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  • 8:18 pm

YouTube removes about one video per second for violating its community standards

In Google’s latest transparency report, it reveals a stunning detail that illustrates the extent of violence, sex, and other inappropriate content posted on YouTube. In the fourth quarter of 2017, about 8,284,039 videos in total were removed after being flagged by human moderators and technology for violating its ban on pornography, incitement to violence, harassment, or hate speech—that’s more than one video per second!

The vast majority of those videos (over 6.6 million) were flagged by its algorithm, slightly over 1.1 million by its human moderators, just 402,335 by individual viewers, and only 7 by government agencies. About 3/4 of the inappropriate videos were removed before ever being viewed on the platform— which means that over 1.6 million videos containing inappropriate content were viewed by users at least once before being removed.

Of the inappropriate content, about 30% of it is flagged for being sexual, 26.4% for being spam or misleading, 15.6% for being hateful or abusive, 13.5% for being violent or repulsive, among other smaller categories. And of the countries from which YouTube receives the most human flags, India is at the top, followed by the United States, Brazil, and Russia.

  • 6:01 pm

There’s a new royal baby, and Netflix just couldn’t help itself

There’s a new royal baby, and Netflix just couldn’t help itself
[Photo: courtesy of Alex Bailey/Netflix]

We get it, Netflix.

As you probably heard, the youngest member of the British royal family was born today, and since giant companies will never miss an opportunity to insert themselves into major news stories, the video streaming giant was right there with a plug for its popular drama series The Crown:

As a fan of the show, I confess I didn’t hate this shameless Twitter promotion. It’s too bad that Claire Foy—the subject of the above GIF—is not actually on Twitter to respond. She apparently does not have an active Twitter account.

  • 4:32 pm

Steph Curry just created a new production company with Sony

Steph Curry just created a new production company with Sony
[Photo: Flickr user Keith Allison]

Golden State Warrior Steph Curry has signed a multi-year development and production deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment, and has formed his own production company, Unanimous Media.

Unanimous Media, which is mostly likely a nod to Curry being the first NBA player in history to be unanimously voted as an MVP, will focus on scripted and non-scripted film and TV projects with themes of sports, family, and faith, according to a press release.

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  • 3:36 pm

Survey: Many people think Amazon has a positive influence on society

Survey: Many people think Amazon has a positive influence on society
[Photo: Free-Photos/Pixabay]

Some 20% of Americans believe Amazon is having the most positive impact on society out of any other major tech company, according to a joint SurveyMonkey/Recode poll. Following Amazon are Google, Apple, and then Facebook.

It wasn’t just Amazon that had a good reputation, though: 22% of survey respondents said that Amazon’s billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos had the greatest impact on people’s daily lives.

While the survey, which queried 2,772 U.S. adults, is sparse on details, we’re guessing that everyone loves Amazon’s Prime benefits, and not their reported treatment of workers.

  • 2:49 pm

JetBlue will sell seats on semi-private jets for semi-millionaires

JetBlue will sell seats on semi-private jets for semi-millionaires
[Photo: Eric Salard/Wikimedia Commons]

JetBlue has a new way to woo customers that goes way beyond free SunChips and in-flight Bones marathons. The formerly budget airline is teaming up with JetSuiteX to offer customers seats on semi-private flights up and down the West Coast, according to CNBC.

While the relationship between JetBlue and JetSuiteX is relatively new, JetBlue has been involved with its sister company, JetSuite, for awhile now. JetBlue invested in the California-based private jet company back in 2016.

Now, thanks to a code-sharing agreement, JetBlue customers can book seats for West Coast destinations aboard JetSuiteX’s 30-seat planes on its website–and even earn True Blue points while they’re at it. This seems to be a move by JetBlue to court both business and wealthier customers.

There may be some hiccups, however, at least for the time being. For example, customers will not be able to connect directly from JetBlue flights to JetSuiteX. Because the luxury airline uses either smaller airports or private terminals, people will have to wade through the crowd of unwashed riff-raff filling the public airport before finding their way to their private flight.

McDonald’s is trying to figure out how to stop sucking

McDonald’s is trying to figure out how to stop sucking
[Photo: David Clarke/Unsplash]

Straws suck and McDonald’s is trying to do something about it. Environmental groups estimate that we use more than 500 million plastic straws every day in the U.S. alone. Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals, and by some estimates, plastics in the ocean will outweigh the fish by 2050.

