #social, #telegram, #twitter, #whatsapp, #youtube

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Google is killing “Google Play Movies & TV” on smart TVs

Google is killing “Google Play Movies & TV” on smart TVs

Enlarge (credit: Google)

It sure seems like “Google Play Movies & TV,” Google’s video content store, is on the way out. Late last year, the Android version of the Play Movies & TV app was rebranded as “Google TV,” and now, Google is announcing (via 9to5Google) that on many smart TV platforms, Google’s purchased video content will be accessible from the YouTube app. The transition will start June 15, when Google says the “Google Play Movies & TV app will no longer be available on Roku, Samsung, LG, and Vizio smart TVs.”

Like any Google service transition (we are experts at this by now), this move comes with some caveats. Google notes that all your old purchases will be available on YouTube, but new purchases made on YouTube don’t support family sharing across family member accounts. The Google Play TV watchlist also won’t be making the jump. Additionally, there are several forum complaints already saying that the YouTube app on certain platforms lacks the surround sound audio or HDR support that Play Movies had.

Google Play Movies & TV launched in 2012 (previously, it was “Google Movies”) as a way to buy and rent professional, Hollywood-style video content through Google’s ecosystem. It launched as part of the unified Google Play ecosystem, alongside the Google Play app store, Google Play Books, Play Music, and Play Magazines. Google Play Magazine eventually became Google Play Newsstand and shut down in 2018 in favor of the revamped Google News. Google Play Music died in 2020,  and users were pushed to YouTube Music. That makes two dead Google Play brands so far.

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#google-play-movies-tv, #smart-tv, #tech, #youtube

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Lowkey raises $7 million from a16z to help game streamers capitalize on short-form video

While the growth of game-streaming audiences have continued on desktop platforms, the streaming space has felt surprisingly stagnant at times, particularly due to the missing mobile element and a lack of startup competitors.

Lowkey, a gaming startup that builds software for game streamers, is aiming to build out opportunities in bit-sized clips on mobile. The startup wants to be a hub for both creating and viewing short gaming clips but also sees a big opportunity in helping streamers cut down their existing content for distribution on platforms like Instagram and TikTok where short-form gaming content sees a good deal of engagement.

The startup announced today that they’ve closed a $7 million Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from a host of angel investors including Figma’s Dylan Field, Loom’s Joe Thomas and Plaid’s Zach Perret & William Hockey.

We last covered Lowkey in early 2020 when the company was looking to build out a games tournament platform for adults. At the time, the company had already pivoted after going through YC as Camelot but which allowed audiences on Twitch and YouTube pay creators to take on challenges. This latest shift brings Lowkey back to the streaming world but more focused on becoming a tool for streamers and a hub for viewers.

Twitch and YouTube Gaming have proven to be pretty uninterested in short-form content, favoring the opportunities of long-form streams that allow creators to press broadcast and upload lengthy streams. Lowkey users can easily upload footage captured from Lowkey’s desktop app or directly import a linked stream. This allows content creators to upload and comment on their own footage or remix and respond to another streamer’s content.

One of the challenges for streamers has been adapting widescreen content for a vertical video form factor, but CEO Jesse Zhang says that it’s not really a problem with most modern games. “Games inherently want to focus you attention on the center of the screen,” Zhang tells TechCrunch. “So, almost all clips extend really cleanly to like a mobile format, which is what we’ve done.”

Lowkey’s desktop app is available on Windows and their new mobile app is now live for iOS.

#andreessen-horowitz, #ceo, #digital-media, #gaming, #hockey, #instagram, #joe-thomas, #mass-media, #microsoft-windows, #twitch, #video-hosting, #world-wide-web, #youtube, #zach-perret

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YouTube tests hiding dislike counts on videos

YouTube announced today it will begin testing what could end up being a significant change to its video platform: it’s going to try hiding the dislike count on videos from public view. The company says it will run a “small experiment” where it will try out a few different designs where dislike counts are no longer shown, however none will see the “dislike” button itself removed entirely.

The company announced the tests on Twitter, but then further explains further in a community forum post that the goal is not to remove the ability for users to signal they disliked a video — creators will still have access to the video’s like and dislike count from YouTube Studio and dislikes will still help power YouTube’s recommendation algorithms.

Instead, YouTube says that the idea to try hiding dislikes is based on creator feedback.

“We’ve heard from creators that the public dislike counts can impact their wellbeing, and may motivate a targeted campaign of dislikes on a creator’s video,” the announcement reads. “So, we’re testing designs that don’t include the visible like or dislike count in an effort to balance improving the creator experience, while still making sure viewer feedback is accounted for and shared with the creator.”

Of course, there can be a sort of mob mentality that accompanies the use of the Like and Dislike buttons on YouTube. But seeing the dislike count can also help to signal to others when videos are clickbait, spam or misleading, which can be helpful.

YouTube showed off one potential design being tested simply shows the same button layout but instead of a number of dislikes, the word “Dislike” appears underneath the thumbs down icon.

There will be no way to opt out of the test if you see the changes appear when you’re logged into YouTube — you’ll only be able to share feedback, the company notes.

To be clear, however, YouTube isn’t yet committed to removing the dislike count for everyone at this time. The feedback from this test will help inform YouTube as to if, when or how it will release designs like this more broadly.

YouTube wouldn’t be the first to experiment with removing metrics from a social app. Instagram has also been testing removing the number of positive engagements (Likes), in order to make the experience feel more authentic and less about chasing clout. And Facebook this year removed the “Like” button from Facebook Pages, in favor of the more accurate “Followers” measurement. However, in the case of removing just the dislike count and not the likes, viewers may misunderstand a video’s true popularity.

The company hasn’t said how long the tests will run before it has enough feedback to make a decision on the feature’s permanence.

 

#creators, #dislikes, #google, #like-button, #media, #social, #social-media, #videos, #youtube

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Police say they found mafia fugitive on YouTube, posting cooking tutorials

Bolognese sauce in a pan, next to a bowl of spaghetti.

Enlarge / Bolognese sauce and spaghetti. (credit: Getty Images | Westend61)

An alleged mafia fugitive hiding from Italian police in the Dominican Republic was arrested after being spotted showing off his cooking skills in instructional videos he posted on YouTube, according to news reports.

Marc Feren Claude Biart, an alleged member of the ‘Ndrangheta criminal organization based in southern Italy, reportedly hid his face in the cooking videos but failed to hide his tattoos, leading to his identification. The man had been hiding since law enforcement “ordered Biart’s arrest in 2014 for criminal drug trafficking on behalf of the ‘Ndrangheta’s Cacciola clan,” according to The Washington Post.

The 53-year-old Biart didn’t keep his recipes secret but “was always careful to hide his face in his Italian cooking tutorials, filming the YouTube videos while laying low from police on a sandy beach in the Caribbean,” the Post wrote. It’s not clear whether the videos are still online, but Biart and his wife “appeared to have uploaded several cooking tutorials for Italian recipes to YouTube, including ones where Biart’s tattoos were visible,” the Post wrote.

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#mafia, #policy, #youtube

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Jake Paul looks to knock out the venture capital world with Anti Fund

During every economic boom, there are startup investors who appear on the scene from new corners. Some churn out; others earn the respect of the old guard over time.

Jake Paul would be happy to be in the latter camp. Then again, the 24-year-old didn’t become a social media star by being conventional. Little wonder that Paul is now jumping into venture capital with an outfit that’s branded the Anti Fund. Newly formed with serial entrepreneur Geoffrey Woo, the endeavor is traditional in some ways but has a decidedly different point of view, say the two.

Some of the basics: Anti Fund is not a discrete pool of capital but is instead using AngelList’s Rolling Funds platform, which enables investors to raise money through a quarterly subscription from interested backers. Among those who’ve already committed capital are Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz.

Why choose a rolling fund instead of a traditional fund? For one thing, Paul and Woo were drawn to its Rule 506(c) structure, which enables issuers to broadly solicit and generally advertise an offering. Because Anti Fund plans to focus largely on consumer-focused brands and next-generation creator platforms in particular, “we want to be able to promote and advertise our fund,” says Woo, who most recently founded a nutrition-based food and beverage company and earlier in his career sold a company to Groupon.

Paul also wants to ensure his fans can get involved if they want. “I have followers are different reasons, and they want to be involved in what I’m doing. If they’re involved in our fund, then that’s more people rooting for us and our portfolio companies to win. We almost create this army that’s pushing all of these companies forward.”

Anti Fund plans to write checks of between $100,000 and $1 million to one to two startups every quarter. The goal, says Paul, is to be the “biggest rolling fund on AngelList” investing “around $10 million to $20 million a year.”

Anti Fund is just the newest effort to come from the world of social media influencers. As we reported earlier this month, the management company of another YouTube star, MrBeast, has dived into the world of venture capital with a $20 million fund it assembled with commitments from social media creators. Dispo, a photo-sharing app cofounded by YouTube star David Dobrik also attracted widespread attention and funding earlier this year. Not last, a new startup called Creative Juice just raised funding to provide equity-based financing to YouTube creators. MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, is among its investors.

“I think a lot of creators with newfound wealth — a lot of YouTubers or Instagram models — don’t necessarily know what to do with their money,” says Paul, who has already diversified into boxing, making his professional boxing debut last year. “I’m trying to lead the way.”

Neither Paul nor Woo is new to startup investing. Woo has invested in roughly 20 startups on his own, including Paribus, an email widget that saved consumers money and that was acquired by Capital One. Paul, meanwhile, previously cofounded another small venture outfit called TGZ Capital that he says participated in the funding rounds of 15 startups.

One of these is Quip, a seven-year-old oral care company that has raised $62 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. Another company backed by Paul is Triller, a social video app that briefly became the most-downloaded free app in the App Store last summer when bigger rival TikTok was facing an uncertain future in the U.S.

Triller has since lost enough of that momentum that talk of going public via a special purpose acquisition vehicle has yet to lead to a tie-up, six months after the company reportedly began exploring the possibility. Still, as a stakeholder, Paul is keeping it in the headlines, including by providing it with exclusive rights to stream a pay-per-view boxing match between himself with former MMA wrestler Ben Asken on April 17.

