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The Best News I’ve Had All Day

February 27, 2015 Comments off

You’re going to hear a lot about the great work that the #irespecctmusic team is doing this week in Washington, DC to rev up the Congress again in the new session about getting artists paid for radio play.  That’s really important, make no mistake, and we’re going to devote some ink to that for sure.

But I spoke to Blake today and he shared something very special that happened and it got him just as excited as meeting the powerful.

Blake, Janita and Tommy Merrill (who will need no introduction to MTP readers) spoke today about #irespectmusic at the Georgetown Law School to a room full of students.  And something really special happened–it turns out one of the students is doing their honors thesis about the #irespectmusic campaign.

The team was just so excited that what they were doing inspired a student to devote a lot of their time and…their grade!!…to the cause.  I mean, how cool is that?

Pretty cool, man.

georgetownTommy, Blake and Janita

YouTube’s Bizarre Jihadi Video Problem: That’s Just the Way It Is

February 26, 2015 2 comments

When we see Google getting hundreds of millions of takedown notices for links to unlawful material in search alone, not to mention getting called out by the governments of France, the UK and even–to an extent–the US for hosting jihadi recruitment videos on Google’s flagship video platform, you have to ask why don’t they fix these problems?  Is there something so defective in Google’s search algorithm or YouTube’s filtering systems that simply can’t be repaired?  Do we have to just suck it up?

Actually, the answer appears to be yes.  It’s pretty safe to say that Google is constantly working on changes to its search algorithm which one has to think is fairly characterized as Google’s core asset (see, e.g., Wikipedia entry on Google’s Penguin updates).  So it’s not like these problems have caught them by surprise. Google could have fixed the problems but the teams of engineers working on the algorithm haven’t fixed the issues despite having received 345 million trouble tickets.  Not to mention a pretty much unlimited budget.

Why might that be, do you think?

Maybe they don’t think these are problems.  What if the Google algorithm is working according to plan.

Maybe Google executives see nothing wrong with the quality of search results.  Maybe they don’t see anything wrong with the videos being distributed on YouTube.  Take this video of “the Mujahid Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Rubaish” for example:

rubaish1

Ibrahim al-Rubaysh is the spiritual leader of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  He was held in extrajudicial detention at Guantanamo Bay, then escaped after the US permitted his repatriation to Saudi Arabia in 2006.  A YouTube search for his name returned this:

rubaish search

This is one AQAP leader–just one.  412 videos in a monetized search result courtesy of sureinsure.com.  I wonder if sureinsure.com knows the sainted Google advertising algorithm is serving up their ads for searches on a jihadi sheikh?  As any music licensing person knows, Google doesn’t share the revenue on YouTube search pages with anyone, so this is all on Google.

rubaish search

And this is the issue–do the advertisers have any idea where their ads are being served?  Could Google’s systems pass the kinds of tests of internal accounting controls required by the laws that protect stockholders from companies making money in sketchy ways?  You know, the laws passed after the Enron scandal?  And given Google’s appetite for litigation, would any of these advertisers be in a position to protect themselves or seek refunds from Google?  Not without the help of law enforcement officers like the scrappy Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, the immensely popular Mississippi Democrat who National Journal describes as “a fighter for the little guy” and who is not afraid to stand up to Google and other mega-multinational Leviathans.

A growing number of lawmakers around the world are taking a closer look at the responsibilities of social media in general and Google in particular.   For example, here’s a screen shot of a video from the “Jund al-Aqsa” (JAA) channel that was called out on the floor of the UK House of Commons by Diana Johnson, a leading Labour MP, who had quite a lot to say about Google’s involvement with jihadi recruiting.

jund2

I seriously doubt if Disney Parks or any of these other channels had any idea their YouTube traffic was coming in part from jihadi videos, particularly if they are ad supported.  Which means that part of their revenue was being driven by jihadi videos.

