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.
Rumor has it the front page of the internet may be the latest online platform cooking up a social audio feature a la the voice-only chat app Clubhouse.
Reddit is quietly working on incorporating moderator-run voice chats onto the platform, a person familiar with the matter said in a Friday Mashable report. In an interview with the outlet, the source described the feature’s development as confidential and still in its early stages.
If this voice chat feature ever does see the light of day, odds are it’ll roll out under Reddit’s “power-ups” banner, an initiative the company launched last year to experiment with new subscription-based features specific to individual subreddits.
In its initial announcement, Reddit listed several examples of these features, called power-ups, such as the “ability to upload and stream up to HD quality video,” “video file limits doubled,” and “inline GIFs in comments,” among others. Subreddits can unlock these perks after enough of their members purchase monthly power-up subscriptions, with the minimum threshold for each community determined by its size.
At the time, Reddit made it crystal clear it wanted to hear from users for future suggestions.
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“The new experiment helps create a framework that allows us to add ‘nice to have’ features for subreddits,” Reddit said in its announcement in August. “We are starting with a few handpicked features and expect to add more as we get input from you and the communities that have opted into our early testing.”
Given all the buzz about social audio services these days, I suspect “voice chat” scored pretty high on the list of suggestions. Though I can understand why Reddit may want to keep things under wraps for now given how royally it screwed up trying to introduce chat rooms last year. TLDR: Reddit pushed out the feature with little forewarning and seemingly zero thought about moderation, as subreddit mods couldn’t opt-out of chats or control them. It was a disaster.
Reddit did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but we’ll be sure to update this blog when they do.
Time will tell if this audio chat craze is a flash in the pan, but what is clear is that the landscape is quickly becoming crowded. Clubhouse has inspired several copycats since its launch in March 2020, with Twitter, LinkedIn, Slack, and TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance, all reportedly rushing to get in on the action with their own audio chat features. Facebook also began beta testing for its Clubhouse clone, a web-based Q&A platform that it’s calling Hotline, this week.
Earlier this week, folks in tech-savvy onlookers were utterly scandalized when a tweet thread from former Federal Trade Commission CTO Ashkan Soltani began being passed around. In it, Soltani calls out the American Civil Liberties Union for committing one of the cardinal sins of the tech privacy sphere: sharing data with Facebook.
“While I have tremendous respect for the work @ACLU and other NGOs do, it’s important that nonprofits are bound by the same privacy standards they espouse for everyone else,” Soltani added. In other words, this is an organization that’s done some incredible work advocating tech privacy for the general public. Why don’t they hold themselves just as accountable as the companies they’re rallying against?
Here’s the thing though. When the ACLU wants to get the word out about fighting voter suppression or advocating for trans healthcare access in your home state, chances are they’re going to need some sort of advertising to do so. While going door-to-door might have worked in the past, the nonprofit sector (just like every other sector) is largely shifting towards advertising online, if only because that’s where we’re all spending our time nowadays. And more and more, advertising online means advertising on Facebook—or else.
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It’s an argument that makes some serious sense on one hand, but reeks of what I’ll affectionally call “Mr. Gotcha-ism.” Even if you don’t know Mr. Gotcha by name, you’ve almost certainly seen the 2016 comic by Matt Bors featuring a person complaining about the ills of society—like Apple suppliers’ reportedly shitty labor practices, or car makers’ downright unsafe automobile design—and the titular Mr. Gotcha reminding people that, well, they still use iPhones and still drive cars. The comic strip closes on the eternally memefied image of a man lamenting that we should try improving society, while Mr. Gotcha pops up (literally out of a well) to remind the man that he’s busy participating in said society.