Interestingly, it’s because Paul moved from L.A. to Miami to train for the fight that he met Woo, a Californian who visited Miami this past January for what was supposed to be a weekend trip and wound up staying. The two say they happened to hit it off at a tech event and, after establishing they had mutual friends, connected over their interest in performance nutrition, with Paul investing in Woo’s newest company, HVMN.

Last month, they decided to partner on Anti Fund, too.

Whether the two succeed as business partners will take time to learn. Certainly, they both have a strong work ethic. Woo has started three companies since graduating from Stanford with a computer science degree. Though Paul makes what what seems an inordinate amount of money for creating YouTube videos, he has created thousands of them in order to amass his more than 20 million followers.

It’s also clear that, as with his social media career, Paul is taking boxing seriously. During his most recent fight, in November, he knocked out former NBA player Nate Robinson in the second round. His first boxing match, against fellow YouTuber AnEsonGib in January of last year, also ended in a knockout just 2 minutes and 18 seconds into the fight.

Many professional athletes see the fights as mere stunts, given Paul’s famous made-for-video antics, from a short-lived marriage, to disregarding the concerns of neighbors in West Hollywood, to being charged by police last June for criminal trespass and unlawful assembly connected with the looting of an Arizona mall.

An obvious risk is that the best deal-makers in the world will see Anti Fund as a stunt, too, or else that something that Paul says or does will ruffle feathers. As industry watchers know, investors’ excitement over Dobrik’s Dispo dissipated quickly after Business Insider first detailed various accusations of misconduct against members of the Dobrik’s online squad, including an accusation of rape against one of Dobrik’s friends that allegedly took place during a video shoot.

Paul, who finished high school online in order to pursue a career as an influencer, is well aware of the Dobrik scandal. It’s because he has grown up in plain view, in fact, that he’s not concerned about something from his past threatening his future.

“It’s definitely [risky to be in my position]. Your life is put on display when you choose to be a celebrity and specifically a vlogger. But because I’ve lived online, everyone’s seen everything already,” he says.

He also thinks that “VCs and people in the business world understand more and more how to work” with influencers and other celebrities who have enormous followings and are bringing them along as their careers evolve. “At the end of the day,” he says of business partners, “if someone is a good person and you have a relationship established with them, that’s what really matters.”

#angellist, #chris-dixon, #groupon, #influencer, #marc-andreessen, #miami, #social, #social-media, #tc, #triller, #venture-capital, #youtube

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Bias, subtweets, and kids: Key takeaways from Big Tech’s latest outing on the Hill

There was no fancy Hill hearing room for this all-virtual event, so Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey dialed in from... a kitchen.

Enlarge / There was no fancy Hill hearing room for this all-virtual event, so Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey dialed in from… a kitchen. (credit: Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

A trio of major tech CEOs—Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey—once again went before Congress this week to explain their roles in the social media ecosystem. The hearing nominally focused on disinformation and extremism, particularly in the wake of the January 6 events at the US Capitol. But as always, the members asking the questions frequently ventured far afield.

The hearing focused less on specific posts than previous Congressional grillings, but it was mainly an exercise in people talking to plant their stakes. Considered in totality, fairly little of substance was accomplished during the hearing’s lengthy six-hour runtime.

Nonetheless, a few important policy nuggets did manage to come up.

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#alphabet, #congress, #facebook, #google, #hearings, #jack-dorsey, #mark-zuckerberg, #policy, #sundar-pichai, #twitter, #youtube

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Daily Crunch: YouTube’s TikTok rival launches in the US

YouTube Shorts comes to the U.S., Amazon starts testing electric delivery vans in San Francisco and new data suggests the impact of Google Play’s recent changes. This is your Daily Crunch for March 18, 2021.

The big story: YouTube’s TikTok rival launches in the US

The YouTube Shorts product allows users to record, edit and share videos of 60 seconds or less, which can be accompanied by licensed music from a variety of industry partners. The company has been testing the feature in India while making Shorts viewable internationally — but until today, U.S. viewers couldn’t actually create short videos of their own.

Sarah Perez took an in-depth look at the Shorts experience, noting that it’s pretty similar to TikTok while lacking some key features, such as intelligent sound syncing.

The tech giants

Amazon begins testing its Rivian electric delivery vans in San Francisco — This makes SF the second of 16 total cities that Amazon expects to bring its Rivian-sourced EVs to in 2021.

Data shows how few Google Play developers will pay the higher 30% commission after policy change — As regular Daily Crunch readers will remember, Google recently announced that it’s cutting the commissions it charges developers on Google Play.

Twitter begins testing a way to watch YouTube videos from the home timeline on iOS — Shortly after Twitter announced it would begin testing a better way to display images on its app, it’s now doing the same for YouTube videos.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Substack faces backlash over the writers it supports with big advances — The startup has lured some of its most high-profile (and controversial) writers with sizable payments.

Homebrew backs Higo’s effort to become the ‘Venmo for B2B payments’ in LatAm — Rodolfo Corcuera, Juan José Fernández and Daniel Tamayo founded the company in January 2020, recognizing that the process of paying vendors for business owners is largely “manual and cumbersome.”

NFT marketplace OpenSea raises $23M from a16z — OpenSea has been one of a handful of NFT marketplaces to explode in popularity in recent weeks.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

MaaS transit: The business of mobility as a service — Amid declining ridership, transportation agencies find new software partners.

Three steps to ease the transition to a no-code company — Despite the many benefits, adopting a no-code platform won’t suddenly turn you into a no-code company.

Snowflake gave up its dual-class shares. Should you? — The mechanism can enable founders to maintain control despite later dilution and may sometimes even grant ironclad control in perpetuity.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Tech companies should oppose the new wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation — TechNet’s David Edmondson puts the spotlight on a number of states that are currently considering anti-LGBT legislation.

Talking robots with Ford — We interview Ford’s Technical Expert Mario Santillo about its new robotics initiatives.

Startups, get your bug bounty crash course at Early Stage 2021 — Katie Moussouris, founder and chief executive at Luta Security, will give a crash course in bug bounty and vulnerability disclosure programs at TC Early Stage 2021.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #media, #mobile, #social, #youtube

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YouTube’s TikTok rival, YouTube Shorts, arrives in the US

YouTube Shorts, the company’s short-form video experience and TikTok rival, is launching today in the U.S. The feature allows creators to record, edit and share short-form video content that’s 60 seconds or less in length, optionally set to popular music. At launch, YouTube has deals with Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Warner Chappell Music, Believe, Merlin, 300 Entertainment, Kobalt, Beggars, CD Baby, Empire, Peer, Reservoir, OneRPM and others.

Globally, YouTube has agreements with over 250 publishers and labels for use in the Shorts product, it says.

The YouTube Shorts product itself was first introduced in September and has been beta testing in India over the past several months, where it has since seen adoption triple.

Though you may have already encountered the YouTube Shorts “shelf” on the YouTube homepage, the ability to create YouTube Shorts videos was not live in the U.S. until today.

The experience of filming content for YouTube Shorts is very much like TikTok.

Creators have access to tools stop and start recording short video segments with a tap, much like the leading short-form app. They can also select the video’s backing music or sound and utilize a small handful of in-app editing features. At launch, these include speed controls to slow or speed the audio, a countdown timer, text timing capabilities to make text appear on the screen at certain times and, soon after launch, color adjustment filters.

Image Credits: YouTube

But while YouTube Shorts has a clever tool that lets you select the part of the song you want to use in your video, it’s lacking the more intelligent automatic sound-syncing feature that makes TikTok so accessible for beginners. YouTube’s product also at launch lacks a large catalog of special effects — like the AR features or green-screen options found on TikTok. Instead, like Instagram Reels, the initial goal with Shorts is to simply lower the barrier to entry for users who want to create and publish short-form video content on an existing social platform.

On the viewer’s side, the TikTok comparisons are even more obvious.

Currently, the experience can be launched via the YouTube Shorts shelf on the YouTube homepage, which has already been live in some markets, and, soon, from a dedicated Shorts tab in the YouTube mobile app.

Image Credits: YouTube

Once launched, you’ll be taken to a familiar full-screen vertical video experience where you can double-tap to like a video, tap into the comments or share the video with others. You can also subscribe to the creators’ YouTube channel from Shorts, if you find their content interesting.

You can also tap on hashtags in YouTube Shorts that will take you to a page with other videos using the same hashtag. (This, to be clear, is separate from the other YouTube hashtag pages announced recently, which will host both longer-form and short-form content.)

Image Credits: YouTube

Also like TikTok, you can tap on the music icon — in YouTube Shorts, a square icon, not a spinning record as on TikTok — to be taken to a page featuring that same sound. Here, you’ll find all the other Shorts using that sound and have the option to do the same.

Image Credits: YouTube

This “sound” could be a clip from a popular song, original audio or what YouTube calls “remixed” content. The latter refers to how Shorts creators can sample from other Shorts videos to make their own sounds. And, in the months to come, the company will expand this remixing capability across YouTube’s billions of longer-form videos. YouTube creators can choose to opt out of having their original audio remixed for Shorts’ clips, but by doing so they may limit themselves from finding a new audience.

YouTube suggests creators could remix videos to show themselves reacting to their favorite jokes, trying a YouTuber’s recipe or re-enacting a comedic skit, among other things.

Image Credits: YouTube

Since its launch in India, the YouTube Shorts player has passed 6.5 billion daily views globally. However, YouTube wouldn’t say how many creators had adopted the product, nor how many Shorts videos have been produced. But the Indian market is not representative of how Shorts may fare in the U.S. because the country banned TikTok last year, helping to boost other short-form video apps as a result.

YouTube, of course, isn’t the first social platform to copy TikTok. Instagram and Snapchat have done the same with Reels and Spotlight, respectively. But in YouTube’s case, it’s even more critical to offer support for short-form video to stay relevant in a market where TikTok has become one of the most downloaded mobile apps and a preferred tool for watching video content on mobile devices.