The truth is that “social media” platforms are contributing mightily to the spread of the jihadi propaganda as we hear on a daily basis now.  What we don’t hear is how these social media platforms profit from the propaganda from it to one degree or another.  Can Facebook say with certainty that ISIS hasn’t ever boosted a post?  Does Google have any idea who they are sharing revenue with on these channels?

As Ms. Johnson told the House of Commons:

A very brief look at what was available on social media enabled me to come across deeply offensive and worrying videos and tweets. I am very pleased that we are proscribing the organisations that produced them, but I think that the Minister should bear in mind that social media companies are making such videos and tweets available for everyone to see, and consider what more can be done about those companies.

It’s not just the UK.  France is hoping to make internet companies such as Google and Facebook accountable for social media posts promoting terrorism, Bloomberg reports.

The French government is mounting pressure on web companies to take responsibility for online hate speech as the nation battles against extremist groups in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Bloomberg reports that President Hollande spoke in Paris on Tuesday about a new law that would make internet operators “accomplices” of such offences — making a racial statement is a crime in France. A draft of the legislation could be made next month and challenges messages across social media platforms.

The president was talking at a memorial for Jews deported in World War II. He said that social media sites “can no longer close their eyes if they are considered accomplices of what they host,” and added: “We must act at the European and international level to define a legal framework so that Internet platforms which manage social media be considered responsible, and that sanctions can be taken.”

Let’s be clear–I’m not saying that Google seeks out these videos.  I’m saying that if they didn’t want the videos to be there, they have the means and the ability to keep them off, and they certainly have the capability to not monetize the jihad.

But they don’t.  And that’s just the way it is.

UPDATE:  CNN is now reporting on YouTube selling advertising against jihadi videos:  “These Ads Ran Before ISIS Videos

Must Read: Martin Mills on Billboard Streaming Charts

February 24, 2015 1 comment

In case you haven’t noticed, Billboard and The Official Charts have begun including streaming in measuring chart ranking.  Now think about that for a minute–in a world where artists like Taylor Swift are windowing with great success how can you ever think that it’s a good idea to use streaming as a way of measuring success?  There’s deeper reasons for why streaming is at best a premature but even if you don’t have time to think about the deeper reasons, the mere fact that it is becoming increasingly obvious that streaming can be a null set for an increasing number of artists would make you question that wisdom.

As Beggars Group CEO Martin Mills said in a must-read recent speech (“MARTIN MILLS: NEW BILLBOARD CHART RISKS DUMBING DOWN MUSIC“):

Generally speaking, independent labels work principally with album artists, the majors, since their main marketing tool is airplay, primarily with artists capable of having hit singles. I’ll acknowledge this is a huge generalisation, but I believe, fundamentally, that today it holds true. The biggest artists of course straddle both worlds [both singles and albums].

This can be seen most clearly in comparing an artist’s track sales to their album sales. An artist like The National will sell pretty much 1:1 tracks to albums, a pop artist maybe 15:1. That’s an enormous differential in customer purchase preferences.

I think this two-sided world is healthy, good for music, good for the consumer. It creates a diverse musical climate, because not all artists are running the same race.

But I am really concerned that there are forces at work that wish to destroy this, to create a lowest common denominator musical landscape. 

In the USA it’s already started to happen, with the Billboard consumption chart, that combines album sales, streams, and track sales. In other words, it aggregates and averages out the two types of artist I’ve identified. 

That will mean that the big artists look and get bigger, and the more niche artists of the album world get swamped, and side-lined, starved of exposure.

I have no objection to including streams in the chart, as long as – and it’s a big but – fans that are streaming albums as a whole are separately identified. So the albums chart should include album streams, and the singles chart should include track streams. 

But including tracks with albums mixes apples with pears, and fails to chart anything meaningful other than sheer brute size. 

It may well be in the interests of the small number of super-consolidated major labels to make the big become bigger, and appear to be even bigger; but I believe it’s fundamentally against the interests of the rest of us, since it will reduce the oxygen available for exposure for artists whose natural format is the album. 