In the couple of years that I’ve been ragging on digital ads for a living, I’ve been Mr. Gotcha’d more times than I can count. My articles calling out Facebook’s labyrinthian privacy policies get me emails asking why Gizmodo uses Facebook as one of the many analytics tools on its site. Pieces on Google’s invasive ad practices get emails asking why we use Google to serve some of our ads. And articles about ads, in general, garner comment after comment asking why we have ads on our site if we hate them this much. These commenters were so adamant that I notice how clever and observant they were that I ended up pinning a Mr. Gotcha-themed tweet to my Twitter account. Back in the pre-COVID era, I even had a (slightly modified) Mr. Gotcha comic pinned to my cubicle. I was committed to this bit.
The thing is, the reason that you’re seeing Facebook track you across just about every site you know—regardless of the ethos of whoever’s running them—is ultimately due to monopoly power. The reason a lot of brands end up hooking themselves to the Facebook ad machine in some way isn’t because they want to necessarily, but because they have to.
If you click through the bulk of the ads that the ACLU has run over Facebook until now, not many of them ask for donations outright—at least until you click on the ad and visit the nonprofit’s site. Once there, just about every page is heralded by a banner reminding you that “with your support, we can lead freedom forward,” alongside an ask for either one-time or monthly donations.
And while the ACLU declined to comment on how much of the org’s multimillion-dollar donations were garnered with the help of Facebook’s ad machine, a 2020 analysis from the nonprofit consultancy M+R offers some clues. In it, they described that throughout 2019, nonprofits across the board were getting 3.5% of all online revenue through Facebook—most of it coming through Facebook’s maligned fundraising tool, and some of it coming from targeted ads. Meanwhile, the same analysis found that just about every nonprofit was spending up to half of their budget to advertise on social media platforms, as opposed to say, Google search. And the smaller a nonprofit is, the more their budget gets dumped into these same platforms—with smaller names spending upwards of 96% of their budgets there.
The advertisers behind major pages will regularly trash Facebook’s unintuitive and broken adtech tools in one breath while also acknowledging in the next that they just can’t quit the platform. Even at $5 million in ad spend, the ACLU is still one of Facebook’s smaller advertisers—a group that has collectively said in the past the platform is just “too valuable” to quit. Even when larger brands say they’re quitting Facebook for a certain amount of time, that typically means they’re only quitting one or two Facebook properties, while still funneling that ad spend elsewhere on Facebook’s ecosystem. Putting your ad dollars on the platform isn’t a matter of endorsing the crap that Facebook pulls on a regular basis. For nonprofits, in particular, it’s a matter of survival.
Ultimately, the question of “why the ACLU is using Facebook to advertise” is one that opens up an entirely new can of worms that nobody quite seems ready to answer. If Facebook’s ads are broken, then why does the company—together with Google—continue to control as much as 60% of ad dollars spent online? Why do advertisers refuse to leave, even when the company’s been caught lying again and again about how effective their ads really are?
Ultimately, the answer boils down to competition. While the FTC, along with dozens of attorneys general, already launched an investigation into Facebook engaging in monopolistic practices at the end of 2020, it seems like folks don’t seem to grasp exactly what Facebook’s monopolized here. For most of us, it’s eyeballs and attention. For nonprofits, for-profits, and everyone else, it’s sometimes every dollar they spend.
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.
You might not think of Pinterest as being as creator-driven as some of its contemporaries, but that’s an image the company clearly wants to change. This week, the company rolled out a buffet of new creator-focused features in the moderation space, with a focus on playing nice.
The big-ticket item is a new set of policies catered towards creators that the company fittingly dubs its “Creator Code.” These guidelines, per the company, are meant to promote content that’s “inclusive and compassionate,” while keeping out content that doesn’t vibe with the overall Pinterest ethos. Believe it or not, Pinterest has historically had a bit of an issue with accidentally harboring hateful content—from anti-vax memes to photos of child abuse.
“We’ve been building Pinterest for 11 years, and ever since our users routinely tell us that Pinterest is the ‘last positive corner of the internet’,” Pinterest Co-founder Evan Sharpe said in a statement. “In that time, we’ve also learned that you need to design positivity into online platforms as deliberately as much as you design negativity out.”