In May, McDonald’s will start using drinking straws made from paper in its 1,300 locations in the U.K., and will potentially give customers the choice of whether or not to have a straw at all. (As CNBC points out, not using a straw is a far better choice, environmentally speaking.) The news comes a few months after McDonald’s made a new commitment to sustainability, which could radically alter the amount of trash the world’s biggest restaurant chain produces.

While the fast-food chain claims the plastic straws it uses in most locations are recyclable, we are generally really bad at recycling them—and plastics in general. An estimated 80% of the 6.9 billion tons of plastic waste ever created ends up in landfills or the environment. Across the U.S., many cities including Seattle and Malibu have banned plastic straws outright in a move to protect the planet. Hopefully, McDonald’s will join them and get rid of straws in U.S. locations, too—or at least make them edible.

  • 2:18 pm

Alphabet earnings: 5 things to watch as Google’s parent reports

Alphabet earnings: 5 things to watch as Google’s parent reports
[Photo: Pexels/Pixabay]

The search giant will announce earnings for its March-ending quarter at the close of the markets today. Here are five things we’ll be thinking about:

  • Thomson Reuters analysts expect earnings of $9.33 per share on revenue of $30.3 billion.
  • The earnings come as the public is increasingly uneasy about data-driven advertising platforms like Google and Facebook. (Facebook announces earnings Wednesday).
  • Some investors are worried that Alphabet could be the target of new data privacy regulations in the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. Currently, Google and Facebook hold a duopoly in the interactive advertising world, concentrating spend and limiting ad-buying options.
  • Alphabet will use several new reporting practices starting today. It will begin listing the value of its nonpublic investments (like Uber and Magic Leap) every quarter as the valuations of the investments change. It will report Nest results as part of the Google “hardware” bucket, instead of in “Other Bets.” It will provide ad impressions data from Google ads placed on non-Google sites.
  • Alphabet shares are rising in front of earnings report.
  • 1:49 pm

DJI doesn’t harvest drone users’ data without their consent, per independent study

DJI doesn’t harvest drone users’ data without their consent, per independent study
[Photo: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi/Pexels]

Chinese drone giant DJI doesn’t collect, transmit, or store users’ data without their consent, despite rumors to the contrary, according to an independent study released today.

DJI is touting the study, done by San Francisco’s Kivu Consulting, which concluded that users of the company’s drones maintain full control over how data like photos, videos, or flight logs are collected, stored, or transmitted.

In a statement, Michael Perry, DJI’s managing director for North America, says that the Kivu report “clearly debunks unsubstantiated rumors about our products and assures our customers that they can continue flying DJI drones with confidence.” Although DJI is promoting the results of the study, it says it had no input into the consulting company’s findings or conclusions.

Kivu says it independently purchased numerous models of DJI drones as well as downloaded DJI apps directly from app stores in order to evaluate the devices and software. It also says it had access to DJI engineers and managers in the United States and China, as well as to app code repositories.

Last year, U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement office in Los Angeles issued a memo arguing that DJI may be leveraging its drones to provide “U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government [and that the company is likely] selectively targeting government and privately-owned entities within these sectors to expand its ability to collect and exploit sensitive U.S. data.”

At the time, DJI called that memo “utterly insane”  and added that “the allegations in the bulletin are so profoundly wrong as a factual matter that ICE should consider withdrawing it, or at least correcting its unsupportable assertions.”

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  • 1:10 pm

Netflix is raising even more debt to pay for all your shows

Netflix is raising even more debt to pay for all your shows
[Photo: Donald Tong/Pexels]

Once again, Netflix is looking to raise more money through debt financing, presumably so it can pump out new TV shows at a faster rate. The company plans to offer $1.5 billion in debt notes, marking the fifth time in a little over three years that Netflix has used $1 billion-plus bonds to fuel its original content ambitions, Variety notes.

Incidentally, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings floated the idea of further price hikes during an earnings call last week. “You really have to earn it first by doing spectacular content that everybody wants to see,” Hastings said. Although Netflix isn’t raising prices anytime soon–the last increase occurred less than six months ago–a glut of new programming could make future price hikes more palatable while cementing the service’s lead in the streaming video wars.

This year, Netflix plans to spend between $7.5 billion and $8 billion on programming, up from about $6 billion in 2017.