That reduction in exposure will, I believe, lead inevitably to the decline of the album, and a curtailing of the ability of the non-pop-single artist to make a living from their art.

As usual, Martin Mills puts his finger right on the problem and has pointed to the systemic flaws in the streaming world that is rapidly hollowing out the music business from the inside.    Like his insightful speech at Canadian Music Week last year, this one is a must read for any thoughtful follower of the music business.

Liar Liar Streams on Fire #2: Ad Supported Spotify pays .0009 in US per Spin.

February 24, 2015 Comments off

The Trichordist

We’ve got data.  Lots of data.  We have two different consumption surveys of college students and one of the broader population.  We’ve also got the details of 2014 digital revenues from a moderately sized independent catalogue.

We’re gonna show you our data all this week.

This is not pie in the sky projections from the VPs of “digital” at your record label or distributor.   This is what is really happening.  You know you can’t trust these digital executives, right? They are objectively and demonstrably wrong.  We suspect they are now  just making shit up to try to cover their asses (or looking for jobs at the streaming services.)  Who will be the first executive to lose their job over the streaming fiasco?

Here’s todays installment:

According to our detailed examination of a moderately sized labels digital revenue, it appears that free Spotify pays less than a tenth of…

View original post 50 more words

Out there waiting

February 22, 2015 3 comments

When the years have done irreparable harm
I can see us walking slowly arm in arm
Just like that couple on the corner do
Girl, I will always be in love with you

When I look in your eyes
I’ll still see that spark
Until the shadows fall
Until the room grows dark

Then when I leave this Earth
I’ll be with the angels standin’
I’ll be out there waitin’ for my true companion

From True Companion by Marc Cohn

I have always believed there is no human loss greater than the loss of a spouse.  Parents, of course, will immediately disagree, but that’s OK.  When you have struggled through tough times together and prevailed, every close call reminds you of how indescribably dear your spouse is.

It’s also a reminder of the inevitability of having to take on life alone for one of you because one of these days your determination will be overcome.  You know the high probability of this going in, but it doesn’t resonate in your bones the way it does after the challenges of time give your family a good working over.  The best the both of you can hope for is to postpone that day as long as you can.  It is the dilemma of commitment.

Our thoughts are with Zoë Keating and her family.  If yours are too, you can send her condolences or a donation at her artist site.

More News from YouTubeistan: Google distributes AQAP Video Condemning “Je Suis Charlie” Solidarity

February 22, 2015 1 comment

UPDATE:  The video was taken down by Google within 48 hours of posting on MTP.

According to Long War Journal, the authoritative resource for terrorist activities worldwide, this video quite clearly calls for violence against the “Je Suis Charlie” protesters in Paris:

The media wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Malahem Media Foundation, released an audio message on Twitter [and on YouTube] in late January featuring AQAP ideologue Ibrahim al-Rubaysh titled “Allah Will Be Sufficient For You Against Them.” In this most recent eight and a half minute message, Rubaysh addresses the surge in solidarity for the victims of January’s attack on the satirical French Charlie Hebdo magazine, an operation which AQAP has since claimed….

Rubaysh then turns to the widespread demonstrations in support of freedom of speech and the victims of the Paris attacks last month, which AQAP claimed shortly after. “What is amazing,” says Rubaysh, “is that you see infidels standing with each other and supporting each other in their aggression against the Muslims and their offending of the Prophet (PBUH). They go out raising the slogan of ‘We are Charlie’ in solidarity with their fools.”

He advocates increased attacks as a way to push Westerners to abandon their faith in freedom of speech “if that means offense of the Muslims.” He suggests that if Western countries truly understood that such offenses against Islam would cost them a heavy price, they “would legislate laws” to prevent and deter people from offending Muslims.

Rubaysh concludes his audio message with a general call for attacks against anyone disrespectful of Islam. “Oh Muslim, oh you who loves the Messenger of Allah (PBUH): set forth to Allah’s blessing,” he says, a clear invitation to jihad. He adds that Muslims should “not consult anyone about killing one who mocks the Messenger of Allah (PBUH)” and not heed the words of Muslim clerics who do the bidding of earthly rulers.