For now, the only creators that are being asked to oblige by the new Creator Code are those with access to Story Pins—an feature that allows creators to assemble pictures, pages, and videos on their Pinterest page in a unique, scrapbook-esque way. Right now, there’s a limit on the number of pages with access to these Pins, and the names getting that access is largely limited to major creators on the platform.
As for what the Code actually entails, it’s pretty simple: be kind, be factual, and “do no harm.”
On top of this, the company’s offering new tools to keep the comments section under their content as friendly as possible. Creators can now remove content, or feature particularly “positive” contributions, for example. There are also going to be “Positivity Reminders”—similar to what YouTube rolled out a few months back—reminding commenters to “reconsider potentially offensive comments” before they post.
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Pinterest is also offering a pretty big incentive to play nice on their platform: a Creator Fund that, per TechCrunch, is doling out $500,000 to elevate creators throughout the U.S.—particularly those from “underrepresented communities.” Per the company, those funds don’t only go toward creating their content, but also let them run ads on the platform and get “creative strategy consulting” from the pros at Pinterest itself.
The UK government launched a new watchdog agency on Wednesday that will be tasked with keeping an eye on Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook, according to an announcement published online. The stated goal of the new watchdog is to police the “concentration of power among a small number of firms” in the world of tech—a concentration of power that’s harming consumers and small businesses alike.
The new tech-specific sub-agency, dubbed the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), will be housed inside the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the existing agency that regulates anti-competitive behavior in the marketplace more broadly.
The first task of the Digital Markets Unit will be to examine Big Tech’s relationship to online advertising, including the roughly £14 billion ($19.2 billion) spent on digital advertisement in the UK in 2019, according to the British government. About 80% of that money went to just two companies, Facebook and Google.
“The Digital Markets Unit has launched and I’ve asked it to begin by looking at the relationships between platforms and content providers, and platforms and digital advertisers,” the UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement.
While the term “content providers,” could conceivably include a category like Facebook users and their posts, Dowden presumably means more traditional media outlets like TV stations, news websites, and newspapers.
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“This will pave the way for the development of new digital services and lower prices, give consumers more choice and control over their data, and support our news industry, which is vital to freedom of expression and our democratic values,” Dowden continued.
Companies like Google and Facebook have infamously gobbled up the online ad market, leaving traditional media companies without much ad revenue, even after they firmly establish their businesses online. Why advertise with the local newspaper, the thinking goes, if you can just give that money to a bigger company like Google, which is aggregating the same content along with the content of thousands more newspapers?
The UK’s Business Secretary called the new organization “unashamedly pro-competition” and said it will “help to curb the dominance of tech giants” by letting smaller tech companies thrive. Both Apple and eBay are also mentioned explicitly in the announcement, though neither sell ads that compete with traditional news companies.
While the European Union is able to throw its weight around and levy large financial penalties against tech companies for anti-competitive behavior, the UK is playing a bit of catch-up since it left the EU and may have to create new oversight agencies.
Some smaller companies have ventured to push back against Big Tech’s destruction of the local journalism market, like when Australia created a so-called “media code” that proposed profit-sharing between tech companies like Facebook and news companies like News Corp. But Facebook wasn’t too happy with that plan, banning news entirely for a few days. Google got so angry it threatened to cut off its search product down under.
Eventually, Big Tech and the Australian government came to a negotiated agreement about giving news outlets a small cut of the profits, but this is likely the beginning rather than the end of these stand-offs internationally. And the UK will likely try something similar to Australia’s plan in the very near future, if we read between the lines.
The question, of course, is whether this new British watchdog will be able to create real change in an global industry that’s already too large to manage in any meaningful sense. British regulators seems optimistic that they can.
“Today is another step towards creating a level playing field in digital markets,” Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority, said on Wednesday. “The DMU will be a world-leading hub of expertise in this area and when given the powers it needs, I am confident it will play a key role in helping innovation thrive and securing better outcomes for customers.”
