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Youtube

YouTube's Top Creators Are Burning Out and Breaking Down En Masse (polygon.com) 308

Polygon reports of several prominent YouTube creators who are struggling with burnout. The cause can be attributed to "constant changes to the platform's algorithm, unhealthy obsessions with remaining relevant in a rapidly growing field and social media pressures [that] are making it almost impossible for top creators to continue creating at the pace both the platform and audience want," reports Polygon. From the report: Three weeks ago, Bobby Burns, a YouTuber with just under one million subscribers, sat down on a rock in Central Park to talk about a recent mental health episode. One week ago, Elle Mills, a creator with more than 1.2 million subscribers, uploaded a video that included vulnerable footage during a breakdown. Six days ago, Ruben "El Rubius" Gundersen, the third most popular YouTuber in the world with just under 30 million subscribers, turned on his camera to talk to his viewers about the fear of an impending breakdown and his decision to take a break from YouTube. Burns, Mills and Gundersen aren't alone. Erik "M3RKMUS1C" Phillips (four million subscribers), Benjamin "Crainer" Vestergaard (2.7 million subscribers) and other top YouTubers have either announced brief hiatuses from the platform, or discussed their own struggles with burnout, in the past month. Everyone from PewDiePie (62 million subscribers) to Jake Paul (15.2 million subscribers) have dealt with burnout. Lately, however, it seems like more of YouTube's top creators are coming forward with their mental health problems. In closing, Polygon's Julia Alexander writes: "YouTube offers no clear support system for creators, nor is it clear if the company has offered professional help to some of its top creators who've made their burnout public. Instead, YouTube's only direct reaction is a playlist dedicated to burnout and mental health. The creators are essentially working until they no longer physically can, and apologizing to their fans after believing they've failed. Polygon has reached out to YouTube for more information about services that are provided to creators. The only way to beat burnout is to take breaks. Unfortunately, for many YouTubers, those breaks are rarely planned."
IT

Visa Card Payment Systems Go Down Across Europe (bleepingcomputer.com) 108

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: The Visa card payment system is currently down across Europe. Users across the continent have reported problems during the day when attempting to make payments using their Visa cards. A Visa spokesperson confirmed the outage but did not reveal any other details, such as its cause or its scale. Bank social media accounts also confirmed the outage and informed customers of the issue. Users across the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, and Hungary have confirmed problems with payments, but the problems are believed to affect all European countries.
Facebook

Facebook Is Killing Off Trending As It Tries To Revamp Newsfeed (betanews.com) 55

Mark Wilson writes: Facebook has announced plans to kill off the Trending feature of its newsfeed. The social network says that this is to "make way for future news experiences." Over the years, Facebook has experimented endlessly with the presentation of news, and has faced criticism for failing to weed out "fake news" and also accusations of liberal bias. Now the company wants to find new ways to help people find news that matters to them, ensuring that it comes from reliable sources.
Businesses

Facebook, Amazon, and Hundreds of Companies Post Targeted Job Ads That Screen Out Older Workers (vox.com) 169

Older workers are accusing Facebook, Ikea, and hundreds of other companies for discriminating against job seekers in their 50s and 60s through targeted job ads posted on Facebook. From a report: The Communications Workers of America, a labor union representing 700,000 media workers across the country, added the companies to a class-action lawsuit on Tuesday, which was filed in California federal court in December. In its original complaint, the labor union accused Amazon, T-Mobile, and Cox Media Group of doing the same thing. The case, Bradley v. T-Mobile, has major implications for US employers, who routinely buy job ads on Facebook to reach users. The plaintiffs argue that Amazon, T-Mobile, Ikea, Facebook, and hundreds of other companies target the ads so they are only seen by younger Facebook users.

The lawsuit revolves around Facebook's unique business model, which lets advertisers micro-target the network's users based on their interests, city, age, and other demographic information. In the past, equal rights advocates have sued Facebook for accepting ads that discriminate against consumers based on their religion, race, and gender. Facebook has argued that the company is not legally responsible when other companies buy ads that violate the law.

Facebook

Now Even Russian Lawmakers Want a Piece of Mark Zuckerberg (qz.com) 73

PolygamousRanchKid shares a report from Quartz: In an ironic twist in the saga of Facebook's troubles, Russian lawmakers have declared that they, too, would like to question Mark Zuckerberg. According to the Moscow Times, senator Anton Belyakov yesterday offered to invite the Facebook CEO to address the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. "After all, he spoke about information security, not giving access to personal data, preventing the dissemination of harmful content," Belyakov reportedly said, referring to Zuckerberg's meetings with the U.S. Congress and European Parliament. Another reason for those meetings was to discuss whether the social network facilitated Russian meddling in foreign elections.

