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Victory in Europe: The Two Years War over the Copyright Directive has Begun

May 30, 2019 Comments off

[This post originally appeared in the MusicTechPolicy Monthly Newsletter.]

If you’ve heard about the new copyright law in Europe, you’ve probably heard that the new rules with either break the Internet or bring Big Tech to heel.  I’d suggest neither proposition is true but not for the reasons you might think.  The reason is that Big Tech has absolutely no intention of complying with the law unless they are made to do so and few-if any- governments have the stomach to make them.

Cynical much, you may think?  Not really.  Hardly a day goes by that some new horror story doesn’t break about some awful business practice at Google, Facebook, Amazon or Twitter.  Lawmakers wring their hands, maybe fine the company concerned and everyone goes back to sleep until the next eruption.  Those fines are in the billions, but the bad behavior continues.

There’s a simple explanation for why.  It should be obvious by now that relying on good corporate citizenship is no more likely to produce a good outcome with Big Tech than it has  been with Big Anything Else.  You can dress them up in hoodies, they can tell you to lean in and that they won’t be evil, but “trust me” has not worked out very well so far.

Not only has “trust me” not worked out in terms of outcomes, it also hasn’t resulted in compliance with the law.  And this is the real reason why the bad behavior continues.  It’s not that these horror stories are “glitches”–no, the platforms that produce the inhuman results are working exactly as they are designed to do.  Do you really think that companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon aren’t able to control their platforms, algorithms and applications?

No, these companies make things that work very, very well.  For them.  They wrap them in extraordinary spin and mythology and deceive their users into increasingly addictive behaviors.  At their core, all these platforms are in two business lines–surveillance capitalism and addiction.  They use access to music and movies and journalism as a honeypot to draw in users whose data they can scrape and resell in an unvirtuous circle.

Face it–the Amazon shopping jones is not that different that a Home Shopping Network addiction, and none of the engineered behavior addictions from Silicon Valley are that different that Brown & Williamson Tobacco chemically engineering their product to be physically addictive to smokers with the messaging to match.

Nowhere is the unvirtuous circle more obvious than in Europe during the run up to and final passage of the new European Copyright Directive.  It cannot be overlooked that the European Commission fined Google billions of dollars twice during the period that overlapped with the ultimate passing of the Directive, for a total of $6.8 billion.  Those fines seem large, but were barely discussed compared to the braying from YouTube over the Copyright Directive.

According to leading European newspapers, Google and Facebook in particular fought the Directive with tactics that are reminiscent of Russia’s Internet Research Agency that we have all become too familiar with.  Bots, spam, interference lobbying and outright threats to Members of the European Parliament, the lot.  YouTube used its platform to spread misinformation about the directive through “YouTube creators” and reportedly targeted the children of MEPs who supported the Directive.

In the end, Google and Facebook were able to turn certain parts of the Directive their way but understand this–the Directive is simply that.  A directive at the “federal” level of the European Union.  That directive now has to be put into national laws by each legislature in the 28 countries that are members of the EU before it has any legal effect.  This can take up to two years  Therein lies the rub.

If past is prologue, Google, Facebook and their Big Tech fellow travelers have absolutely no intention of ever complying with the Directive.  They will lobby away as much of the Directive as possible at the member state level–that effort was already under way before the dust had settled much less the just concluded voting for Members of the European Parliament.

They then will sit back and wait to be sued.  The courtroom is where Big Tech most excels in tying the wishes of voters into knots.  By the time there is a final non appealable judgement from the highest court of competent jurisdiction in each member state including forms of appeal that no one has even thought of yet, Google will have probably backed new legislation and collected political IOUs that Google plans to use to reverse all ground gained in the Directive.

And in the meantime, the greatest income transfer of all time will continue as Google and Facebook suck the life out of creators for their fast buck profits and stock market largesse.

The only thing that will get their attention is action that affects their behavior-breaking up these companies in particular.  But understand that any government that takes them on is essentially going to war with a corporate country that is probably better funded and nastier than any government.

Getting justice from Silicon Valley will be an apocalyptic story worthy of Skynet.  But don’t think you can affect their behavior with your so-called laws that they have no intention of obeying.  Kyle Reese is not coming.

Don’t get me wrong–I’d rather have the Directive than not.  Just don’t deceive yourself into thinking the fight is over.

The fight is just beginning.

