Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the company’s decision to ban Trump from the platform–Calling this decision highly anticipated would be an understatement, and at least the board upheld Facebook’s initial decision. Most of the decision’s reasoning, however, focuses on the deficiencies in the social media giant’s rules and its enforcement thereof. The board highlighted the arbitrariness, and asked the company to come up with clear rules that apply to everyone. So in the end, this episode served more to highlight the big challenge Facebook itself and society at large face to police a platform with almost half the world’s population as user.
In related news, the state of Florida passed a law fining social media platforms for banning politicians, although it is likely to be struck down in court. (Oversight Board, NBC News)
Google and TV streaming provider Roku battle over YouTube TV–The other main component of the surveillance capitalism nexus was in the news as well today, in another illustration of Big Tech’s brazen attempts to leverage their monopoly positions. Roku is the largest provider of streaming boxes (that you hook up to your TV, to replace a cable box, for example.) Google and Roku were in negotiations to renew the inclusion of YouTube TV, a paid service separate from the mainstream YouTube that streams the US TV networks. The negotiations broke down over Google’s demands, among which broader access to Roku’s customer data. Google then decided to include YouTube TV in its overall YouTube app, not exactly a “good faith” move and drawing a pointed reply from Roku. For now the saga goes on, but it’s baffling to what extent Google and its peers are prepared to play hardball, at a time when they are under intense scrutiny for abusing their market power. (The Verge)
YouTube’s filtering algorithms, built to identify copyright abuse, enable shady companies to ‘steal’ creators’ revenues–Speaking of YouTube, noted privacy and open source activist Cory Doctorow has an illuminating story on the platform’s enforcement of intellectual property. Essentially, content creators, like a piano teacher using a piece by Beethoven that is long out of copyright, can nonetheless fall victim to an infringement claim by an unscrupulous company. At this point, the creator can choose to demonetise her video, or have the proceeds go to the so-called “owner” of the copyright. Either way, she makes no money off her content. These intellectual property trolls are now apparently so prevalent on the service that it might cause creators to leave, again highlighting the difficulty of policing social platforms at scale. (pluralistic.net)
In better news, Google is planning to prompt all users to switch to two-factor authentication–This will drastically improve security for the vast majority of users, although there is a tinge of useful data collection here as well (confirming people’s identities through the second factor). Still, the benefit in terms of security here probably outweighs the cost. (VICE)
Belgium’s BelNet, the government network, suffered a massive DDoS attack–Among others, it affected the tax return portal, the courts and the Covid-19 vaccine registration website. The attacks hit just as the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee was due to hear testimony from Chinese Uyghurs. Coincidence? (The Record)
Berkshire Hathaway’s stock price threatens to break one exchange’s price and order feeds–Nasdaq stores prices as 32-bit integers, which means a maximum value of $429,496.7295. Berkshire Hathaway’s price last week was $437,131.00, causing the Nasdaq to suspend its feed for this stock, while it implements a fix. At first sight it’s tempting to make fun of the archaic systems, but trading companies invest millions to shave even just a few milliseconds of trades, so using as little space as possible for numbers makes sense from that perspective. Still, as ever in technology, the law of unintended consequences prevails. (Daring Fireball)
BuzzFeed journalist Katie Notopoulos was frustrated by how her many typos slowed her down, and decided to try and fix it. The story of her experiments is a fun and enlightening read on our primary interface with computers. (BuzzFeed)