The U.S. company is in trouble with Russian authorities for disobeying a 2015 law that requires it to store the data of Russian citizens on the country's soil. In April, the state communications watchdog threatened that if Facebook didn't comply, it would face the same fate as LinkedIn, which was banned in the country last year. Much to the chagrin of UK politicians, he (Zuckerberg) has not agreed to multiple calls, and even a mild threat, to testify in front of a UK parliamentary committee.

Youtube

America's Teens Are Choosing YouTube Over Facebook (bloomberg.com) 78

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Three years ago, Facebook was the dominant social media site among U.S. teens, visited by 71 percent of people in that magic, trendsetting demographic. Not anymore. Now only 51 percent of kids ages 13-17 use Facebook, according to Pew Research Center. The world's largest social network has finally been eclipsed in popularity by YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook Inc.-owned Instagram. Alphabet Inc.'s YouTube is the most popular, used by 85 percent of teens, according to Pew.

Instagram is slightly more popular than Snapchat overall, Pew said, with 72 percent of respondents saying they use the photo-sharing app, compared with Snapchat's 69 percent. But Snap Inc. is holding its own, despite Instagram's frequent parroting of its features. About one-third of the survey's respondents said they visit Snapchat and YouTube most often, while 15 percent said Instagram is their most frequent destination. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of teens said Facebook is their most-used online platform. The Pew analysis was based on a survey of 1,058 parents who have a teenager from 13 to 17, as well as interviews with 743 teens themselves.
The survey also found that 99% of teens own a smartphone or have access to one, and 45% said they're online "on a near-constant basis."
Software

Google's In-House Incubator Made a Waze-Like App For the New York City Subway (theverge.com) 28

Google's in-house startup incubator Area 120 has developed a new app to help New York City subway commuters avoid delays. An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The app, called Pigeon, is live on Apple's App Store, but access is still limited to those with an invitation code. Its developers say the app can help commuters choose routes that avoid delays and crowds other users report. Google Maps and the MTA's own website already provide information on what trains aren't working. But Pigeon will also allow users to post specific comments and note annoying incidents, such as loud street performers. It sounds more like a social media app for New Yorkers to commiserate on their miserable commutes.

After you download Pigeon, it'll prompt you to allow location services multiple times. Once inside the app, there are cute pigeons all over the subway map, but tapping on them right away doesn't seem to do anything. The app's functionality is extremely reliant on what people report (hence the large purple Report button at the bottom of the screen). Pigeon's traffic reports sound just like Google's Waze app but exclusively for the New York subway system.

Windows

Windows Server 2016 Has an Update Problem, Users Say 79

madsci1016 writes: Frustrated with how long my Windows Server 2016 Essentials was taking to apply weekly updates, I turned to the web. A quick search revealed that I'm not alone. Many people are reporting similar experiences across the web. All sharing stories of weekly patching taking hours and sometimes ending in hung welcome screens. Some of these threads started a year ago and are still active, with no response from Microsoft addressing the issue. If you use Server 2016, have you experienced this problem?
Facebook

Reddit Surpasses Facebook To Become the Third Most Visited Site in the US: Alexa (thenextweb.com) 108

According to Alexa, the Amazon-owned web traffic analyzing platform, more people now visit Reddit than Facebook in the US. From a report: Spotted, of course, on Reddit by user IamATechieNerd, the stats will be a big boost for the social sharing platform, especially with many users still irked about the recent re-design. It's important to note that analyzing web traffic using a tool like Alexa is not an exact science, but it's interesting that it has now put Reddit ahead of Facebook. If the stats are to be believed, Google is still the most visited site, followed by YouTube, Reddit, and Facebook, with Amazon rounding out the top five.
Businesses

Snapchat CEO Says Facebook Copied Its Features, But Not Its Values (axios.com) 30

Snapchat's CEO, Evan Spiegel, told an industry crowd that he doesn't obsess over Facebook's habit of adapting his social network's ideas. From a report: "I think it bothers my wife more than it bothers me," Spiegel said at the Code Conference Tuesday evening. "Fundamentally, it is important to understand that Snapchat is not just a bunch of features." [...] Referencing Snapchat's most famous feature -- posts vanish after 24 hours -- Spiegel quipped, "Maybe Facebook should copy Snapchat's data retention policies."
Media

Imgur Launches Video 56

The online image sharing community Imgur is launching video after years of hosting still images and GIFs on its platform. "This is a monumental shift for our future, and it furthers our commitment to becoming the world's greatest community powered entertainment destination," the company said in its blog post. The Verge reports: Roy Sehgal, Imgur COO, tells The Verge that the company is "breaking the sound barrier to make Imgur an even better community-powered entertainment experience." Videos play everywhere you can use Imgur (on both mobile and desktop), but so far, only iOS users are able to upload them. The feature is expected to come soon to other platforms. Imgur has also told TechCrunch that it plans to add video editing tools in the future. Videos will thankfully have sound off by default but you can click or tap to play the audio. You can search for videos with the hashtag #unmuted. Like GIFs, videos on the Imgur platform are meant to be short and have a limit of 30 seconds. And Imgur is likely going to use the opportunity to insert video ads to help make the service more profitable.
Privacy