“I think Shorts and short-form video has come to feel like a natural progression for YouTube,” noted YouTube’s Todd Sherman, the product lead for YouTube Shorts. “We’re the original user generated video platform. And that was really based around video that’s created on the desktop — digital cameras, desktop computers and video editing software. Now, we’re really keen to take a step forward into this new world of video that’s really native to the phone,” he says. “And it’s really important that we build this in partnership with the creator community…and for that matter, even more broadly, the same goes for viewers and our partners in the music industry,” Sherman adds.

The YouTube Shorts product is still considered a beta, as YouTube expects to iterate on the Shorts experience over time, and respond to user feedback as it develops new features.

Longer-term, YouTube believes Shorts will differentiate itself from others on the market by way of its connection to the larger YouTube platform.

“There’s a two-way door here where we’re building a short-form video ecosystem,” explains Sherman. “You can take a step forward into YouTube or even YouTube Music in the foreseeable future. And then from YouTube, you could also initiate creation into Shorts. That bridging of ecosystems, I think is an important part of this,” he adds.

So far, however, TikTok rivals have often seen creators simply repurposing their TikTok videos for use on other platforms — not developing original content for each of the three: TikTok, Reels and Spotlight.

YouTube Shorts’ video creation tools will begin to roll out to U.S. users starting today, and will expand to all of the U.S. over the next several weeks, the company says.

 

 

#entertainment, #short-form-video, #tc, #tiktok, #united-states, #video, #video-hosting, #youtube, #youtube-music, #youtube-shorts

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YouTube to launch parental control features for families with tweens and teens

YouTube announced this morning it will soon introduce a new experience designed for teens and tweens who are now too old for the schoolager-focused YouTube Kids app, but who may not be ready to explore all of YouTube. The company says it’s preparing to launch a beta test of new features that will give parents the ability to grant kids more limited access to YouTube through a “supervised” Google Account. This setup will restrict what tweens and teens can watch on the platform, as well as what they can do — like create videos or leave comments, for example.

Many parents may have already set up a supervised Google Account for their child through Google’s Family Link parental control app. This app allows parents to restrict access across a range of products and services, control screen time, filter websites and more. Other parents may have created a supervised Google Account for their child when they first set up the child’s account on a new Android device or Chromebook.

If not, parents can take a few minutes to create the child’s supervised account when they’re ready to begin testing the new features. (Unfortunately, Google Edu accounts — like those kids now use for online school — aren’t supported at launch.)

The new features will allow parents to select between three different levels of YouTube access for their tween or teen. Initially, YouTube will test the features with parents with children under the age of consent for online services — age 13 in the U.S., but different in other countries — before expanding to older groups.

Image Credits: YouTube

For tweens who have more recently graduated out of the YouTube Kids app, an “Explore” mode will allow them to view a broad range of videos generally suited for viewers age 9 and up — including vlogs, tutorials, gaming videos, music clips, news, and educational content. This would allow the kids to watch things like their favorite gaming streamer with kid-friendly content, but would prevent them (in theory) from finding their way over to more sensitive content.

The next step up is an “Explore More” mode, where videos are generally suitable for kids 13 and up — like a PG-13 version of YouTube. This expands the set of videos kids can access and allows them access to live streams in the same categories as “Explore.”

For older teens, there is the “Most of YouTube” mode, which includes almost all YouTube videos except those that include age-restricted content that isn’t appropriate for viewers under 18.

Image Credits: YouTube

YouTube says it will use a combination of user input, machine learning, and human review to curate which videos are included in each of the three different content settings.

Of course, much like YouTube Kids, that means this will not be a perfect system — it’s a heavily machine-automated attempt at curation where users will still have to flag videos that were improperly filtered. In other words, helicopter parents who closely supervise their child’s access to internet content will probably still want to use some other system — like a third-party parental control solution, perhaps — to lock down YouTube further.

The supervised access to YouTube comes with other restrictions, as well, the company says.

Parents will be able to manage the child’s watch and search history from within the child’s account settings. And certain features on YouTube will be disabled, depending on the level of access the child has.

For example, YouTube will disable in-app purchases, video creation, and commenting features at launch. The company says that, over time, it wants to work with parents to add some of these features back through some sort of parent-controlled approach.

Also key is that personalized ads won’t be served on supervised experiences, even if that content isn’t designated as “made for kids” — which would normally allow for personalized ads to run. Instead, all ads will be contextual, as they are on YouTube Kids. In addition, all ads will have to comply with kids advertising policies, YouTube’s general ad policies, and will be subject to the same category and ad content restrictions as on Made for Kids content.

That said, when parents establish the supervised account for their child, they’ll be providing consent for COPPA compliance — the U.S. children’s privacy law that requires parents to be notified and agree to the collection and use personal data from the kids’ account. So there’s a trade-off here.

However, the new experience may still make sense for families where kids have outgrown apps designed for younger children — or even in some cases, for younger kids who covet their big brother or sister’s version of “real YouTube.” Plus, at some point, forcing an older child to use the “Kids” app makes them feel like they’re behind their peers, too. And since not all parents use the YouTube Kids app or parental controls, there’s always the complaint that “everyone else has it, so why can’t I?” (It never ends.)

Image Credits: YouTube Kids app

This slightly more locked down experience lets parents give the child access to “real YouTube” with restrictions on what that actually means, in terms of content and features.

YouTube, in an announcement, shared several endorsements for the new product from a few individual youth experts, including Leslie Boggs, president of National PTA; Dr. Yalda Uhls, Center for Scholars & Storytellers, UCLA – Author of Media Moms & Digital Dads; Thiago Tavares, Founder and President of SaferNet Brazil; and Professor Sun Sun Lim, Singapore University of Technology & Design – Author of Transcendent Parenting.

YouTube’s news, notably, follows several product updates from fast-growing social video app and YouTube rival TikTok, which has rolled out a number of features aimed at better protecting its younger users.

The company in April 2020 launched a “family pairing” mode that lets a parent link their child’s account to their own in order to also lock down what the child can do and what content they can see. (TikTok offers a curated experience for the under-13 crowd called Restricted Mode, which can be switched on here, too.) And in January of this year, TikTok changed the privacy setting defaults for users under 18 to more proactively restrict what they do on the app.

YouTube says its new product will launch in beta in the “coming months” in over 80 countries worldwide. It also notes that it will continue to invest in YouTube Kids for parents with younger children.

#apps, #families, #family, #google, #kids, #machine-learning, #media, #parental-controls, #parents, #social, #video, #video-hosting, #youtube, #youtube-kids

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YouTube to expand Shorts to the U.S., add 4K and DVR to YouTube TV, launch in-video shopping and more in 2021

YouTube has a host of big product updates coming this year, and it just detailed a lot of them in a blog post from Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan. Google’s streaming video site plans to expand its TikTok-esque Shorts mobile video creation and consumption tool to the U.S. (it’s currently in beta in India), make YouTube TV a more full-featured in-home cable alternative, add customization and control options to YouTube Kids and more.

Many of the product updates detailed by Mohan are expansions of existing tests and beta features, but there are also entirely new developments that could significantly change how YouTube works for both creators and audiences. YouTube’s focus on monetization and new formats also indicates a desire to keep creators happy, which makes a lot of sense in the context of the platform’s popular new mobile-first competitor TikTok.

Here’s a TL;DR of everything YouTube announced today for its 2021 roadmap:

  • Expansion of its in-video e-commerce shopping experience beyond the current limited beta
  • Expansion of Applause tipping feature
  • YouTube Shorts launching in the U.S.
  • Adding the ability for parents to specify individual channels and videos for their kids to be able to watch on YouTube Kids
  • New features for user playlists on YouTube Music, and making those playlists more discoverable to others
  • A new paid add-on coming to YouTube TV that offers 4K streaming, DVR for off-line playback, and unlimited simultaneous in-home streams
  • Automatic video chaptering for some videos that don’t have creator-defined ones
  • A redesigned YouTube VR experience focused on accessibility, search and better navigation

YouTube has a big year planned, and some of these changes could significantly alter the dynamics of the platform. Making it possible for every creator to turn their channel in a mini shopping channel has a lot of potential to alter what it looks like to build a business on the platform, while YouTube TV’s transformation narrows the gap even further between that service and traditional cable and satellite provider offerings.

#ecommerce, #google, #india, #neal-mohan, #social-media, #software, #streaming-video, #tc, #tiktok, #united-states, #video, #video-hosting, #virtual-reality, #world-wide-web, #youtube, #youtube-music

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YouTube’s lo-fi music streams are all about the euphoria of less

Brake lights blur in the city at night.

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto | Getty Images)

Dion Lewis was trying to make the best out of a difficult situation. Last August, when a storm left his Chicago neighborhood without electricity for a week, he improvised. Lewis had recently created a YouTube page for tutorials about the various aspects of computer programming called Code Pioneers, and that first night, unable to record, he decided to gather his wife and daughter for some quality time. Together in their living room surrounded by flickering candles, the three of them sat listening to songs Lewis “previously downloaded to use as background music” in his video tutorials. They included tracks like RalphReal’s “Mix It Up” and “Wallflowers” by the Portland experimentalist musician Bad Snacks.

The next morning, moved by what he’d heard, Lewis grabbed his DJ controller, headphones, and used “the last amount of power” in his laptop to make “Late Night Coding in Chicago”—a 32-minute stream of soothing lo-fi hip-hop songs and, to date, one of the most-watched videos on his YouTube page.

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#gaming-culture, #hip-hop, #music, #streaming, #youtube

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YouTube launches hashtag landing pages to all users

YouTube is embracing the hashtag. The company has been quietly working on a new feature that allows users to better discover content using hashtags — either by clicking on a hashtag on YouTube or by typing in a hashtag link directly. Before, these actions would return a mix of content related to the hashtag, but not only those videos where the hashtag had been directly used. Now that’s changing, as YouTube has fully rolled out its new “hashtag landing pages.”

Going forward, when you click on a hashtag on YouTube, you’ll be taken to a dedicated landing page that contains only videos that are using the hashtag. This page is also sorted to keep the “best” videos at the top, YouTube claimed. The ranking algorithm, however, may need some work as it’s currently surfacing an odd mix of both newer and older videos and seems to be heavily dominated by Indian creator content, in several top categories.