The Ennui of Learned Helplessness: Article 13 and the Five Lies in YouTube’s Content ID

March 29, 2019 Comments off

youtube-logo-parody-1

According to Wired (“Don’t believe the hype: Article 13 is great news for YouTube“), YouTube is positioned to be a big winner due to the Article 13 requirement for “upload filters”.  If you’re keeping your brackets for “Most Googlely Journalist” in the post-Article 13 March Madness spin, Wired gets the three point play on this post–there are no upload filters in Article 13, so not quite sure what Wired is getting at here.  But I digress.

Wired tells us:

[Article 13’s upload filters are] likely to be disruptive, for YouTube as for everyone else. There will be mistakes, disgruntled creators and meme-posters, protests against this or that algorithmic decision. But if anyone is going to eventually benefit from this, in the long run, that is YouTube.

Leaving aside the fact that Alphabet, YouTube’s owner, would probably have enough money to invest in licensing agreements with media companies and music labels – YouTube is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the internet’s sudden need for copyright filters. The platform itself has been using a type of copyright filter, its home-brewed Content ID, for over a decade. The algorithm compares newly uploaded footage against a database of registered videos, and demonetises (or takes down) any post containing matching content [which is also not quite right–it allows the user of Content ID to elect to block or monetize, with heavy pressure to monetize and not block].

While there have been instances of manipulation and egregious mistakes, Alphabet has invested more than $100 million in Content ID’s development, and the technology is already used by more than 9,000 broadcasters, movie studios, and music producers globally. [And there it is–we’ll come back to that] A vast number of other companies – virtually, every single platform and website that does not want to fall foul of Article 13 – could soon swell the ranks of Content ID’s users. Rather than an existential threat, Article 13 could wind up being a fillip to YouTube’s finances.

First, let’s dispense with an implication of that last assertion–that YouTube would profit from ContentID by licensing Content ID to third parties.  There is absolutely no evidence that YouTube would do anything remotely like that, and even if they did, Google would likely still control who gets to put their works into ContentID in the first place.  Wired doesn’t actually say this, but a reader might get that implication.

What is more clear is that Wired asserts YouTube would have a competitive advantage over other, smaller perhaps, platforms–not like they already do as the result of Google’s illegal favoring of its own products for which it is being fined billions in Europe.  This due to the nonexistent “upload filters” that are not in the Copyright Directive (aka Article 13) but that the tech press keeps asserting are really there in one of the great gaslighting exercises of all time.

Remember–ContentID has a lot more to do with preserving YouTube’s US-based DMCA safe harbor and getting licenses for premium content (with higher advertising revenue, i.e., CPMs) than it does with some desire to do the right thing.  That sentiment arguably does not exist at Google, YouTube, Facebook or any other Silicon Valley company with the notable exception of Apple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wired blows past the two key facts it its own story.  First, the number of participants in ContentID:  “the technology is already used by more than 9,000 broadcasters, movie studios, and music producers globally”.

This statistic comes from YouTube itself:

Number of Content ID Users

But strangely according to a 2016 story in the New York Times:

YouTube says that about 8,000 companies and organizations have access to Content ID and that independents may get access through affiliated companies and industry groups.

That’s right–the number of users of ContentID has increased–worldwide–by 1,000 in four years.  Any idea how many new videos were uploaded to YouTube in that time?  We may not have that exact number, but we do know this again according to YouTube’s own statistics:

youtube number of views

That’s billion with a B.  So just rough justice, don’t you think that if there are that many videos being viewed on YouTube there would be more than 9,000 worldwide users of ContentID?

The other relevant fact is that Wired breathlessly repeats that YouTube spent $100,000,000 on developing Content ID.  According to Wikipedia (which I tend to believe in this case because it’s their benefactor Google), ContentID cost $60 million to develop by 2016 and as of 2018 Google had spent $100 million on the system.

Allow me to posit that $100 million for a system that can handle the volume on YouTube is chump change.  One reason that it cost so little is that it is working for purpose–it is not intended to catch everything, it is only intended to catch works by the people who sign YouTube’s chump deal or people who are “important” (in the best traditions of YouTube’s founders).

Remember this line from the 2016 NYT story?  “[I]ndependents may get access [to ContentID] through affiliated companies and industry groups.”

So you mean that some artists are more equal than others?

Exactly.

YouTube’s theory according to the NYT is that independent artists (such as five time Grammy-winner Maria Schneider who graced our pages with her groundbreaking essay on YouTube’s sleaze) are not harmed by YouTube’s “catch me if you can” DMCA shakedown because Content ID is widely available.  The implication being if those pesky artists would just use the tools YouTube provides, there would be peace in the valley with sunshine, gum drops and puppy dog tails for everyone with happiness among the subjects of the Unicorn Kings.