People Are Using Venmo To Spy On Cheating Spouses (marketwatch.com) 102

According to MarketWatch's Leslie Albrecht, people are using the peer-to-peer payment app Venmo to find out if their spouse is cheating. Some are even saying the app is more effective than Facebook at this sort of investigation. "What you're seeing on Instagram or Facebook is what they want you to see," said Abby Faber, a 19-year-old freshman at Indiana University. "They're edited pictures that they put up. But with Venmo, it's very normal casual interactions. It's what they were doing and spending money on." From the report: Some users seem to forget that their transactions are public by default, and their payment activity provides an unfiltered paper trail of what's really happening in their lives. In [Faber's] case, she checked up on her ex-boyfriend and saw he was spending money on pizza and the popular video game Fortnite -- and making regular payments to one girl, who Faber guessed is his new hook-up.

Venmo has had a social component since it launched in 2009. Users see a feed of both their own friends' payments and total strangers' activity every time they open the app, and it's easy to look up users. Exact amounts aren't listed, but you can see who's paying who and which words or emoji they use to describe the payment. The social feed is Venmo's "secret sauce," said Erin Mackey, a spokeswoman for Venmo and its parent company PayPal. In fact, it's usually the reason people are logging on. "Our most active users check Venmo daily and the average user checks Venmo two to three times per week -- and it's not for payments, but to see what their friends and family are doing."
The report mentions a settlement Venmo reached with the FTC last year over its public-by-default social component. The FTC accused (PDF) Venmo of "misleading" users about the fact that they needed to change two separate privacy settings to make their transactions completely private. "Venmo reached a settlement with the FTC, and a company spokesperson noted that users now have three options for controlling who can see their payments," reports MarketWatch.
Facebook

Papua New Guinea Bans Facebook For a Month To Root Out 'Fake Users' (theguardian.com) 86

The Papua New Guinean government will ban Facebook for a month in a bid to crack down on "fake users" and study the effects the website is having on the population. From a report: The communication minister, Sam Basil, said the shutdown would allow his department's analysts to carry out research and analysis on who was using the platform, and how they were using it, admits rising concerns about social well-being, security and productivity. "The time will allow information to be collected to identify users that hide behind fake accounts, users that upload pornographic images, users that post false and misleading information on Facebook to be filtered and removed," Basil told the Post Courier newspaper. "This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly." Basil has repeatedly raised concerns about protecting the privacy of PNG's Facebook users in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica revelations, which found Facebook had leaked the personal data of tens of millions of users to a private company. The minister has closely followed the US Senate inquiry into Facebook.
The Almighty Buck

Australian Bank's System Outage Leaves 9 Million Customers Without Cash (reuters.com) 132

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: National Australia Bank on Saturday suffered what it described as a "nationwide outage" to some of its technology systems, leaving customers unable to access banking services or withdraw money. Customers took to social media to vent their frustrations, with some saying they were left unable to pay for groceries or refuel their cars...

National Australia Bank is one of Australia's four largest retail banks with a customer base of 9 million, according to its website... The Bank of New Zealand, a NAB subsidiary, also experienced outages on Saturday across New Zealand, but the spokesman was unable to confirm a connection between the two incidents.

Facebook

Facebook Accused of Conducting Mass Surveillance Through Its Apps (theguardian.com) 93

A court case in California alleges that Facebook used its apps to gather information about users and their friends, including some who had not signed up to the social network, reading their text messages, tracking their locations and accessing photos on their phones. The Guardian reports: The claims of what would amount to mass surveillance are part of a lawsuit brought against the company by the former startup Six4Three, listed in legal documents filed at the superior court in San Mateo as part of a court case that has been ongoing for more than two years. The allegations about surveillance appear in a January filing, the fifth amended complaint made by Six4Three. It alleges that Facebook used a range of methods, some adapted to the different phones that users carried, to collect information it could use for commercial purposes.

"Facebook continued to explore and implement ways to track users' location, to track and read their texts, to access and record their microphones on their phones, to track and monitor their usage of competitive apps on their phones, and to track and monitor their calls," one court document says. But all details about the mass surveillance scheme have been redacted on Facebook's request in Six4Three's most recent filings. Facebook claims these are confidential business matters. It has until next Tuesday to submit a claim to the court for the documents to remain sealed from public view.

