Probably better known to most internet denizens more as an ad-filled SEO landing page for random images than its social functions, Pinterest has been trying to keep up with its titanic competitors with its own programs to financially incentivize creators. According to TechCrunch, it’s planning on running a three-day live event from May 24 to May 26 as the first major test of a built-in livestreaming function in its iOS and Android apps, complete with a comments stream and shopping plugin.
TechCrunch wrote that Pinterest streams will support up to three “guests” and no limit on viewers beyond, one supposes, whatever the company’s infrastructure can handle. The site wrote that Pinterest has enlisted 21 creators to contribute to the event, including celebrity hairdresser Jonathan Van Ness and fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, for a number of commerce-focused segments not that different from what one might find on Instagram or YouTube:
Jonathan Van Ness‘ session will discuss morning rituals and self-care routines. Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff will teach Pinterest users how to style their summer wardrobe. Others featured during the event include food creators GrossyPelosi and Peter Som, who will showcase favorite recipes; Women’s Health magazine will talk about using vision boards to achieve your goals; Jennifer Alba will show how to communicate the Zodiac through sign language; and Hannah Bronfman will offer ideas for creating an at-home spa night.
As of right now, TechCrunch reported, Pinterest hasn’t discussed its long-term plans for streaming, nor has it announced any of the other kind of monetization features (donations, tickets, subscriptions, brand partnerships) that makes its larger competitors lucrative for people with large followings. But there’s something to be said for the possibility for Pinterest creators to be a big fish in a small pond.
The company has also rolled out a “Creator Code” that asks personalities on the site to behave significantly better than the standards on its larger brethren like YouTube, aiming to cultivate an “inclusive and compassionate” atmosphere (though it’s had its own issues keeping anti-vaxxers and child sex abuse material off the site). It put together a $500,000 fund to pay out to a small pool of creators throughout 2021, a number that admittedly pales in comparison to that offered by companies like Snapchat and TikTok.
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As Engadget noted, this isn’t the first time Pinterest has experimented with livestreaming—it tested a feature called Class Communities last year, although that relied on Zoom to power the video aspect.
Verizon’s officially selling off its media assets to the private equity firm Apollo Global for $5 billion, the company announced on Monday. Alongside that bundle of cash, Verizon will also be keeping a 10% stake in the company, which will simply be renamed—no joke—Yahoo.
It’s a bit of a fall from grace for Verizon, which will be selling off the media brands under the former AOL and Yahoo umbrellas—like TechCrunch and Engadget—for markedly less than it paid for them. Verizon initially poured $4.4 billion dollars into buying AOL back in 2015, before buying out Yahoo for roughly the same sum two years later. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the goal here was to resurrect these brands and bring them the sort of traffic they had in their heyday. By all accounts, Verizon pretty much failed.
While the Apollo deal is the last media business Verizon has to shed, this isn’t the first time it’s tried to offload its media assets in recent years. In 2019, Verizon sold off Tumblr for about $20 million—a fraction of the $1.1 billion that Yahoo had initially bought the site for back in 2013. Then, in 2020, Verizon sold off the formerly AOL-owned Huffington Post to BuzzFeed, which then laid off dozens of staffers as part of that acquisition.
Verizon and Apollo stated that they expect the deal to close in the second half of the year.
MailOnline, a news site associated with the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper, has sued Google over allegations the tech giant has been “hiding” links to its news stories. Google calls the allegations “meritless.”
The U.S.-based lawsuit, first reported by the Guardian, alleges that articles about professional bloviator Piers Morgan and former royal Meghan Markle were recently hidden from prominent positions on Google because MailOnline has stopped using some of Google’s search engine optimization tools. But Google denies the claims.
“The Daily Mail’s claims are completely inaccurate,” a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo via email.
“The use of our ad tech tools has no bearing on how a publisher’s website ranks in Google Search. More generally, we compete in a crowded and competitive ad tech space where publishers have and exercise multiple options,” the Google spokesperson continued.
“The Daily Mail itself authorizes dozens of ad tech companies to sell and manage their ad space, including Amazon, Verizon and more. We will defend ourselves against these meritless claims.”