The result, then, is not the equivalent to something like a hashtag search on a social network like Facebook or Twitter, for example, where more recent content gets top billing. For that reason, it may be difficult to use these hashtag landing pages for discovery of new videos to watch, as intended, but could still serve as an interesting research tool for creators looking to better leverage the hashtag format.

For instance, you may find that the #interiordesign hashtag is a crowded place, with 8,400 channels and 29,000 videos, but a niche hashtag like #interiordesignlivingroom has under 100 channels and videos. If people began to use hashtags regularly to seek out videos, using narrowly targeted tags could potentially help creators’ videos be more easily found.

Image Credits: YouTube screenshot

The hashtag landing pages are accessed through clicking on a tag on YouTube, not by doing a hashtag search. However, if you want to go to a particular hashtag page directly, you can use the URL format of youtube.com/hashtag/[yourterm]. (E.g. youtube.com/hashtag/beauty)

We’ve noticed, in testing the feature, that there are not hashtag pages for some controversial terms associated with content YouTube previously said it would block, like QAnon and election conspiracy videos, such as #stopthesteal.

The feature itself was first announced through YouTube’s Community forum earlier this month, where it was described as a new way that YouTube would “group content together and help you discover videos through hashtags.”

On Tuesday, YouTube noted on its “Creator Insider” channel that the feature had been fully rolled out to 100% of all users. (The video’s creator, however, misspoke, by saying you could “search” for hashtags to reach the new landing page. That is not the case today.) The hashtag landing pages are available on both desktop and mobile.

 

#hashtag, #media, #social-media, #youtube

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Uppbeat launches a freemium music platform aimed at YouTubers

A new music platform, Uppbeat, aims to make it easier for YouTubers and other content creators to find quality free music to use in their videos. The system, which is designed to navigate the complexities of copyright claims while also fairly compensating artists, offers an alternative to existing free music platforms, including YouTube’s own Audio Library and Creative Commons’ legal music for videos, for example.

The idea for the startup comes from Lewis Foster and Matt Russell, the U.K.-based co-founders of another music-licensing company, Music Vine, which has been operating for about six years.

Last year, the co-founders realized there was a growing opportunity to address the creator space with a slightly different product.

“We were realizing, more and more, was that the creator space — YouTubers, streamers, podcasters — has become enormous, but there wasn’t a music platform that was doing a nice job for those type of users,” explains Foster. “So we sat down and thought about what the perfect music resource would look like for creators. That led to deciding to build Uppbeat,” he says.

They began developing the Uppbeat website in September 2020 and launched it to the public on Monday.

On the creators’ side, Uppbeat’s key focus is on eliminating headaches over copyright claims, particularly on YouTube.

Currently, if a YouTuber gets a copyright claim over music in their video, it can cause them to lose income. Though YouTube has worked to address this problem over the years with new features and changes to its Content ID match system, it’s still an issue.

“If a YouTuber gets a copyright claim, [YouTube] can de-monetize their video. And if they go through YouTube’s dispute system, it can take as long as 30 days for it to get resolved. It’s a pretty big frustration for YouTubers,” Foster says.

Uppbeat’s music will instead almost instantly clear the claims.

Image Credits: Uppbeat

Similar to Spotify, the Uppbeat website leverages a freemium model, To get started, creators can sign up for a free account that provides with access to about 50% of the site’s roughly 1,000-track music catalog and 10 downloads per month. The paid plan offers full catalog access and no download limit.

Free users simply add a credit to their YouTube video description to clear copyright claims, while paid users are added to an approved list, eliminating this extra step.

Because the tracks have to fingerprinted to fight off unlicensed usage, a copyright claim will still occur. But instead of taking days or weeks to resolve, it will be cleared within about five minutes, the company says. The Uppbeat system clears the claim by checking the video description for the necessary credit and by checking the claim against its list of paid users. This is all automated, too, which helps to speed things up.

Image Credits: Uppbeat

Meanwhile, on the artists’ side, Uppbeat will pays as their music is used — even by the free users.

The revenue from the premium subscriptions, and soon, advertising, is divided between the artists on a monthly basis, in proportion to the number of downloads the artist receives.

“What that means from the artists’ perspective is, on average, they’re going to make the same amount from tracks on the premium side as they do on the free side,” says Lewis. “It means, even for free usage, they will get paid,” he adds.

The site will also monetize through audio ads that play as you browse the tracks and listen to the music. (However, these are just promoting the paid plan for the time being.)

Browsing Uppbeat’s catalog is easy, too. The music is organized by genre, theme and style in colorful rows that aim to introduce all the different types of music and beats a YouTuber may need. For example, there’s music customized for use the background and other tracks that cater to different moods, like inspiring, calm, happy, dramatic, and more. A catalog of SFX (sound effects) is expected to be added in a few months, too.

Uppbeat believes its existing music industry connections with producers, composers and songwriters via Music Vine will help them to source higher-quality tracks than other free music services.

At present, the startup is self-funded through revenues from Music Vine, but Foster says they’ve had some VC interest. For now, though, the founders are looking to keep the ownership in-house, for the most part.

However, Uppbeat is experimenting with both a referral program and a profit-sharing scheme. The latter will allow YouTubers who bring Uppbeat new customers, then take the full revenue from those customers for two years’ time.

“We’re taking a massive sacrifice,” Foster admits. “But from from our perspective, the faster we can get Uppbeat out there and well-known in the YouTuber space, then we’re happy to share that [revenue]. We think it’s a cool idea to share that within the YouTuber community, rather than [take] a big private investment,” he notes.

The startup is also considering making shares in the company available to some larger YouTubers, Foster adds.

Today, Uppbeat is a team of 8 employees and 12 freelancers, based in Leeds, U.K.

 

#artist, #content, #content-id, #creators, #music, #music-vine, #startups, #united-kingdom, #uppbeat, #youtube, #youtubers

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YouTube suspends Trump’s account, disables comments “indefinitely”

An illustration of YouTube's logo behind barbed wire.

Enlarge (credit: YouTube / Getty / Aurich Lawson)

YouTube, following in the path of very nearly every other social media platform, is suspending President Donald Trump’s channel due to concerns that he will use it to foment additional violence in the coming days.

“After review, and in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, we removed new content uploaded to Donald J. Trump’s channel for violating our policies,” the company said late Tuesday. “It now has its first strike and is temporarily prevented from uploading new content for a *minimum* of 7 days.”

While it is possible Trump may have his account reinstated after that period, comments to his videos are shut down “indefinitely,” due to “safety concerns found in the comments section,” YouTube added.

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#alphabet, #donald-trump, #google, #insurrection, #policy, #sedition, #trump, #youtube

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YouTube puts a temporary freeze on uploads to Trump’s channel

YouTube has been the slowest of the big social media platforms to react to the threat of letting president Trump continue to use its platform as a megaphone to whip up insurrection in the wake of the attack on the US capital last week. But it’s now applied a temporary upload ban.

In a short Twitter thread today, the Google-owned service said it had removed new content uploaded to Trump’s YouTube channel “in light of concerns about the ongoing potential violence”.

It also said it’s applied a first strike — triggering a temporary upload ban for at least seven days.

At the time of writing the verified Donald J Trump YouTube channel has some 2.78M subscribers.

“Given the ongoing concerns about violence, we will also be indefinitely disabling comments on President Trump’s channel, as we’ve done to other channels where there are safety concerns found in the comments section,” YouTube adds.

We reached out to YouTube with questions about the content that was removed and how it will determine whether to extend the ban on Trump’s ability to post to its platform beyond seven days.

A spokeswoman confirmed content that was uploaded to the channel on January 12 had been taken down for violating its policies on inciting violence, with the platform saying it perceiving an increased risk of violence in light of recent events and due to earlier remarks by Trump.

She did not confirm the specific content of the video that triggered the takedown and strike.

According to YouTube, platform is applying its standard ‘three strikes’ policy — whereby, within a 90 day period, if a channel receives three strikes it gets permanently suspended. Under this policy a first strike earns around a week’s suspension, a second strike earns around two weeks and a third strike triggers a termination of the channel.

At the time of writing, Trump’s official YouTube channel has a series of recent uploads — including five clips from a speech he gave at the Mexican border wall, where he lauded “successful” completion of the pledge during the 2016 election campaign to ‘build the wall’.

In one of these videos, entitled “President Trump addresses the events of last week”, Trump characterizes supporters who attacked the US capital as a “mob” — and claims his administration “believes in the rule of law, not in violence or rioting” — before segueing into a series of rambling comments about the pandemic and vaccine development.

The clip ends with an entreaty by Trump for “our nation to heal”, for “peace and for calm”, and for respect for law enforcement — with the president claiming people who work in law enforcement form the backbone of the “MAGA agenda”.

An earlier clip of Trump speaking to reporters before he left for the tour of the border wall is also still viewable on the channel.

In it the president attacks the process to impeach him a second time as “a continuation of the greatest witch-hunt in the history of politics”. Here Trump name-checks Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — in what sounds like a veiled but targeted threat.

“[For them] to continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country and it’s causing tremendous anger,” he says, before tossing a final caveat at reporters that “I want no violence”. (But, well, if you have to add such a disclaimer what does that say about the sentiments you know you’re whipping up?)

While YouTube has opted for a temporary freeze on Trump’s megaphone, Twitter banned the president for good last week after one too many violations of its civic integrity policy.

Facebook has also imposed what it describes as an “indefinite” suspension — leaving open the possibility that it could in future restore Trump’s ability to use its tools to raise hell.

Up to now, YouTube has managed to avoid being the primary target of ire for those criticizing social media platforms for providing Trump with a carve out from their rules of conduct and a mainstream platform to abuse, bully, lie and (most recently) whip up insurrection.

However the temporary freeze on his account comes after civil rights groups had threatened to organize an advertiser boycott of its platform.

Per Reuters, the Stop Hate for Profit (SHP) campaign — which previously led a major advertisers boycott of Facebook last summer — had demanded that YouTube take down Trump’s verified channel.