If you have any doubt that these videos act as recruiting tools for jihad, I suggest you sample the comments.  Oh, and use that handy Google Translate bar embedded in each comment.

Ibrahim al-Rubaysh the spiritual leader of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who was held in extrajudicial detention in the United States’s Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, then escaped after repatriation to Saudi Arabia in 2006.  Here’s a cute video from YouTubeistan of Code Pink conducting a reading aloud of “Ode to the Sea by Guantanamo prisoner Ibrahim al Rubaish“.

The YouTube channel partner is “مجا هد” which roughly translates into “mjd” short for..you guessed it…mujahid, or a fighter for jihad.

I’m sure if you asked anyone at Google whether the company provides material support for terrorists in violation of U.S. law, they’d probably deny it and be genuinely horrified, or they’d come up with the usual Googlely excuses that they take down videos that are offensive to “the YouTube community” or some such hogwash.  For in YouTubeistan, jihadi recruiting videos are very popular.

Fortunately, we don’t have to guess what Facebook and Twitter would say about the issue.  According to the Associated Press:

The French interior minister said Friday he asked Google, Facebook and Twitter to work directly with French officials during investigations and to immediately remove terrorist propaganda when authorities alert them to it.

“We emphasized that when an investigation is underway we don’t want to go through the usual government to government channels, which can take so long,” said French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve after a meeting with representatives from the U.S. tech giants….

Twitter and Facebook spokespeople said they do everything they can to stop material that incites violence but didn’t say whether they would heed the minister’s request for direct cooperation with French authorities.

“We regularly host ministers and other governmental officials from across the world at Facebook, and were happy to welcome Mr. Cazeneuve today,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We work aggressively to ensure that we do not have terrorists or terror groups using the site, and we also remove any content that praises or supports terrorism.”  [But despite the entertaining of government officials, they’ve gotten away with it so far.]

When asked whether Twitter would work closely with French investigators, a spokesperson said their website outlines the guidelines for law enforcement to request information.

We review all reported content against our rules, which prohibit direct, specific threats of violence against others,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

An email to Google requesting comment was not immediately answered.

Shocker.

As usual with Google, you find that this particular video is linked to promote the videos in the sidebar:

aqap10

Do you think that parents know that these videos are available to their children who are watching YouTube?  How about schools, businesses, government agencies that allow YouTube in their premises?  Not to mention the National Hockey League, the National Football League or Ann Got’s cat video being cross-promoted with a link to AQAP?

Not to mention the “bad acts window”–that period of time between when YouTube allows a video to be posted and when it is removed for whatever reason.  For example, this jihadi video that Google ultimately removed (a couple of times) had over 7,000 views and another video we recently flagged had over 5,000 views in a 48 hour period.

aqap 4

Does that seem like a lot?  Given the message and potential risk to the public, who should get to decide?  Google?

The fact is that Google has built a product that has some beneficial features but has deep design defects.  And like everyone else who manufactures a defective product, they’re keeping it very quiet.

This line of inquiry is exactly what is at issue in Mississippi Attorney General’s subpoena against Google.  And I think this is exactly why Google is so hell bent on keeping investigations far, far away from YouTubeistan.

But you know–if you see something, say something.

Live From YouTubeistan Delivered Straight To Your Living Room

February 19, 2015 Comments off

When moms in Middle America let Little Johnny use YouTube in his room of an evening, do you think it ever occurs to them that Little Johnny is watching radical jihadi recruiting videos?  When moms hear about jihadis using “social media” to radicalize new followers, do you think the moms think that means it’s coming into their house? Ah, but it is.  Thanks to YouTubeistan–the digital library of jihadi videos readily available on YouTube, the jihad will be monetized.  And which videos will be made available is apparently totally arbitrary, contradictory and trends toward making these videos available.  They do draw millions of views, after all. Two days ago we spotted a YouTube video courtesy of the Long War Journal which evidently was taken down within hours of the MTP blog post.  This is what I wrote:

According to Long War Journal: [T]he media wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Malahem Media Foundation, released the latest installment of its video series documenting the group’s attacks, called “From The Battlefield.” This most recent episode features footage of a double suicide attack on the Yemeni military’s First Military Command base in Hadramout and other smaller attacks in the province. So let’s be clear–I’m not suggesting that the content should be censored unless you think that there’s something wrong with giving material assistance to terrorists (that’s 18 U.S. Code §2339A and §2339B for those reading along).

This was the link: As you see, YouTube took down that video.  Why?  “[B]ecause its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service.”  We’ll come back to that presently. aqap 6 Not surprising–the video was posted by al Qaeda to inspire their followers and potential followers.  It says “we are the strong horse, follow us.” It shows jihadis wiring up a car bomb to be used in a suicide bomber attack, among other things. aqap 7 Now what is interesting about this is that guess what video reappeared today on YouTubeistan? This time it has links to many, many other videos that look to be of the same stripe.  At least they’re not linking to big advertisers this time.  Even in YouTubeistan they know which side the khubz is buttered. Here’s an interesting element of this particular video–when you turn on YouTube’s “Safety Mode” that is supposed to protect Little Johnny from watching such things, here’s the message you get: aqap 8 In other words, in YouTubeistan, Google decides to stop Little Johnny from watching the AQAP video unless he’s managed to find a way to disable Safety Mode.  Then he can watch it to his heart’s content.  It’s a minor inconvenience. ” Sorry about that.” In fact, there’s a YouTube video about how to disable Safety Mode that you can watch with Safety Mode enabled. But wait–didn’t Google just tell us that the self-same video wasn’t available “because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service”?  So on one day it violates YouTube’s terms of service, and on the next–literally–it’s OK to watch, just not if Safety Mode is enabled. Which is it?

UPDATE:  Once again, Google took down the same AQAP video within 24 hours of an MTP post.  Coincidence you say?  And the reason they give? aqap 6

The problem, of course, is that having once violated some provision of YouTube’s voluminous Terms of Service, YouTube appears to be applying the TOS consistently–except for one thing.   Having made that decision once, why did YouTube have to make it twice?

So in YouTubeistan, jihadi videos are readily available, very often set to music in the “nasheed” genre, a kind of Arabic choral chant that is very popular with the jihadi set.  Here’s an example: Kingdom of Heaven is a popular source of footage for these fine examples of user generated content–who could have seen that coming, eh? Kingdom of Heaven 1 Now remember, jihadis use social media platforms to disseminate their message.  It’s pretty easy to find in YouTubeistan, and given that at least some of the time Google is putting the videos behind a screen if you’re viewing in the sainted Safety Mode, someone is exercising some editorial judgement about which videos they’re going to make available to the public and which videos that they’re going to put behind a screen.  And apparently sometimes they decide to take down the videos. In the case of this particular jihadi recruiting video, it was removed from YouTubeistan, but not because it violated YouTube’s terms of service but for another reason: aqap 9 If you were someone who was concerned with protecting consumers, such as say Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, you might like to have some idea about why Google exercises its “constitutionally protected editorial judgment” that it claims to have in its pleadings attacking Hood’s investigation in Mississippi on behalf of Mississippi consumers and advertisers.  Not only is Hood entitled to ask these questions on behalf of consumers, Google’s distribution of jihadi videos on Google’s monopoly video search platform certainly looks like material support of terrorists which is itself a violation of the federal law Google claims to hold so dear.  (See 18 U.S. Code §2339A and §2339B aka the U.S. Patriot Act.) Whether you call this a Temporary Autonomous Zone, YouTubeistan or just plain old Google, I think it’s easy to understand why Hood would like an explanation from Google of exactly what is the thinking over there at the jirga in Mountain View?  It can lead to questions like this in Hood’s subpoena of Google: hood2

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