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The lawsuit highlights the complex relationship between news outlets and Google. MailOnline and virtually every other private news enterprise depends on Google’s traffic to reach readers, but those same news outlets are struggling because companies like Google and Facebook are taking all of the ad revenue that previously went to traditional media companies.
MailOnline did not respond to a request for comment overnight from Gizmodo but whined to the Guardian about how Google was being unfair.
“This lawsuit is to hold Google to account for their continued anti-competitive behavior including manipulation of ad auctions and news search results, bid rigging, algorithm bias and exploiting its market power to harm their advertising rivals,” a MailOnline spokesperson told the Guardian.
“Despite increased criticism by regulators and governments around the world, Google’s ongoing behavior clearly shows they are not prepared to change their conduct,” the spokesperson continued.
We’ll update this post if we hear back from MailOnline.
When the internet was mourning the impending shutdown of Yahoo Answers, announced earlier this week, there was a sentiment that you saw over and over again: that shutting the site down was akin to the library of Alexandria burning down.
Honestly, that’s not too much of an exaggeration. When the service rolled out in the halcyon days of 2005, it became pretty pivotal in establishing some of the earliest memes to ever grace The Online. It taught us how Babby was formed. It taught us how to use Weggy Boards. It dared to ask whether spider has pusspuss (the answer to that is “NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” by the way). The weird, surreal humor beloved by folks that were raised by the internet wouldn’t be the same without this dumb, dumb site.
What’s adding insult to injury on Yahoo’s part is the fact that they’re giving us a mere month’s notice to say goodbye. Once that month’s over, this pivotal piece of internet memorabilia would be gone forever—and because Yahoo isn’t offering any sort of data dump for folks looking to archive their favorite Yahoo’s, ultimately that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the people that loved it. That includes us.
With the help of the Internet Archive—and a little bit of code—we set up a script to auto-archive as many of the roughly 84 million submitted questions that we were able to find using the “sitemap” file for the Yahoo Answers site. These sorts of files are typically included as a way to help search engines index different pages so that people looking for answers will have a particular Yahoo Answers page crop up.
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That said, we have no way of knowing whether posts in the sitemap represent the complete universe of questions asked of Yahoo. But still: 84 million isn’t anything to sneeze at!
At the same time, these scripts take time to work. Each of these questions can take over a second to log, which means at the current rate, it would take us at least two and a half years to fully archive every question in our set. For that reason we submitting posts to the Internet Archive at random, to at least try and preserve some sort of representative sample of—and we say this lovingly— perhaps the stupidest place on the internet.
Thankfully there appears to be an effort already underway to save the entirety of Answer by a volunteer collective of archivists known as Archive Team. In fact, this is the second archive of Yahoo Answers they’ve kicked off, after first attempting to save these pages back in 2017.
At the time of publication, we have about 5,500 questions that we saved, which you’re free to browse through here if you’re curious about:
If you’re feeling generous, you can also donate to the Internet Archive for making this silly (yet deeply significant) project possible.
A seemingly rogue MoviePass website bearing the same styling of the now-defunct movie subscription service generated speculation earlier this week that the company may be making a comeback. Or, it was an extremely silly prank.
It appears now that the latter is most likely the case.
While the site bears the same style and appearance of the original MoviePass logo, its domain name, “moviepass.ventures,” was registered only last month and seemed to be separate from a handful of domains previously known to be associated with MoviePass before it went under, including “moviepass.com.” Verified Facebook and Twitter accounts associated with the company last posted in 2019.
On top of that, nobody attached to MoviePass seemed to be affiliated with the zombie site, which currently only displays a countdown to a March 22 event and an email contact that did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Neither of the MoviePass co-founders contacted by Gizmodo immediately responded, the National Association of Theatre Owners did not seem to know what the site was about, and Unrealistic Ideas, the production company that’s working on a docuseries about MoviePass, told Gizmodo in an email, “Nothing to do with us!”