“If YouTube does not agree with us and join the other platforms in banning Trump, we’re going to go to the advertisers,” one of SHP’s organizers, Jim Steyer, told the news agency.

In its official comments about the enforcement action against president Trump, YouTube makes no mention of any concern about ramifications from its own advertisers. Though, in recent years, it has faced some earlier boycotts from advertisers over hateful and offensive content.

In background remarks to reporters, YouTube also claims it consistently enforces its policies, regardless of who owns the channel — and says it makes no exceptions for public figures. However the platform has been known to reverse a three strike termination — recently reinstating the channel of UK broadcaster TalkRadio, for example, after it received a third strike related to coronavirus misinformation.

In that case the channel’s reinstatement was reported to have followed an intervention by TalkRadio’s owner News Corp’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch. UK ministers had also defended the channel’s right to debate the merits of government policy.

In Trump’s case there are a dwindling number of (GOP) politicians willing to ride to his defense in light of the shocking events in Washington last week and continued violent threats being made online by his supporters.

However concern about the massive market power of tech platforms — meaning they are in a position to be able to take unilateral action and shut down the US president’s ability to broadcast to millions of people — is far more widespread.

Earlier this week Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, called Twitter’s ban on Trump “problematic”, while lawmakers elsewhere in Europe have said it must lead to regulatory consequences for big tech.

So whatever his wider legacy, Trump certainly looks set to have a lasting policy impact on the tech giants he is now busy railing at for putting him on mute.

#censorship, #content-moderation, #policy, #president-trump, #social, #youtube

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YouTube and WhatsApp inch closer to half a billion users in India

WhatsApp has enjoyed unrivaled reach in India for years. By mid-2019, the Facebook-owned app had amassed over 400 million users in the country. Its closest app rival at the time was YouTube, which, according to the company’s own statement and data from mobile insight firm App Annie, had about 260 million users in India then.

Things have changed dramatically since.

In the month of December, YouTube had 425 million monthly active users on Android phones and tablets in India, according to App Annie, the data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. In comparison, WhatsApp had 422 million monthly active users on Android in India last month.

Factoring in the traction both these apps have garnered on iOS devices, WhatsApp still assumes a lead in India with 459 million active users1, but YouTube is not too far behind with 452 million users.

With China keeping its doors closed to U.S. tech giants, India emerged as the top market for Silicon Valley and Chinese companies looking to continue their growth in the last decade. India had about 50 million internet users in 2010, but it ended the decade with more than 600 million. Google and Facebook played their part to make this happen.

In the last four years, both Google and Facebook have invested in ways to bring the internet to people who are offline in India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people. Google kickstarted a project to bring Wi-Fi to 400 railway stations in the country and planned to extend this program to other public places. Facebook launched Free Basics in India, and then — after the program was banned in the country — it launched Express Wi-Fi.

Both Google and Facebook, which identify India as their biggest market by users, have scaled down on their connectivity efforts in recent years after India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, took it upon himself to bring the country online. After he succeeded, both the companies bought multibillion-dollar stakes in his firm, Jio Platforms, which has amassed over 400 million subscribers.

Jio Platforms’ cut-rate mobile data tariff has allowed hundreds of millions of people in India, where much of the online user base was previously too conscious about how much data they spent on the internet, to consume, worry-free, hours of content on YouTube and other video platforms in recent years. This growth might explain why Google is doubling down on short-video apps.

The new figures shared with TechCrunch illustrate a number of other findings about the Indian market. Even as WhatsApp’s growth has slowed2 in India, it continues to enjoy an unprecedented loyalty among its users.

More than 95% of WhatsApp’s monthly active users in India use the app each day, and nearly its entire user base checks the app at least once a week. In comparison, three-fourths of YouTube’s monthly active users in India are also its daily active users.

The data also showed that Google’s eponymous app as well as Chrome — both of which, like YouTube, ship pre-installed3 on most Android smartphones — has also surpassed over 400 million monthly active users in India in recent months. Facebook’s app, in comparison, had about 325 million monthly active users in India last month.

When asked for comment, a Google spokesperson pointed TechCrunch to a report from Comscore last year, which estimated that YouTube had about 325 million monthly unique users in India in May 2020.

A separate report by research firm Media Partners Asia on Monday estimated that YouTube commanded 43% of the revenue generated in the online video market in India last year (about $1.4 billion). Disney+ Hotstar assumed 16% of the market, while Netflix had 14%.


1 For simplicity, I have not factored in the traction WhatsApp Business and YouTube Kids apps have received in India. WhatsApp and YouTube also maintain apps on KaiOS, which powers JioPhone feature handsets in India. At last count — which was a long time ago — more than 40 million JioPhone handsets had shipped in India. TechCrunch could not determine the inroads any app has made on this platform. Additionally, the figures of YouTube on Android (phones and tablets) and iOS (iPhone and iPad) will likely have an overlap. The same is not true of WhatsApp, which restricts one phone number to one account. So if I have WhatsApp installed on an iPhone with my primary phone number, I can’t use WhatsApp with the same number on an Android phone — at least not concurrently.
2 WhatsApp Business appears to be growing fine, having amassed over 50 million users in India. And some caveats from No. 1 also apply here.
3 Users still have to engage with the app for App Annie and other mobile insight firms to count them as active. So while pre-installing the app provides Google an unprecedented distribution, their apps still have to win over users.

#apps, #asia, #facebook, #google-chrome, #india, #media, #mobile, #whatsapp, #youtube

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YouTube will start penalizing channels that post election misinformation

YouTube just announced that channels publishing “false claims” about the U.S. presidential election will be penalized with a strike, which would temporarily suspend them from posting videos.

If you’re wondering why it took this long, YouTube announced last month (a full month after the presidential election, but right after the “safe harbor” deadline for audits and recounts) that it would remove videos alleging widespread fraud or errors in the election. However, there was a grace period during which videos would be removed without additional penalty to the account.

YouTube says that grace period was supposed to expire on January 21, after Inauguration Day. But since the election results were certified early this morning, after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, the Google -owned video platform says it’s ending the grace period now.

YouTube also says it has already removed “thousands of videos that spread misinformation claiming widespread voter fraud changed the result of the 2020 election, including several videos President Trump posted to his channel.” That includes taking down a video Trump posted yesterday in which he told rioters, “Go home, we love you. You’re very special.”

The penalties for a strike differ depending on the number of offenses. A first strike results in a one-week suspension of the ability to post videos or livestreams, edit playlists or share other content on YouTube. If an account gets a second strike in a 90-day period, they’ll be suspended for two weeks, with a third strike resulting in permanent removal.

A Google spokesperson provided the following statement on the changes:

Over the last month, we’ve removed thousands of videos that spread misinformation claiming widespread voter fraud changed the result of the 2020 election, including several videos that President Trump posted yesterday to his channel. Due to the disturbing events that transpired yesterday, and given that the election results have been certified, any channel posting new videos with these false claims in violation of our policies will now receive a strike, a penalty that temporarily restricts uploading or livestreaming.  Channels that receive three strikes in the same 90-day period will be permanently removed from YouTube.

 

#donald-trump, #google, #policy, #presidential-election, #social, #youtube

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YouTube reverses ban on UK’s TalkRadio for COVID-19 policy breaches

YouTube has reversed a controversial ban on the account of TalkRadio, a News Corp-owned UK national radio station that covers news and current affairs.

The station revealed yesterday its channel had been removed from YouTube but said it had not been provided with an explanation for the suspension.

The decision to suspend the account of a high profile national broadcaster appears to have been related to its policies on COVID-19 misinformation. Reuters reports that some of its presenters have been critical of government measures to slow the spread of coronavirus as excessive or ill-targeted.

However the tech giant’s decision to ban a national broadcaster was quickly criticized by cabinet minister, Michael Gove, who went on TalkRadio yesterday to defended its right to ask questions about government policy vis-a-vis the coronavirus.

The ban also triggered an intervention from News Corp’s executive chairman, Rupert Murdoch, according to the i newspaper, which reports that Murdoch accused the Google-owned service of setting a “dangerous precedent” and “censorship of free speech and legitimate national debate”.

In a statement today confirming it has reinstated TalkRadio’s account, a YouTube spokesperson told us:

TalkRadio’s YouTube channel was briefly suspended, but upon further review, has now been reinstated. We quickly remove flagged content that violate our Community Guidelines, including COVID-19 content that explicitly contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization. We make exceptions for material posted with an educational, documentary, scientific or artistic purpose, as was deemed in this case.

It’s not clear which type of exception YouTube is applying in TalkRadio’s case to justify reinstating the station — given opinionated radio could span all categories, depending on the specific content.

Per the i, TalkRadio had received earlier strikes in October and December for YouTube policy breaches. The third strike that led to its (brief) suspension is thought to relate to an interview between one of its hosts, Julia Hartley-Brewer, and former National Education Union president, Amanda Martin, about whether teachers should be given the highest priority for COVID-19 vaccines.

The TalkRadio ban-reversal is just the latest in a long-running saga of tech giant moderation decisions colliding with concerns for freedom of expression — even as the stuff that platforms choose to leave up can often be no less controversial. (Although concern about risks to public health from coronavirus misinformation spreading and being amplified online have undoubtedly added extra pitfalls to platform moderation business as usual.)

The common thread of concern is powerful, private entities — which are not regulated in the same way (UK) broadcasters are — continue to have their hands on the ‘acceptable speech’ lever.

Change is coming in the UK, though: The government is working on a legislative proposal that will bring big tech under Ofcom’s regulatory umbrella. (And as TalkRadio points out in its earlier statement its output is already regulated by Ofcom.)

The Online Safety Bill, which is slated to be put before parliament this year, will propose a ‘duty of care’ for tech platforms to protect users from a range of illegal and harmful content. 

Under the plan Ofcom will oversee platforms compliance and get the power to block non-compliant digital services from being accessed, as well as the ability to levy huge fines for breaches.   

#content-moderation, #covid-19, #europe, #ofcom, #platform-regulation, #social, #talkradio, #youtube

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FTC kicks off sweeping privacy probe of nine major social media firms

A scalpel labeled FTC is surrounded by the logos of social media giants.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Ars Technica)

The Federal Trade Commission is stepping up its digital privacy work and has asked just about every major social media platform you can think of to explain what personal data it collects from users and why.