Communications

YouTube Is Messing With the Order of Videos In Some User Feeds (gizmodo.com) 92

YouTube is testing non-chronological subscription feeds to try and serve you content that it thinks you'll want to see at the top. The problem with this is that the subscription feed exists because users subscribed to content that they want to see. If they don't, they will unsubscribe, thereby removing unwanted content from the feed. Gizmodo reports: YouTube confirmed the test on Twitter after some users noticed the change and inquired as to why the heck their subscription feed was no longer in chronological order. YouTube must have missed the memo about how users react when platforms mess with the order of the sacred feed.

Here's YouTube's how-to and troubleshooting Twitter account explained the test: "Just to clarify. We are currently experimenting with how to show content in the subs feed. We find that some viewers are able to more easily find the videos they want to watch when we order the subs feed in a personalized order vs always showing most recent video first." Weird, considering YouTube already offers recommended videos based on your viewing habits and subscribed channels in its sidebar.

Facebook

Facebook Asks British Users To Submit Their Nudes as Protection Against Revenge Porn (betanews.com) 303

Mark Wilson writes: Following on from a trial in Australia, Facebook is rolling out anti-revenge porn measures to the UK. In order that it can protect British users from failing victim to revenge porn, the social network is asking them to send in naked photos of themselves. The basic premise of the idea is: send us nudes, and we'll stop others from seeing them .
Social Networks

President Trump Can't Block People On Twitter, Court Rules (knightcolumbia.org) 396

Reader drunken_boxer777 writes: US District Judge Buchwald issued a 75-page ruling today clearly articulating why Donald Trump cannot block Twitter users, as it violates their First Amendment rights.

"Turning to the merits of plaintiffs' First Amendment claim, we hold that the speech in which they seek to engage is protected by the First Amendment and that the President and Scavino exert governmental control over certain aspects of the @realDonaldTrump account, including the interactive space of the tweets sent from the account. That interactive space is susceptible to analysis under the Supreme Court's forum doctrines, and is properly characterized as a designated public forum. The viewpoint-based exclusion of the individual plaintiffs from that designated public forum is proscribed by the First Amendment and cannot be justified by the President's personal First Amendment interests."
Further reading: Bloomberg.
AI

Microsoft Also Has An AI Bot That Makes Phone Calls To Humans (theverge.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: At an AI event in London today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showed off the company's Xiaoice (pronounced "SHAO-ICE") social chat bot. Microsoft has been testing Xiaoice in China, and Nadella revealed the bot has 500 million "friends" and more than 16 channels for Chinese users to interact with it through WeChat and other popular messaging services. Microsoft has turned Xiaoice, which is Chinese for "little Bing," into a friendly bot that has convinced some of its users that the bot is a friend or a human being. "Xiaoice has her own TV show, it writes poetry, and it does many interesting things," reveals Nadella. "It's a bit of a celebrity."

While most of Xiaoice's interactions have been in text conversations, Microsoft has started allowing the chat bot to call people on their phones. It's not exactly the same as Google Duplex, which uses the Assistant to make calls on your behalf, but instead it holds a phone conversation with you. "One of the things we started doing earlier this year is having full duplex conversations," explains Nadella. "So now Xiaoice can be conversing with you in WeChat and stop and call you. Then you can just talk to it using voice." (The term "full duplex" here refers to a conversation where both participants can speak at the same time; it's not a reference to Google's product, which was named after the same jargon.)

Facebook

European Lawmakers Asked Mark Zuckerberg Why They Shouldn't Break Up Facebook (theverge.com) 220

European lawmakers questioned Mark Zuckerberg in Brussels today for almost an hour and a half, asking him to address concerns about the Cambridge Analytica data leak and Facebook's potential monopoly. German MEP Manfred Weber asked whether the Facebook CEO could name a single European alternative to his "empire," which includes apps like WhatsApp and Instagram in addition to Facebook. "I think it's time to discuss breaking up Facebook's monopoly, because it's already too much power in only one hand," said Weber. "So I ask you simple, and that is my final question: can you convince me not to do so?" Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt then chimed in and asked whether Facebook would cooperate with European antitrust authorities to determine whether the company was indeed a monopoly, and if it was, whether Facebook would accept splitting off WhatsApp or Messenger to remedy the problem. The Verge reports: The panel's format let Zuckerberg selectively reply to questions at the end of the session, and he didn't address Verhofstadt's points. Instead, he broadly outlined how Facebook views "competition" in various spaces. "We exist in a very competitive space where people use a lot of different tools for communication," said Zuckerberg. "From where I sit, it feels like there are new competitors coming up every day" in the messaging and social networking space. He also said that Facebook didn't hold an advertising monopoly because it only controlled 6 percent of the global advertising market. (It's worth noting: this is still a huge number.) And he argued that Facebook promoted competition by making it easier for small businesses to reach larger audiences -- which is basically unrelated to the question of whether Facebook itself is a monopoly.

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