Tipsters who contacted Gizmodo after initial coverage of the mysterious website shared multiple theories about who could be behind the site. One observation noted by a reader and verified by Gizmodo is that the website’s background image is titled “i.moviepass.ventures/hero-fandor.png,” leading this reader to speculate that the streaming service Fandor might be behind it. The Fandor website also currently displays a message that it’s working on a “reimagined Fandor experience you’ll love.”
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Reached for comment, Fandor’s president Phil Hopkins responded that the company was “no longer affiliated with MoviePass, however we are excited about relaunching Fandor.” Cinedigm acquired Fandor earlier this year, and a revamp of the service was said at the time to be part of the company’s roadmap.
Several other tipsters floated theories about the “moviepass.ventures” website, but the most compelling evidence that the site was a hoax surfaced Thursday when a Twitter user with the handle @StonkGodCapital shared screenshots of what appeared to be a Discord exchange between users of the MoviePass subreddit—which describes itself as “dedicated to the discussion of all Movie Theater Subscription Services”—plotting a fake “MoviePass 2.0 relaunch” to boost community membership and tied to April Fools’ Day.
We’ve reached out to Redditor Merubokkusu and will update if we receive a response.
The same messages were captured in an unlisted YouTube video of the exchange shared with Gizmodo by someone who asked to be identified as “a concerned trader that did some actual due diligence on the situation.” Gizmodo viewed discussions about the plans to launch “moviepass.ventures” on the Discord channel that had several mentions of HMNY, or the stock symbol for MoviePass parent Helios and Matheson Analytics, including one comment that read, “HMNY to da moon.” A Reddit thread by a MoviePass subreddit moderator with a similar username as one of the Discord users behind the hoax conversation is full of chatter about HMNY as well.
It’s difficult to know whether commenters in these threads were hoping for a stock rally a la GameStop in earnest. Helios and Matheson Analytics filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year, allowing a bankruptcy court trustee to liquidate remaining assets. HMNY hasn’t been worth anything since 2019 but did see a brief uptick in activity—though its stock traded still well below $1—around the time that the site surfaced. Speaking with Gizmodo over Hangouts, StonkGodCapital speculated that much of the commentary around HMNY was a joke, as no actual company functionally exists.
In other words, all indications point to a frankly elaborate hoax by a community of Redditors who hoped to grow the population of their active Discord channel about cinema. Ironically, that Discord is no longer allowing invite sharing, and the link on the MoviePass subreddit to join the channel does not work. StonkGodCapital theorized while “hilariously counter-intuitive,” members of the group may have gotten scared after discourse turned to taking “HMNY to the moon.” He said that some of the messages that were part of the initial conversation in his screenshots had since been deleted.
So unless some other, unforeseen development unfurls in the time between now and that March 22 countdown on the “moviepass.ventures” website—which is probably entirely possible given how silly this has all become—we are not getting a resurrected MoviePass. And thank god for that.
After a showdown with the Australian government over an effort to pay publishers their due, it looks like Google and Facebook might have to gear up for the same battle in the United States. Lawmakers are moving forward on a piece of dormant legislation that would enable news organizations to negotiate with Big Tech over how much they get paid for content—and how much reader data they’re entitled to.
Now, both the House and Senate are looking to start a similar fight on U.S. soil. The proposed legislation that was reintroduced on Wednesday would enable media companies to collectively bargain with Big Tech platforms—something that is currently not allowed under U.S. antitrust laws. The law would effectively carve out an exception for media, but doesn’t include a forced arbitration provision like the one Big Tech fought tooth and nail against in Australia.
Somewhat surprisingly, the initiative has bipartisan support, according to Bloomberg. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar is leading the charge in the Senate, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is also expected to co-sponsor the bill. In the House, the bill is co-sponsored by David Cicilline, a Democratic representative from Rhode Island, and Ken Buck, a Republican representative from Colorado. Both Cicilline and Buck are high-ranking members of the House antitrust subcommittee. That bipartisan support also means the bill has a better chance of making it through both houses, especially since Big Tech is undergoing a flurry of antitrust investigations.