The requests for information went out today to nine platforms (or their parent companies, where applicable), including Discord, Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitch, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube, according to the press release. The companies that receive the orders have 45 days to explain to the FTC:

  • How social media and video streaming services collect, use, track, estimate, or derive personal and demographic information
  • How they determine which ads and other content are shown to consumers
  • Whether they apply algorithms or data analytics to personal information
  • How they measure, promote, and research user engagement
  • How their practices affect children and teens

A sample order (PDF) shows the depth and specificity of the information the FTC is requesting from each firm, including extremely granular data about monthly and daily active users, business and advertising strategies, and potential plans for acquisitions or divestments. Interestingly, each firm is also required to say how many users it has inaccurate demographic information for and how it accounts for targeted advertising, including inaccurately targeted advertising. In other words, among other things the FTC wants to know: do you give advertisers their money back if you don’t actually target the groups they’re trying to reach?

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#alphabet, #amazon, #consumer-privacy, #data-privacy, #discord, #facebook, #federal-trade-commission, #ftc, #policy, #privacy, #reddit, #snapchat, #tiktok, #twitch, #twitter, #whatsapp, #youtube

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R.I.P. Henri, le Chat Noir, angst-ridden feline YouTube star for the ages

“Je suis un chat noir.” Henri the existential cat made his YouTube debut on May 24, 2007, and quickly became an Internet sensation. He and Will Braden, aka “the thieving filmmaker,” would go on to make 17 short films together.

We are très désolé to report that YouTube cat-video sensation Henri, le Chat Noir has died at the ripe old age of 17. His collaborator Will Braden, aka the “thieving filmmaker,” announced Henry’s passing in a moving Facebook post. Apparently, Henri had a deteriorating spinal condition and had been rendered largely immobile as a result. Despite the pandemic, a local vet made a home visit to “help him pass peacefully, surrounded by those that loved him,” Braden wrote.

Henri (née Henry) was not actually Braden’s cat; the Facebook post identifies Braden’s mother as Henri’s real-life caretaker. Henri lived in an undisclosed location in Seattle’s North End, largely oblivious to his online celebrity. He was a rescue cat, adopted from a local animal shelter as a kitten, who shared his living space with a second white cat, known to his fans as ‘l’Imbecile Blanc,” who survives him. While a student at the Seattle Film Institute, Braden noted Henri’s “regal presence and distinguished personality,” and ne featured the cat in a short film for class. The video hit YouTube on May 24, 2007, and Henri’s existential musings soon began winning enthusiastic fans.

It was the 2012 sequel (embedded below), Henri 2: Paws de Deux, that went truly viral and turned Henri into an Internet celebrity, with many declaring it to be the best cat video on the Internet. Indeed, the short film won the Golden Kitty Award at the Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Festival. Henri gave a suitably world-weary statement on his win via Braden: “That I have received this golden, smiling idol for a film documenting my metaphysical torment speaks volumes about the spiritual void of humanity. Shiny and meaningless, life marches on.”

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#gaming-culture, #henri-le-chat-noir, #internet-memes, #youtube, #youtube-stars

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Google to add Covid-19 vaccine information panels to Search

Google announced today it’s introducing a new search feature that will surface a list of authorized vaccines in users’ location, as well as informational panels about each individual vaccine. The feature is first being launched in the U.K., which earlier this month gave emergency authorization to the BioNTech/Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.  The company says the feature will roll out to other countries as their local health authorities authorize vaccines.

The feature itself will appear at the top of Google.com searches for Covid-19 vaccines and will present the authoritative information in a box above the search results, linking to the health authority as the source. The panel will also have two tabs. One will be the overview of the vaccine, which appears above Top Stories and links to Local and National resources, like government websites. The other will organize news related to the vaccine under a separate section.

Image Credits: Google

Google positioned the new search panels as one way it’s helping to address vaccine misinformation and hesitance at scale.

However, another arm of the company, YouTube, allowed Covid-19 misinformation and conspiracies to spread during the pandemic. While YouTube in April banned “medically unsubstantiated” content after earlier banning conspiracies that linked Covid-19 to 5G networks, it didn’t ban misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines until October. In other words, it didn’t proactively create a policy to ban all aspects of Covid-19 misinformation, but waited to address the spread of Covid-19 antivax content until vaccine approvals appeared imminent. This meant that any clips making false claims — like saying vaccines would kill their recipients, cause infertility, or implant microchips –were not officially covered by YouTube’s policies until October.

And even after the ban, YouTube’s moderation policies were found to miss many anti-vaccination videos, studies found.

This is not a new challenge for the video platform. YouTube has struggled to address antivax content for years, even allowing videos with prohibited antivax content to be monetized, at times.

Image Credits: Google

Today, Google downplayed YouTube’s issues in its fight against misinformation, saying that its Covid-19 information panels on YouTube which offer authoritative information have been viewed over 400 billion times.

However, this figure provides provides at look into the scale at which YouTube creators are publishing videos about the pandemic, often with just their opinions.

Google said, to date, it has removed over 700,000 videos related to dangerous or misleading Covid-19 health information. If the platform was regulated, however, it would not be entirely up to Google to decide when a video with dangerous information should be removed, what constitutes misinformation, or what the penalty against the creator should be.

The company also noted that it’s now helping YouTube creators by connecting them with health experts to make engaging and accurate content for their viewers, and donated $250 million in Ad Grants to help over 100 government agencies run PSAs about Covid-19 on the video platform. In April, Google donated $6.5 million to support COVID-19 related fact-checking initiatives, as well, and is now donating $1.5 million more to fund the creation of a COVID-19 Vaccine Media Hub.

#coronavirus, #covid, #covid-19, #google, #health, #vaccines, #youtube

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YouTube declares war on US election misinformation… a month late

As Twitter and Facebook scrambled to institute new policies for the 2020 election, YouTube was… mostly quiet. The platform didn’t make any flashy announcements about a crackdown on election-related misinformation, nor did it really fully grapple with its massive role in distributing information during what was widely regarded as an extremely volatile time for American democracy.

Former Vice President Joe Biden won the presidential election on November 7, but YouTube decided to wait until the “safe harbor” deadline, when audits and recounts must be wrapped up at the state level, to enforce a set of rules against election misinformation.

In a new blog post out Wednesday, the world’s second biggest social network explained itself — sort of:

“Yesterday was the safe harbor deadline for the U.S. Presidential election and enough states have certified their election results to determine a President-elect. Given that, we will start removing any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, in line with our approach towards historical U.S. Presidential elections. For example, we will remove videos claiming that a Presidential candidate won the election due to widespread software glitches or counting errors. We will begin enforcing this policy today, and will ramp up in the weeks to come.”

YouTube clarified that while its users were allowed to spread misinformation about an undecided election, content claiming that “widespread fraud or errors” influenced the result of a past election will not be allowed. And from YouTube’s perspective, which accommodated the Trump administration’s many empty challenges to the results, the election was only decided yesterday.

The four days between November 3 and November 7 were fraught, plagued by false victory claims from President Trump and his supporters and concerns about political violence as online misinformation, already a pervasive threat, kicked into overdrive. Rather than wading into all that as Twitter and even the ever reluctant-to-act Facebook did, YouTube mostly opted to sit back and wait for history to take its course. The company was more comfortable universally pointing users toward real information than making tough calls and actively purging false claims from its platform.

YouTube doesn’t go to great lengths to explain itself these days, much less make realtime platform policy decisions in a transparent way. Twitter has pioneered that approach, and while its choices aren’t always clear or decisive, its transparency and open communication is admirable. If Twitter doesn’t always get it right, YouTube fails to even step up to the plate, making few real efforts to adapt to the rapidly mutating threats posed by misinformation online.

YouTube’s opaque decision making process is compounded by the also opaque nature of online video, which is vastly more difficult for journalists to search and index than text-based platforms. The result is that YouTube had largely gotten away with relatively little scrutiny compared to its stature in the social media world. It’s bizarre to see Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey called before the Senate Judiciary Committee without even a passing thought to bringing in YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki as well. In spite of its massive influence and two billion users, the social video behemoth is barely on the radar for lawmakers.

If YouTube’s strategy is that communicating less attracts less attention, unfortunately it appears to be working. The company is bound to be anxious about getting dragged into federal and state-level antitrust investigations, particularly with state lawsuits that could try to force Facebook and Instagram apart.

The Justice Department is already targeting Google with a historic antitrust suit focused on its search business, but that doesn’t preclude other antitrust actions from taking aim at YouTube. Keeping its head down may have worked for YouTube during four years of Trump, but President-Elect Biden is more interested in inoculating people against misinformation rather than super-spreading it.

#2020-election, #misinformation, #policy, #social, #tc, #youtube

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YouTube bans videos claiming Trump won

YouTube bans videos claiming Trump won

Enlarge (credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

For the last month, President Donald Trump and his allies have tried to cast doubt on President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election. However, they’ve failed to produce evidence of irregularities in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, or other states sufficient to overcome Biden’s substantial lead in the electoral college. Now YouTube says it has had enough.

“We will start removing any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 US Presidential election,” the Google-owned service announced.

YouTube acknowledged that it had previously allowed the airing of “controversial views on the outcome or process of counting votes of a current election as election officials have worked to finalize counts.” But now that most of Trump’s legal challenges have been thrown out of court, YouTube says that the legitimacy of Biden’s election is no longer up for debate.

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#2020-election, #donald-trump, #policy, #youtube

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YouTube launches HDR support for live streams

YouTube in 2016 added support for HDR (high-dynamic range) videos on its platform, allowing cretators to upload videos offering higher contrast, more accurate shadows and highlights, a wider range of colors, and, overall improved image quality. Today, the company announced it’s now bringing HDR support to live streamed videos, too. This will make YouTube the first major platform to support live HDR streams, it says.

The support will be available to creators using a supported encoder, while the HDR videos themselves can be played back on the latest Android mobile devices or on HDR-capable smart TVs or streaming sticks. Google’s own Chromecast, of course, supports HDR content. And the company had announced HDR playback on Android mobile devices back in 2017, so that’s not unexpected either.