American University picked a bad time to ask for data on Facebook

American University picked a bad time to ask for data on Facebook
[Photo: rawpixel]

Researchers at American University want to understand online browsing habits and how people select online media, so they turned to Facebook to solicit participants. They promoted a post asking users to give them 10-15 minutes of their time in exchange for a $2 Amazon gift card and “the opportunity to enter to win one of ten $50 Amazon gift cards!”

You can probably already guess how this is going over with Facebook users: In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where some 87 million users had their data improperly harvested after they or their friends took a seemingly harmless online quiz, users are a wee bit skeptical of any online survey promoted on Facebook.

[Screenshot: Facebook]
The comments on the study’s post make it clear that at least some Facebook users have learned to be a little more savvy, and won’t be sharing any more information–at least not for a $2 gift card. The researchers behind the poorly timed project are now in the position of having to pinky-swear that their survey is harmless, as is the Chrome browser extension they want you to install.

We have reached out to the American University researcher and will update if we hear back.

A Facebook spokesperson noted that the survey is running off Facebook without any Facebook data, and directs people to a third-party site. In short, it’s not their concern, despite the optics. On Wednesday, though, Facebook will release its first earnings report since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, so investors will find out whether optics have affected its finances.

  • 12:42 pm

Soon your Uber drivers won’t have a record of where they dropped you off

Soon your Uber drivers won’t have a record of where they dropped you off
[Photo: Victor Xok/Unsplash]

Uber is starting to limit the type of data that drivers can access about riders. In an upcoming pilot project, Uber will remove exact pick-up and drop-off location data from the driver’s list of completed rides, according to Gizmodo. The change comes as Uber prepares for compliance with new General Data Protection Regulation guidelines in Europe.

Previously, drivers had information regarding where a certain rider was picked up and dropped off stored in their ride history. Some female riders have complained that drivers have used this information to harass and intimidate them, in some instances showing up at their homes. This new measure, if rolled out broadly, stands to ease some concerns over rider harassment.

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Myspace, which still exists, may be up for sale again

Myspace, which still exists, may be up for sale again
[Image: courtesy of Myspace]

While Facebook has dominated the news for the last decade or so, Myspace is still around. I’m as surprised as you. Though it lost the social network war a long time ago, the website was still supposedly bringing in nearly 50 million visitors a month as recently as 2016.

The online relic has gone through a few owners over the last many years. In 2011, it sold to a company called Viant Technology, which specializes in digital ad technology, for $35 million. (Lest we forget, News Corp bought Myspace for $580 million in 2004.) In 2016, Time Inc. bought Viant, making the magazine publisher the new Myspace owner. With Meredith scooping up Time Inc. last year, it became the new owner of the hot potato-like web property, but now it looks like the social network may be on the market once again.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Meredith is “exploring the possible sale of Viant Technology, the parent of MySpace.” This seems to be part of the publisher’s strategy to unload titles from its current portfolio. The company has plans to sell some of its most well-known magazines, including Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, and Money. All of these publications are quite beloved, so it’s at least hopeful they’ll find a new home.

We’ll have to see who will scoop up Viant–and by extension Myspace–though perhaps now is the time to strike. With Facebook fatigue setting in, maybe people are ready to go back to their old social network ways. More likely, however, Myspace will continue to exist online in relative obscurity no matter who the new Viant buyer is.

  • 11:42 am

At long last, New York’s Central Park will finally be car-free

At long last, New York’s Central Park will finally be car-free
[Photo: Leah Kelley/Pexels]

On June 27, Central Park, New York City’s 2.5-mile-long green space, will officially go car-free. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the news, saying: “This park was not built for automobiles. It was built for people. People walking, people biking–that’s what this park will now be about.”

It may seem that this monumental announcement is the result of a recent trend–Prospect Park in Brooklyn went car-free in January, and San Francisco has been toying with the idea of closing Golden Gate Park to automobiles.

But the fight for a car-free Central Park extends back over 50 years, and its culmination is the result of sustained advocacy work that began in the 1960s when civic leaders, including future mayor Ed Koch, organized demonstrations that eventually resulted in limits on car traffic through the park. And Transportation Alternatives, New York’s cycling and pedestrian advocacy nonprofit, has been pushing for a car-free Central Park since 1979–as recently as this January, advocates held a ride through the park to show that it’s made for biking and walking. Here are some photos from the years of activism.