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It appears that Big Tech’s antics in Australia may have backfired. In response to Facebook banning news in Australia, Cicilline tweeted that Facebook is “not compatible with democracy” and that its attempt to force Australia into submission was “the ultimate admission of monopoly power.”
The proposed legislation might level the playing field for all publishers, but it would be particularly good for small and local publishers. Currently, Google controls 90% of search and nearly 70% of online ad tech. Together, both Facebook and Google made an estimated $65 billion in revenue from online ads in 2019. That’s massive, especially compared to the paltry $7.7 million that the average publisher in 2017 took home from content placed on third-party platforms like Google and Facebook.
It might seem like publishers benefit from being on Facebook and Google in terms of traffic and “free” publicity. However, the reality is both are taking a larger and larger cut from advertising while also controlling the platforms ads are hosted on. They also get to participate in the market that they control, and can compete with everyone else on unfair terms. According to the News Media Alliance, Google and Facebook take home 60% of all digital ad revenue. Publishers, however, do not take home the remaining 40%. That’s split between publishers, social media companies like Twitter, Amazon (which also takes a huge cut from publishers), and every other news site. And to top it all off, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Google and Facebook have a price-fixing deal dubbed Jedi Blue that gives Facebook special terms and access to Google’s ad server so it won’t set up a competing ad network.
The result is that publishers receive less and less from ads that have already been extremely devalued, with limited options to go elsewhere. In a striking example, Boston’s local NPR reported that several years ago, a full-page weekday ad in the Los Angeles Times would’ve brought in $50,000. Now, Google ads that reach the same number of readers bring in less than $20. It’s under this environment that local and independent publishers have languished and effectively been cannibalized by private equity.
In response to the reintroduction of the bill, News Media Alliance President & CEO, David Chavern, said, in a statement:
This is a huge milestone for U.S. news publishers. As we have seen over the last several weeks in Australia and Europe, the world is moving toward new compensation systems for publishers. The cost of inaction, in terms of the spread of misinformation we are all experiencing, is simply too great to ignore any longer. Quality journalism is key to sustaining civic society and we must ensure that the digital ecosystem returns value back to the people who create that journalism.
But even if this legislation passes, it’s unclear whether it would be enough at this point to undo what’s already been done. What is clear, however, is that meek attempts by Google and Facebook to shore up local journalism haven’t had much of an impact on the industry as a whole. At the very least, the debate coming to the U.S. might be a sign that protecting local journalism is something that the government is finally taking seriously.
Pour one out for all the horny folks in Utah, y’all. The state’s legislature has passed its baffling “porn filter” bill, which would mandate a default filter for “material that is harmful to minors” on all tablets and smartphones sold in the state beginning in 2022.
House Bill 72—its official title—passed the state Senate this week in a 19-6 vote with four absences, as first spotted by XBIZ. In February, the Utah House of Representatives sanctioned the bill after it narrowly scraped through a committee vote with a 6-5 margin. Now it’s headed to the desk of Utah Governor Spencer Cox for final approval.
Under this legislation, tech manufacturers would be forced to enable default filters on their products sold in the state that “prevent the user of the device from accessing material that is harmful to minors” until the user chooses to deactivate it. Rep. Susan Pulsipher, a Republican with an education background and zero technology experience, introduced the bill in December, and it’s been significantly watered down since then, if you can believe it. The original version called for penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation, which have since dropped to just $10 (with a $500 cap) after pushback from other House members and free speech activists. The bill’s current version also contains a very important stipulation: It will only become law in Utah after at least five other states adopt similar measures.
Lawmakers in the predominantly Mormon state have headed an anti-porn crusade in recent years, declaring porn a “public health crisis” in 2016 and pushing for internet service providers to roll out similar filters to those approved with HB 72. Last year, legislators passed a law without the governor’s approval that forces adult websites to put up warning labels regarding the “obscene” nature of their content.