When HDR first launched on YouTube, it was only offered to select YouTube channels at first. But the support for live streaming in HDR will be immediately available to any YouTube creator who wants to give it a try. Over time, YouTube says it will work to improve the experience, by allowing creators to stream HDR from additional encoders and mobile devices.

The new HDR support for live video content points to YouTube’s interest in better supporting the TV platform.

During the pandemic, YouTube said its service, as well as its live TV streaming service YouTube TV, saw an uptick in viewing on the big screen. As stay-at-home directives went into place, YouTube saw overall watch time on the TV screen jump 80% year-over-year in March. Also that month, YouTube content accounted for 41% of ad-supported video on demand streaming time on U.S. TVs, it said during its Brandcast event. YouTube usage on the TV, meanwhile, jumped to around 450 million hours per day up from 250 million hours in 2018.

Live-streamed video consumption increased during the early days of the pandemic, too. According to YouTube’s pitch to advertisers, live-streamed media via TV grew 250% globally from March 11 to April 10, 2020. It also noted that casted content watch time increased 75% year-over-year during this time frame.

By offering HDR live streams, YouTube can make a better pitch to advertisers to shift more of their dollars over to its platform from traditional pay TV networks — even if HDR viewing on YouTube’s platform remains more limited.

YouTube says HDR support is available as of today.

#chromecast, #google, #hdr, #internet-television, #live-streaming, #tc, #video-hosting, #youtube

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YouTube upgrades Premieres with trailers, themes and a live pre-show option

YouTube today is launching three new features designed to improve its “Premieres” experience, including trailers, themes, and live stream “pre-shows” that later redirect to the main event. Premieres, which first arrived in 2018, are designed to give creators the ability to leverage the revenue generation possibilities that come with live videos without having to actually “go live.”

Instead, Premieres allow creators to promote a scheduled video release by pointing fans to a landing page with a live chat in the sidebar, just like other live videos. This lets creators take advantage of money-making features like SuperChat, Stickers, ads, and Channel Memberships.

However, some creators want to engage with fans live ahead of their video premiere. The new “Live Redirect” feature will now make it a more seamless experience when they do so, as it allows creators to host a live stream that redirects to the upcoming Premiere just before it starts. This gives creators time to build up their audience ahead of the video’s release, as they can now not only join the chat to engage fans, but also live stream to their fans directly.

Image Credits: YouTube

YouTube says it tested this feature over the past several months with We Are One Film Festival, New York Comic-Con, BTS, Cardi B, and Justin Bieber, in advance of today’s launch.

Another new feature will allow creators to upload a pre-recorded video that will be featured on the Premiere landing page before the main event. This trailer can range from 15 seconds to 3 minutes in length, and works to create hype for the premiere ahead of its release. Creators can also encourage their fans to set a reminder so they won’t miss the video’s launch.

Image Credits: YouTube

The video countdown experience that plays just before their Premieres go live can also now be customized A new set of Countdown Themes will include those designed for different vibes or moods, like calm, playful, dramatic or sporty, for example.

Image Credits: YouTube

Since their launch, Premieres have been used by over 8 million YouTube channels, including big names like BLACKPINK, Tiny Desk, James Charles, Supercell, and Cirque du Soleil, among others. Their adoption significantly grew during the pandemic, the company also notes. Since March 1, 2020, YouTube has seen over 85% growth in daily Premieres, with over 80% of the channels having never before used a Premiere until this year.

The first two features will arrive to creators with at least 1,000 subscribers starting today, but Countdown Themes won’t be available for a couple of months, YouTube says.

#creators, #digital-media, #google, #live-streaming, #live-stream, #media, #premieres, #social-media, #video, #youtube

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How old, ambient Japanese music became a smash hit on YouTube

Record collector Mike Porwoll's selection of vinyl records, fueled largely by YouTubecore discoveries.

Enlarge / Record collector Mike Porwoll’s selection of vinyl records, fueled largely by YouTubecore discoveries. (credit: Mike Porwoll)

One way to track the evolution of popular music is to examine its subgenres. Think of how “rock” begat “punk rock,” which begat “post-punk,” as a simple example. Electronic and ambient music include an even bigger universe of subgenres, with hyperspecific names like “UK bass,” “chillwave,” and “electroacoustic.”

But what happens when a genre emerges not because of its artistry, but because of its discoverability?

This is the place “YouTubecore” finds itself in. YouTube famously hinges on an algorithm that guesses viewers’ interests to keep them clicking and viewing, and we’ve seen how weirdly that algorithm can go, both in innocent and diabolical ways.

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#ambient-music, #gaming-culture, #youtube, #youtubecore

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YouTube suspends and demonetizes One America News Network over COVID-19 video

YouTube today confirmed that it has suspended right-wing cable channel One America News Network (OAN or OANN for short). The penalty comes after a violation of YouTube’s stated COVID-19 misinformation guidelines. As a result, the network will be barred from posting new videos for a week, while its existing videos will also be demonetized for that period.

A spokesperson for the Google-owned video service offered the following statement to TechCrunch:

Since early in this pandemic, we’ve worked to prevent the spread of harmful misinformation associated with COVID-19 on YouTube. After careful review, we removed a video from OANN and issued a strike on the channel for violating our COVID-19 misinformation policy, which prohibits content claiming there’s a guaranteed cure. Additionally, due to repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation policy and other channel monetization policies, we’ve suspended the channel from the YouTube Partner Program and as a result, its monetization on YouTube.

The service has a three-strikes policy in place, with the first two strikes carrying their own policies. In addition to the above actions, the offending video has been pulled from the channel. This is OAN’s first strike. Per the site:

If we find your content doesn’t follow our policies for a second time, you’ll get a strike.

This means you won’t be able to do the following for one week:

  • Upload videos, live streams, or stories
  • Create custom thumbnails or Community posts
  • Created, edit, or add collaborators to playlists
  • Add or remove playlists from the watch page using the “Save” button

Full privileges will be restored automatically after the 1-week period, but your strike will remain on your channel for 90 days.

A second strike in a 90-day period would result in a two-week suspension. A third strike in a 90-day period would result in the channel’s termination.

OAN has become a personal favorite for Trump and his administration recently, particularly in the wake of fallout between the president and Fox News, after that long-favorite cable network called the recent election for opponent Joe Biden.

One America News also came under fire for videos like “Trump Won,” which falsely reported on the election’s results. YouTube opted not to pull that video over disinformation concerns, instead adding a warning and removing ads from the video, noting, “[w]e will continue to be vigilant in the post-election period.”

#apps, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #one-america-news-network, #policy, #trump, #youtube

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YouTube targets music fans with new audio ad format

YouTube is announcing new ad products today, designed to help marketers reach YouTube visitors who are doing more listening than watching.

The big addition is audio advertising. As the Google -owned video site puts it in a blog post, these are ads designed for viewers who “squeeze in a living room workout before dinner, catch up on a podcast or listen to a virtual concert on a Friday night.”

In other words, audio ads are designed for videos where audience members may only be glancing at the screen occasionally, or might ignoring the visuals altogether. To be clear, these ads won’t be audio-only, but YouTube says the audio should be doing most of the communication, while the visual side is limited to “a still image or simple animation.”

The company says that in early testing, more than 75% of audio ad campaigns on YouTube resulted in a significant lift in brand awareness. For example, this Shutterfly ad resulted in a 14% lift in ad recall and a 2% increase in favorability in its target audience.

The key, YouTube says, is that the audio has to carry the message: “Think: If I close my eyes, I can still clearly understand what this ad is about.”

In addition to launching audio ads in beta, YouTube is also announcing dynamic music lineups, allowing marketers to target their campaigns at collections of music channels on YouTube. These lineups can be focused on a genre, such as Latin music or K-pop, or on an interest like fitness.

In a separate blog post, YouTube’s Head of Music Lyor Cohen made a broader case to advertisers about why they should see YouTube as an essential music streaming platform.

After all, according to Cohen, more than 2 billion logged-in viewers are watching at least one music video each month. And, he wrote, “music is more front and center than you might think” — 60% of YouTube’s music viewing happens on mobile, where background viewing/listening is disabled.

That might seem like an odd thing to emphasize while launching an ad format better suited to background listening, but Cohen continued, “Regardless of when and how people are tuning in, we have ways to help advertisers connect, even when they’re consuming music in the background. Now you can complement the moments your consumers are watching, by engaging them in moments when they’re listening, with newly announced audio ads.”

#advertising-tech, #alphabet, #google, #youtube

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GitHub defies RIAA takedown notice, restoring YouTube-dl and starting $1M defense fund

GitHub has restored the code of a project that the RIAA demanded it take down last month after finding that the group’s DMCA complaint was meritless. YouTube-dl, a tool that lets videos from the streaming site be downloaded for offline viewing, is back in action — and GitHub is changing its policy and earmarking a million dollars for a legal defense fund against future importunities.

The controversy began in mid-October when the RIAA sent a DMCA complaint to GitHub claiming that YouTube -dl violated the law no only by providing a tool for circumventing DRM, but by promoting the piracy of several popular songs in its documentation.

GitHub, like many tech companies, tends to assume the veracity of a complaint like this if it’s from a known entity like the RIAA, and it seems to have done so here, taking down YouTube-dl and publishing the complaint.

As many pointed out at the time, saying this project is a tool for circumventing DRM is like saying a tape recorder is a tool for music piracy. It’s used for far more than that, from research and accessibility purposes to integration with other apps for watch-later features and so on.

After a fork of YouTube-dl was created that lacked the references to popular YouTube videos as examples for use, the project was largely back online. But then GitHub received a letter from the internet freedom advocates at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and realized they’d been had.

As the EFF letter explains (and as the technically savvy GitHub must surely have suspected from the start), the YouTube-dl project was never in violation of the DMCA. In the first place, what the RIAA described as a suggestion in the documentation to pirate certain songs is only a test that streams a few seconds of those videos to show that the software is working — well within fair use rights.