It’s important to note that de Blasio’s reasoning–that Central Park, built in 1857, was not designed with cars in mind–should extend to the rest of his streets policies. As one Twitter user pointed out, New York City’s street grid predates the car as well, but the Mayor has been reluctant to limit automobile traffic on the city streets, despite the sustainability and safety benefits that would accrue, and despite the fact that cities like Oslo and London are well on their way to eliminating cars on some streets.

TransAlt will host a celebration ride for a car-free Central Park on May 1, and will continue to advocate for fewer cars on city streets.

  • 11:38 am

Want to earn more as a book author? A male name will help

Want to earn more as a book author? A male name will help
[Photo: rawpixel]

In a groundbreaking study of more than two million books published in North America between 2002 and 2012, scholars found that books by women authors are priced 45% less than those of their male counterparts. The researchers, sociologist Dana Beth Weinberg and mathematician Adam Kapelner, both from Queens College-CUNY, say there is a lot more to the story than can be gleaned from this price gap alone.

The paper, published in the journal PLOS One, found that there are three ways that discrimination unfolds. First, female authors are published less than male authors in particular genres. Second, genres that are thought of as traditionally women-oriented–like romance–are assigned less value by the industry. And finally, there are gender differences in the prices of books within the same genre. But even accounting for all of these differences, publishers paid authors with identifiably female names 9% less than authors with male names.

The scholars also considered whether gender inequities play out differently in traditional publishing as opposed to independent publishing, such as self-publishing your book on Amazon. In a fascinating twist, they found that indie authors generally replicate the same patterns of gender discrimination in traditional publishing, but there is more equality over all.

The similar pattern might be attributed to the fact that consumers are conditioned to pay less for books by women or within traditionally female genres. But because indie writers are able to set their own book prices, there was more parity in the price of books. So while indie titles are priced lower–on average–than traditionally published books, there was only a 7% price gap overall, compared to the 45% gap in traditional publishing.

Microsoft has paid $7M to Minecraft content makers since June

Microsoft has paid $7M to Minecraft content makers since June
[Photo: B_kowsky/Pixabay]

One year ago, Microsoft announced plans to make a business out of Minecraft content, with a Marketplace program that lets creators sell their own maps, mini-games, and aesthetic tweaks. Now, the company tells me it’s paid $7 million to Minecraft creators since the program launched last June. That’s up from $1 million in payouts as of last September, and it’s enough for several creators to have quit their day jobs to make Minecraft content full-time.

The Marketplace isn’t yet a meaningful business for Microsoft, which paid $2.5 billion to acquire Minecraft developer Mojang in 2013, but the company hopes it eventually will be. To that end, Microsoft plans to ramp up its number of creators–only 45 have received invites so far–and give them better tools. In an interview, Minecraft head Helen Chiang said Microsoft is even looking into scripting APIs that would let developers sell the kinds of powerful mods that only exist on the game’s PC Java versions today.

Still, Microsoft will face some hurdles as Marketplace grows. The company must avoid alienating its existing partners and its already-vibrant community of hobbyist modders, while also making sure the store remains safe for children.

Read my deep dive into the business of Minecraft content creation for more on how Microsoft will take on those challenges–and perhaps turn the marketplace into as big of a phenomenon as Minecraft itself.

Why this custom-pillow startup wants to know what you do in bed

Why this custom-pillow startup wants to know what you do in bed
[Photo: courtesy of Pluto]

Finding the right pillow is hard. Brands often have separate pillows for back sleepers or front sleepers. But how do you know which one you are since you’re–you know–asleep? Or what if you start by sleeping on your side then discover that you’re on your back every morning?

[Photo: courtesy of Pluto]
Enter Pluto. It’s a recently launched startup that creates customized pillows. When you go to the website, you fill out a quick questionnaire about your body, sleep habits, and preferences. (These answers stay confidential so you don’t have to worry about creepy third parties knowing these intimate details.) Then the brand uses this information to build a pillow that is optimized for both support and comfort.

[Gif: courtesy of Pluto]
The pillows themselves have two parts. First there’s an inner core, made from foam that provides structure and support. (Pluto alters the exact height and density of the pillow based on survey responses.) Then there’s the outer cover, which is soft and made from polyester microfiber, again adjusting the thickness to each customer. The external surface is made from a cooling material that prevents your head from overheating.