Given the ubiquitousness of porn on the internet, I’m not entirely sure how Utah lawmakers expect to win this fight. Even with all their bureaucratic pearl-clutching, the state ranked 34th in the U.S. for Pornhub traffic in 2016. But while legislators’ overly high-minded efforts to censor all NSFW content online may sound ridiculous, these uber-conservative laws could still pose some headaches for both consumers and tech giants. Experts say international manufacturers could face civil liability if they fail to comply with Utah’s ordinances, per XBIZ. And free speech advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, have called attention to what they argue are glaring First Amendment violations and constitutional overreaches these faith-based regulatory measures entail.
Just a few months after rolling out what can probably be called the first privacy-preserving news reader, the folks at Brave are taking a stab at creating their own search engine to complement their namesake browser.
Brave Search, which the company announced on Wednesday, is poised to become the “privacy-preserving alternative” to, say, Google search, whose massive market cache is built—in part—off of hoovering data from every search that its users make, even when those searches are happening in incognito mode. And as others have pointed out in the past, if you try to use Google search within Brave’s browser, there’s still all sorts of data being collected on Google’s end about the number of search ads you’re seeing or clicking on.
DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg has previously said that the only surefire way to keep your searches private is…to use a pro-privacy search engine. Brave, for its part, gives its users more than a dozen different search engines to choose from as their default, including privacy-preserving options like DuckDuckGo and Qwant, whose tagline is literally “the search engine that respects your privacy.”
Brave’s planning to align itself with these sorts of players for its own search engine, but it stands out from them—and from more mainstream competitors, like Google—in a few ways. First, the company says that it’ll be giving its users two options: an ad-free paid search option, or a free-to-use option that’s supported by the same Brave-centric ad network that jumps through tons of hoops to keep consumer data as far away from advertisers’ prying eyes as possible. And unlike the somewhat arcane and opaque metrics that Google uses to determine what sites get ranked within its own search engine, the team at Brave has already put out a proposal for the way its search engine might rank results in a freely browsable format.
Folks that want to give Brave’s new search engine a spin when it gets rolled out can sign up for the official waitlist here.
Parler executives have been insisting that the social network would be up any day now. Well, today is apparently the day.
After more than a month offline, Parler has risen from the dead, reappearing with a new interim CEO. In a press release, the company announced that its new leader is Mark Meckler, co-founder of the right-wing group Tea Party Patriots. The announcement comes a little more than a week after Parler fired its former CEO John Matze, who claimed he encountered “constant resistance” to his product vision.
Under Matze’s leadership, Parler’s user base soared. It also got kicked out of the App and Play Stores and lost its Amazon hosting, among many other thing.
Meckler said in the release that Parler was built to protect free speech. He affirmed that the social network, which has been caught up in a storm of its own making, was being run by an experienced team and was here to stay.
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“When Parler was taken offline in January by those who desire to silence tens of millions of Americans, our team came together, determined to keep our promise to our highly engaged community that we would return stronger than ever. We’re thrilled to welcome everyone back,” Meckler said.
Per the release, Parler’s executive committee is looking for a permanent CEO to lead the social network.
Gizmodo has reached out to Parler to ask for additional comment on its relaunch but we have not heard back. We’ll make sure to update this blog if we do.
Parler has become infamous for its role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, which saw insurrectionists enter the Capitol building to try to overturn the presidential election. GPS data demonstrated that at least several users of Parler appeared to have managed to get deep inside the Capitol building. The platform, which is scarcely moderated, was also home to chilling death threats against politicians and tech CEOs as well as calls for a new civil war.
In the release, Parler claims to have more than 20 million users and affirmed that the service is only available to current users at the moment. New users will be able to start signing up for accounts next week. The Verge reports that Parler’s old posts appear not to have returned with the relaunch, but that high-profile users like Fox News host Sean Hannity were posting again.
Gizmodo staff tried logging into Parler to confirm this, but we were not able to log in to existing accounts or create new accounts.
Parler did not reveal who was providing its hosting services, only saying that its platform is “built on robust, sustainable, independent technology.” In January, the social media network started receiving services from domain name registrar Epik, which is famous for hosting other deplatformed and abhorrent sites such as Gab, the Daily Stormer, and 8chan.
Just because the social network is back online—for now—doesn’t mean it has a clear path to survival. Its app is still not available on Apple or Google’s app stores. In fact, the link for the app on Parler’s website includes instructions on how to sideload the app on Android.
