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✏️ My essays
Not even wrong - ways to predict tech. Link
Twitter, Facebook and Trump. After years of argument, Twitter did something about one of Donald Trump's tweets: it masked a tweet behind a note saying it promotes violence: you can still click to see it, but can't retweet it. It did the same when the White House account posted the same thing. Facebook is not following (yet, despite public complaints from increasing numbers of FB employees), saying that people should be able to see what he says.
- Trump responded by signing an 'executive order' claiming to revoke 'section 230' - American lawyers are pretty clear that this doesn't have any legal validity, but 230 has been an interesting bone of contention for a while.
- Section 230 is a clause from the CDA Act of 1996 that said (to simplify) that communications providers are not liable for things said on their systems, as long as they try to remove illegal content (such as copyright infringement and CSAM). Without this, you could sue Gmail, or an ISP, if criminals used email - this has been called 'the clause that created the modern internet'.
- But today, social networks take decisions all the time about content that Gmail or ISPS do not, and meanwhile lots of new kinds of problematic things are on their networks. Hence, there's now an argument that Section 230 should be replaced by a much broader legal requirement to take down many more kinds of content ('sex trafficking' was added to the list in 2017)
- This is also partly a self-serving argument from media companies and their lobbyists that would like a much higher burden of content moderation (and cost) for Facebook and Google (and Twitter, though no-one blames Twitter for taking all their ad revenue)
- Trump's order will apparently have no effect, and if you got rid of 230 you'd need to replace it with something - and as the NY Times points out here, 230 is legal cover for Twitter and Facebook not to moderate him, so he may not have thought this through
- But this is all really parochial. Section 230 is a US law, but the UK, the EU and plenty of other places outside China are writing their own laws and don't care what it says. The UK will almost certainly pass an Online Harms law that will create a requirement for best-effort moderation in a much wider set of categories - technically this would only apply in the UK but the costs and processes need to comply might well be global if you want to be in the UK at all
- Finally: Facebook already has 30k human moderators.That might be necessary, but it's also a barrier to entry. How many compliance people do you think Google will have in 5 years?
- Link: Coverage, the tweets
Remember Calibra? Facebook renamed its bitcoiny money transfer payment/wallet system 'Novi'. Free/cheap cross-border digital money transfer would have a lot of value - but you don't need bitcoin to do that, and there's no reason why any consumer would need to know if it does, any more than you need to know if you're using 'open source' software. Cryptocurrencies are probably not a consumer technology - at least, not here. I have a slight suspicion that project is driven by internal politics and the desire to use a cool new tech for... something, and perhaps by the deterministic idea that bitcoin could be disruptive to social somehow, so FB should be doing something, and this is something, therefore... Link
ByteDance profits: Bloomberg reckons ByteDance (TikTok parent, amongst other things) made $3bn last year (Snap revenue was only $1.7bn). Link
Tiktok hired Disney's head of streaming (last week). He is a star (big loss for Disney) but the obvious motivation is to make TikTok look less Chinese to American politicians. Not sure that will work when the ownership and development team is in China, and when the Chinese state can tell them what to do regardless (or else). A broader point: the problem "our kids are spending all day on a foreign app" is a something the rest of the world had to worry about for 25 years - the US is only hitting it now, but TikTik is only the first of many. Link
Quibi stuttering: the WSJ says Quibi's launch advertisers want to renegotiate their deal due to lower than promised reach. Quibi argues the numbers are only weak because its snacking format suffers in lockdown, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for TikTok. The core problem is committing $2bn to a hypothesis of a new content model before validating it with actual consumers in any way. A smaller launch and more experimentation might have been better - but perhaps the 'super-high quality with Hollywood stars' model needed the Big Bang launch? Or perhaps it was just the whole 'the adults are here now and we know best' attitude that took them here. Maybe they should have tested the format and concept on Youtube/Instagram/Tiktok first and gone direct once it was working? Or, maybe it will still work. Link ($)
Apparently, Snap is working on a platform. Everyone loves copying China, but I suspect this is about making it easier to create rich fun pop-culture experiences, rather than ecommerce mini-apps on the WeChat model (that FB has tried and mostly failed to copy). Link ($)
Apple bought Martin Scorsese's next movie project. Apple's TV subscription remains a puzzle: they're not spending anything like enough to have a catalogue big enough to drive real subscription, and they're not adding anything that's 'Apple' to the proposition, just reselling stuff from LA. So is that deliberate and it's just a marketing project? Or is it a side-project stuck in internal politics and tech arrogance, not grasping movie people aren't desperate and dumb the way music people were, and that Apple has nothing besides money to bargain with? Link
Facebook experiments: CatchUp, a trial of new mechanics for calling people. Link
Forbes has a long and indignant piece explaining that someone called Kylie Jenner is not actually a self-made billionaire but really only worth $900m (still self-made though), and tried to trick them otherwise. On one level this is hilarious, but $900m is an impressive achievement for someone who'e effectively an Instagram influencer (especially given FB only paid $1bn for Instagram itself). Link
Line-by-line analysis of how many clicks different UK banks and challenger banks take you through to open an account. Link
Bloomberg video interview with Daniel Ek. Thoughts on podcasts, Apple and more. Link
John Maeda's 2020 CX Report is full of interesting ideas. Link
Useful UK government briefing paper on facial recognition. Link
The £339 'quantum holographic anti-5G' USB stick. Link
😮 Interesting things
Meticulous Reuters story on the way the the US courts have constructed an effective immunity from prosecution for US police officers. Link (PDF)
Christo's 'Valley Curtain' documentary (RIP). Link
Long UN document collecting lots of different statistics on COVID impact- everything from economics and trade flows to education and crime. Link
Amazon's own delivery fleet is now the fourth‑largest US delivery network. Link
UK print advertising revenue is down 70% in the lockdown. Link