This new system is currently patent pending, and in total, there are 25 different variations to meet the needs of different people. The pillows are assembled by hand in the United States. They cost $89, and come with a 100-day trial, and a three-year warranty.

I took the survey and tested the pillow, and found that it did, indeed, provide exactly the right combination of support and softness for me, which helped me fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer. This is was important to me because, as I’ve previously confessed, I’ll do pretty much anything for a good night’s sleep.

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Amazon’s top-secret “Vesta” program is for building home robots

Amazon’s top-secret “Vesta” program is for building home robots
[Photo: rawpixel]

Amazon’s next big product may be a talking robot that follows you around the house, courtesy of a secret program being overseen by its Lab126 hardware R&D division, reports Bloomberg. Lab126 is where a number of Amazon’s current hardware products originated. Those products include hits like Amazon’s Echo speakers and Fire TV set-top boxes (though Lab126 is also responsible for the horrible Fire Phone).

The secret program, “Vesta,” is reportedly Amazon’s plan to bring consumer-friendly robots to people’s homes–and as early as 2019.

There’s no word yet on what type of home robots Vesta is exploring, but one of Bloomberg’s sources says they could be like a type of mobile Echo speaker–a robot that follows you around your house ready to answer your queries wherever you go. Vesta’s current prototypes include robots with advanced cameras and computer-vision software that help it navigate through homes. When asked about its Vesta program, an Amazon spokesperson told Bloomberg the company doesn’t comment on “rumors and speculation.”

  • 7:44 am

The music industry had a fantastic 2017, driven by streaming revenues

The music industry had a fantastic 2017, driven by streaming revenues
[Photo: Max Wolfs/Unsplash]

Global recorded music revenues soared by $1.4 billion in 2017 largely due to the increased adoption of music streaming services among consumers, reports the Music Industry Blog. Global recorded music revenues reached $17.4 billion in 2017, putting it just a hair below 2008’s $17.7 billion in revenues. That means that most of the decline in recorded music revenues over the past 10 years has now been reversed. Streaming was the largest driver of that growth, accounting for 43% of all revenues. In 2017 streaming revenues surged by 39%, topping out at $7.4 billion.

  • 7:38 am

Apple reportedly slashes HomePod orders by more than half

Apple reportedly slashes HomePod orders by more than half
[Photo: Mark Tegethoff/Unsplash]

The company has cut orders from half a million per month to just 200,000, according to sources who spoke to DigiTimes. The reason for the reported cuts is down to poor sales of the company’s first smart speaker. The HomePod has been praised for its sound quality but has been criticized for its lackluster Siri AI and lack of native support for music services like Spotify.

If the current numbers are correct, it means Apple will only sell around 2.4 million HomePods in its first 12 months of availability. That’s comparable to how many Echo smart speakers Amazon sold when the company first debuted the product in 2015, but given the maturity of the smart speaker market since then, there’s no doubt that if the HomePod cuts are accurate, the device’s sales are a disappointment to Apple.

  • 7:28 am

The “Fearless Girl” statue will no longer stare down “Charging Bull”

The “Fearless Girl” statue will no longer stare down “Charging Bull”
[Photo: Flickr user Shinya Suzuki]

“Fearless Girl” was created by artist Kristen Visbaland and placed in front of Arturo Di Modica’s iconic “Charging Bull” in Bowling Green plaza to celebrate 2017’s International Women’s Day. The statue became an instant global sensation for drawing attention to the lack of gender diversity in the male-dominated financial industry. But one person who wasn’t a fan of the statue–or at least its placement–was “Charging Bull” artist Arturo Di Modica.

Since “Fearless Girl” was installed in front of his iconic bull statue, Di Modica has fought to get it moved, stating that the statue was little more than an advertising gimmick (“Fearless Girl” was commission by State Street Global Advisors to highlight their “gender diversity index” fund) and claimed it also changed the meaning of his statue, making the bull not an image of prosperity, but a villainous creature.

Now State Street Global Advisors has announced it is working with the New York City mayor’s office to move “Fearless Girl” from Bowling Green plaza closer to the New York Stock Exchange by the end of 2018, reports CNBC. SSGA has not commented on whether Di Modica’s viewpoint is behind the move, only saying that it hopes that moving “Fearless Girl” closer to the NYSE will encourage more companies to diversify their boards. Since “Fearless Girl” was installed, more than 150 companies have added a female director to their boards.

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