Bread slicers weren’t exactly the safest things around in the middle of the 20th century. That open blade is just begging for someone’s hand to slip. But OSHA issues aside, it’s fascinating to watch a simple, beautiful machine like this get restored.
The 16-minute video, first spotted by Digg, was produced for YouTube by LADB Restoration, which is dedicated to restoring old machines.
The video is so calming—wordless and focused on nothing more than the task at hand—that it’s almost therapeutic.
LADB Restoration has a Patreon with longer videos, though we admit we’re not yet paying subscribers. But given how addictive simply watching machines get restored can be, that might have to change in the near future.
Australia’s federal government is considering a proposal to require internet users to submit several forms of identification before they’re allowed to obtain or even just maintain social media accounts on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, according to shocking reports from several news outlets in Australia.
The extraordinary proposal seeks to ban all anonymous commenting on the internet in Australia and is being made under the guise of helping victims of domestic violence.
In order to open or maintain an existing social media account, customers should be required by law to identify themselves to a platform using 100 points of identification, in the same way as a person must provide identification for a mobile phone account, or to buy a mobile SIM card.
Social media platforms must provide those identifying details when requested by the eSafety Commissioner, law enforcement or as directed by a court.
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The term “100-points of identification” refers to an Australia-specific program originally introduced to cut down on bank fraud. Different forms of ID are assigned points, and the points must equal or exceed 100 points for someone to open a bank account. For example, birth certificates and passports are worth 70 points each, while domestic driver’s licenses are worth 40 points, and credit cards are worth 25 points. A birth certificate and a credit card would only equal 95 points, requiring one more form of ID to get beyond 100.
While no Australian politician has yet been quoted in national media about the proposal, the chairman of the committee released a statement about the 88 recommendations being put forward, including calls to provide domestic abuse survivors with more financial security and launching a national campaign to educate the public on different forms of coercion in relationships.
“The Committee’s recommendations are wide ranging, but our clear message is that we need a more coordinated and comprehensive national approach to ending all forms of family, domestic and sexual violence,” Liberal Party MP Andrew Wallace said in a statement published online. “It is perpetrators that are responsible for their use of violence, but everyone has a role in bringing about change and stopping violence before it starts.”
The bizarre proposal to require ID to receive or just maintain a Facebook account still leaves plenty of questions about how it would be implemented. The report also suggests that law enforcement agencies in Australia be permitted access to encrypted data, something that would require companies like Apple and Signal to build backdoors for their technologies.
From the report:
The Government should consider regulating to enable law enforcement agencies to access a platform’s end-to-end encrypted data, by warrant, in matters involving a threat to the physical or mental wellbeing of an individual or in cases of national security.
The proposals come at a time of tremendous turmoil in the Australian government and its ruling Liberal Party under Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Multiple scandals ripple through the capitol city of Canberra, most involving sexual assault and the harassment of women.
Christian Porter, the now-former Attorney General of Australia, was accused of committing rape in 1988 when he was 17 years old against a 16 year old girl, an allegation he strongly denies. The woman who made the accusation killed herself last year but the allegations were only made public recently. Porter, who has sued the national broadcaster ABC News for defamation, has been demoted from his position of Attorney General but remains a member of the government.
Another scandal involves a conservative staffer named Brittany Higgins who says she was raped in Parliament after hours by a fellow staffer two years ago. The incident was swept under the rug and has become a national scandal regarding who in the government knew about the rape and why the staffer wasn’t given more support before exiting politics entirely. Other women have come forward with their own stories about sexual assault in the wake of Higgins’ report.
Yet another scandal involves an infamous online troll for the Liberal Party named Andrew Laming who has been harassing people online for years but has received renewed attention after one of his constituents said she became suicidal from all the online abuse. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to denounce Laming and expel him from the Liberal Party.
One thing that’s notable about Laming’s online harassment? He did it all under his own name on platforms like Facebook without any kind of ID requirement.