Parler is also being investigated by the House Oversight Committee for offering former President Donald Trump a 40% stake in the company if opened an account while he was in office. The committee chair has also asked the FBI to investigate Parler.
Microsoft would like the U.S. government to adopt media rules that would force big tech companies to share profits with newspapers when they link to news content, according to a new blog post by Microsoft president Brad Smith. And the entire concept is controversial, to say the least.
The profit-sharing idea, which has been proposed in Australia, has not gone over well with companies like Google, which has threatened to block searches down under if the new media rules become finalized and implemented. But Microsoft thinks it’s a great idea that deserves serious consideration in the U.S.
“…we’ve heard from people asking whether Microsoft would support a similar proposal in the United States, Canada, the European Union, and other countries. The short answer is yes,” the introduction to the Microsoft blog post reads.
Specifically, Smith seems to like what’s called “baseball arbitration” to determine the fair price newspaper publishers should get for the content they produce. Under Australia’s proposed media rules, an arbiter would force the major newspapers and tech giants like Google and Facebook to sit down and figure out a fair price for compensating news outlets based on the content they produce.
The theory is that Google and Facebook are getting that content for free and shouldn’t be able to eat the newspaper industry’s lunch by taking all the ad revenue generated by someone else.
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From Smith’s blog post:
Google objects strenuously to what it regards as the injustice of having to engage in baseball arbitration. It argues that this type of arbitration is appropriate only “when the parties are already close in price.” In contrast, according to Google, there is a wide gap between what news organizations are seeking and what Google is prepared to pay. Ignoring the fact that an imbalanced bargaining position has created this disparity in the first place, Google in effect asserts that its own inflexibility at the negotiating table means that it should not have to participate in an arbitration that rewards reasonableness over intransigence.
Microsoft’s Bing search service has less than 5% market share in Australia, substantially smaller than the 15-20% market share that we have across PC and mobile searches in the United States and the 10-15% share we have in Canada and the United Kingdom. But, with a realistic prospect of gaining usage share, we are confident we can build the service Australians want and need. And, unlike Google, if we can grow, we are prepared to sign up for the new law’s obligations, including sharing revenue as proposed with news organizations. The key would be to create a more competitive market, something the government can facilitate. But, as we made clear, we are comfortable running a high-quality search service at lower economic margins than Google and with more economic returns for the press.
Smith makes some very bizarre comments in the post, completely unrelated to Australia’s proposed media laws. For instance, Smith hints that Russia invented disinformation in 2016, which is an absolutely absurd notion.
From Smith’s post, emphasis ours:
On the one hand, the internet and social media have unfortunately become powerful engines of disinformation and misinformation. First pioneered by the Russian government in the 2016 U.S. election, the disinformation disease has now spread much more broadly. Without new and greater restraints, there is a growing risk that more politicians and advocates will exploit the algorithms and business models underlying social media and the internet to turn disinformation into a new political tactic of choice.
Needless to say, Russia didn’t invent disinformation, let alone disinformation online. But strange tangents aside, Microsoft has clearly planted its flag against monopoly power in search, a funny backflip for anyone who remembers Microsoft as the bad guy during 1990s antitrust lawsuits with the U.S. government.
What happens if Google blocks all searches in Australia? The country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there’s always Bing. Morrison has been in discussions with Microsoft on stepping up to the challenge and filling the search void if Google takes its ball and goes home. But Australians are skeptical that it’s so easy.
Google search has roughly 95% market share in Australia, as Smith points out, a larger percentage than even most western countries like the U.S. where Google has just an estimate 62% market share, if you can believe that. But Bing just isn’t seen as reliable as Google. There’s a reason “google” has become a generic term for conducting an internet search and “bing” has not.
Where will the debate go from here? No one knows for sure. But Australia is sticking to its guns, which could create a precedent for other countries. The precedent could be a country completely dependent on Bing, or it could be a precedent where Google caves and is forced to the bargaining table. Either way, it will be interesting to watch, whether or not the Biden administration takes inspiration.