More importantly, the RIAA misconstrues the way YouTube and YouTube-dl’s code works, mistaking a bit of code on the video site for encryption and concluding that the tool unlawfully circumvents it, violating section 1201 of the DMCA. They also refer to a court case supporting this interpretation.

In fact, as the EFF explains patiently in its letter, the code does nothing of the sort and the way YouTube-dl’s agent “watches” a video is indistinguishable to YouTube from a normal user. Everything is conducted in the clear and using no secret codes or back doors. And the court case, the EFF notes, is mistaken and at any rate German and not applicable under U.S. laws.

GitHub, perhaps feeling a bit ashamed for having folded so quickly and completely in the face of a shabbily argued nastygram from the RIAA, announced several changes to prevent such occurrences in the future.

First, all copyright claims under section 1201 — which are fundamentally dubious — will receive a technical and legal review, and an independent one if necessary, to evaluate the truth of their assertions. If the findings aren’t decisive, the project will be left up instead of taken down while the proceedings continue. Should the project seem to be in violation, they will be given a chance to amend it before takedown. And if a takedown occurs, the developers will still be able to access important data like pull requests and bug reports.

Second, GitHub is establishing a $1M developer defense fund that will be used to protect developers on the platform from bad section 1201 claims. After all, faced with the possibility of a court battle, many a poor or hobby developer will simply abandon their work, which is one of the outcomes being counted on by abusers of the DMCA.

And third, the company will be continuing its lobbying work to amend the DMCA and equivalents around the world, with a specific focus on section 1201 it plans to announce soon.

It’s a happy ending for this little saga, and while DMCA abuse is a serious and ongoing issue, at least the bullies didn’t get their way this time. Until the law changes this will continue to be an issue, but vigilance and strongly worded letters will do in the meantime.

#copyright, #copyright-law, #developer, #dmca, #github, #piracy, #riaa, #section-1201, #youtube, #youtube-dl

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YouTube and YouTube TV suffered a two-hour global outage last night

downdetector graph

Enlarge / Popular “is it me?” site DownDetector displays a massive spike of user reports of YouTube outages. The site itself (and associated apps) remained functional, but videos did not play successfully during the outage. (credit: Jim Salter)

Last night between 7:10pm and 9:13pm Eastern Time, YouTube was unavailable to its users. The outage does not appear to have been limited to any particular market or region. YouTube’s team acknowledged the issue within 10 minutes or so of the spike on DownDetector, and YouTubeTV chimed in an hour later to acknowledge that the unexplained issue brought it down as well.

Just over two hours after the initial spike of user reports, Team YouTube assured users that the service was back online, though with no explanation whatsoever about what went wrong or how the problem had been fixed—either on its Twitter accounts or in the support thread it opened to keep users apprised of the outage status. This is an unfortunate contrast to other massive services, which tend to provide fairly detailed explanations in short order during similar outages.

Although YouTube is owned by Google, the service isn’t included in the Google Cloud Dashboard or G Suite Dashboard—both of which report significant technical detail about engineering issues as they occur, and neither of which reported any significant problems last night. When reached for comment, YouTube representatives so far are not providing any further details and simply refer any inquiries to the tweets linked above.

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#google, #outage, #tech, #uncategorized, #youtube

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YouTube copies Spotify’s ‘Daily Mixes’ with its new ‘My Mix’ feature

YouTube Music is taking another cue from Spotify with today’s launch of a set of personalized playlists that are essentially YouTube Music’s own take on Spotify’s “Daily Mixes.” Each of these new “My Mix” playlists will feature a different aspect of a user’s tastes and interests, allowing users to dive in to a particular vibe or music genre.

Up to seven of these new “My Mix” playlists will be featured on the Home tab, the company says, and will include a combination of favorite tunes as well as potential new favorites for discovery purposes.

With the launch, YouTube is also rebranding its personalized playlist previously called “Your Mix.” To better clarify its purpose and eliminate possible confusion with the new “My Mix” playlists, this playlist will now be called “My Supermix,” and will combine all of a user’s music tastes into one playlist, like Spotify’s “Discover Weekly.”

YouTube is making other changes to its Home tab and personalized selections, too, it says.

Image Credits: YouTube

Now, the Home tab will feature an activity bar offering easy access to four activity types, including Workout, Focus, Relax, and Commute. These will take the user to a dedicated personalized homepage with a variety of playlists suited to the activity in question. The Workout tab, in particular, has been updated to include up to four new personalized mixes that feature music you already like as well as new recommendations. These tabs will also include a “Supermix” of the different playlists.

Personalization has become a key battleground for music streaming services, which aim to use technology to better cater to users by creating unique mixes and delivering more targeted recommendations. YouTube and Apple have both mimicked Spotify’s features on this front, offering their own variations on personalized playlists like Spotify’s flagship playlist, “Discover Weekly,” and others.

YouTube Music, though, has not had as much success in gaining a following, perhaps due to Google’s confusing and overlapping music strategy over the past several years, where it offered two different music apps.

Google has finally begun to correct his, and has started the transition that will shift users off its older service, Google Play Music, and over to YouTube Music. The latter, to date, has struggled with gaining a sizable share in the competitive music market, where Spotify and Apple dominate.

According to a MIDiA report in June, Google is in fifth place with a 6% share, behind Spotify, Apple, Amazon, and Tencent. However, the report suggested that YouTube Music’s appeal to a younger demographic could help Google turn things around, as its share had grown from just 3% in Q1 2018 to Q1 2019.

YouTube says the new changes to its playlists will arrive today.

#google, #media, #music, #streaming-music, #youtube

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Steve Bannon’s show pulled off Twitter and YouTube over calls for violence

Former Presidential advisor and right-wing pundit Steve Bannon had his show suspended from Twitter and an episode removed by YouTube after calling for violence against FBI director Christopher Wray and the government’s leading pandemic expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Bannon, speaking with co-host Jack Maxey, was discussing what Trump should do in a hypothetical second term. He suggested firing Wray and Fauci, but then went further, saying “I’d actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England, I’d put the heads on pikes, right, I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats.”

This may strike one at first as mere hyperbole – one may say “we want his head on a platter” and not really be suggesting they actually behead anyone. But the conversation continued and seemed to be more in earnest than it first appeared:

Maxey: Just yesterday there was the anniversary of the hanging of two Tories in Philadelphia. These were Quaker businessmen who had cohabitated, if you wil,l with the British while they were occupying Philadelphia. These people were hung. This is what we used to do to traitors.

Bannon: That’s how you won the revolution. No one wants to talk about it. The revolution wasn’t some sort of garden party, right? It was a civil war. It was a civil war.

Whether one considers this nostalgia for the good old days of mob justice or an actual call to employ it, the exchange seems to have been enough for moderators at YouTube and Twitter to come down hard on the pair’s makeshift broadcast.

Twitter confirmed that it has “permanently suspended” (i.e. it can be appealed but won’t be restored automatically) the account for violating the rule against glorifying violence.

YouTube removed the episode from “Steve Bannon’s War Room” channel Wednesday afternoon after it was brought to their attention. I’ve asked for more information (such as whether the channel’s other content is being reviewed) and will update this post if I hear back.

Online platforms have struggled with finding the line between under- and over-moderation. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tiktok, Instagram and others have all taken different measures, from preemptively turning off features to silently banning hashtags. Facebook today took down a group with more than 300,000 members that was acting as an amplifier for misinformation about the election.

While the platforms have been vigorous in at least some ways in the labeling and isolation of misinformation, it’s more difficult for video platforms. Just minutes ago Trump took to YouTube to detail a variety of unfounded conspiracy theories about mail-in voting, but the platform can’t exactly do a live fact-check of the President and shut down his channel. More than with text-based networks, video tends to spread before it is caught and flagged due to the time it takes to review it.

#2020-election, #misinformation, #moderation, #social, #twitter, #youtube

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YouTube removes ads from, but won’t pull, ‘Trump Won’ video following backlash

This year’s presidential election has already proven to be a considerable test of the U.S. democratic system. It’s also been doing a fine job testing the systems behind leading social networks four years after a rather disinformation-ridden election. Twitter today has proven to be reasonably swift — if not entirely proactive — in its push to label problematic information.

Video, which is largely considered more difficult to police, has been another story on many of these sites. At issue are videos like One American News Network’s (OAN) “Trump Won.” Posted this morning, the report echoes the president’s earlier sentiment that he has both won the election and that states and/or the Democratic Party are attempting to “steal the election.” As of this writing, the election has, emphatically, not been decided.

YouTube parent Google had earlier outlined potential violations in the lead up to the election, noting that it would:

Remov[e] content that contains hacked information, the disclosure of which may interfere with democratic processes, such as elections and censuses. For example, videos that contain hacked information about a political candidate shared with the intent to interfere in an election. Removing content encouraging others to interfere with democratic processes, such as obstructing or interrupting voting procedures. For example, telling viewers to create long voting lines with the purpose of making it harder for others to vote.

After outreach, the company told the press that the video is not in violation of its Community guidelines, but added that it has pulled ads from the content.

“Our Community Guidelines prohibit content misleading viewers about voting, for example content aiming to mislead voters about the time, place, means or eligibility requirements for voting, or false claims that could materially discourage voting,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “The content of this video doesn’t rise to that level. All search results and videos about this election — including this video — surface an information panel noting that election results may not be final and we are continuing to raise up authoritative content in search results and recommendations. Additionally, we remove ads from videos that contain content that is demonstrably false about election results, like this video. We will continue to be vigilant in the post-election period.”

The video now also sports a “U.S. Elections” module below that notes, “Results may not be final. See the latest on Google,” directing users to a search page. In a separate post, it notes that it, “aim[s] to surface videos from experts, like public health institutions, in search results,” meaning that a video such as the one referenced above would theoretically be deprioritized in search under more authoritative outlets, including, CNN, Fox News, Jovem Pan, India Today and The Guardian.

The coming weeks and months will no doubt provide ample opportunity to assess these responses from these platforms and whether their responses ultimately did enough to address misinformation and disinformation during a particularly uncertain time in U.S. electoral history.

#2020-election, #apps, #google, #policy, #youtube

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