The clear implication is that “independents” have nothing to complain about because they can get “access” to ContentID through “affiliated companies and industry groups”.  “Affiliated” in this case means affiliated with YouTube (laughably called “partners”), and that means that the “companies and industry groups” have signed a ContentID license agreement which is essentially a nonnegotiable form contract imposed by Google.

Because Google wants to have the rights to use their IP all tied down.

Ahem.

This is another reason why Wired should not write to the Google press release.

So let’s start with what YouTube actually says about who gets ContentID:

Content ID UseAnd what are the “specific criteria” that copyright owners have to meet for their “substantial body of original material”?

qualifications content id

So that quote from YouTube’s website arguably explains why there’s only 9,000 entities that have access to Content ID on a worldwide basis across all copyright categories (assuming that’s even true).

There’s at least five lies underlying Content ID, all of which you’d miss if you didn’t have the inside baseball insight into the unnecessarily complex Content ID system–and as we know, complexity almost always hides fraud.

Lie #1: Show Me Where I Signed Your Social Contract

The first point is why should artists be required to even deal with Content ID or YouTube at all?  If an artist never consented to being on the site in the first place, why should Google be able to just exploit their work without consent?  Why shouldn’t Google have to have a contract with the artists to exploit their IP?  You know, the way you have to be approved and have a license to use Content ID.  This is a core property rights concept underlying the new Copyright Directive in Europe–we hope that the US follows suit with DMCA reform.

There is tremendous cost associated with engaging with YouTube at all whether you qualify for Content ID or  you don’t.  In fact, as the Trichordist’s Streaming Price Bible demonstrates, YouTube’s royalties are so crappy that it’s entirely possible that the total cost of doing business with YouTube exceeds any royalties you could make–because the cost of dealing with YouTube varies directly with the size of your catalog.

So why shouldn’t artists be able to just say no and keep all of their music (or other work product) off of YouTube?  Every penny spent trying to block unauthorized videos is a penny spent for YouTube’s benefit.  And why is it we have to pay for this?

The truth is that it is not at all apparent that declining the opportunity to license YouTube wouldn’t actually be more profitable than dealing with the incredibly screwed up Content ID and CMS system.

So let’s not assume that Content ID and notice and shakedown are the only possible outcomes here.

Lie #2: Using Content ID Is Not Free

Even though Google doesn’t charge for Content ID, using the system is hardly free, especially for “independents”.  In order to get “access” to Content ID, an independent artist needs to contract with a claiming company–and pay that company anywhere from 20% to 50% of their YouTube revenue.

And let’s be clear–claiming companies exist to fix YouTube’s mistakes imposed on the world due to YouTube’s legacy and highly inefficient DMCA notice and shakedown business.  Every penny spent by an artist through giving a claiming company a revenue share is a penny spent for YouTube’s benefit by an artist capitulating to the notice and shakedown onslaught.

So saying that “independents” have “access” to Content ID through a claiming company “affiliated” with YouTube is a grotesque oversimplification.  There are claiming companies that operate at the more lucrative end of the YouTube doing channel management and MCN or near-MCN business for which they may operate their own in-house advertising sales staff.

The claiming companies in reach of “independents” necessarily have to take a larger share of a smaller revenue stream in order to operate.  And here’s what they don’t do:

Block.

Why do they only monetize?  Because that’s what a revenue share means–revenue.  Using Content ID to just block videos (especially UGC) would only be available for a fee (since there’s no revenue if you block everything).  Independent artists can’t afford to pay a fee to block on YouTube so they typically will capitulate and monetize.

And who benefits from that?  YouTube.

Why would blocking require a fee for service?  If an artist just wants to bail out altogether, then that artist would set the automated controls of CMS to block worldwide.  In order to make that blocking meaningful, there would need to be a lot of manual care and feeding to account for UGC leakage through the very porous Content ID.

That would include techniques like pitch bending to use the curious speed controls on the YouTube player which seem to have one purpose–defeating Content ID.

This is what’s called a royal pain in the trade, so anyone doing that work would have to be paid for the hours and hours and hours it would take to accomplish it.  Since the artist can’t afford to pay someone else to do that work, the artist would need to do it in all their spare time.  Which of course will not be very effective or may not happen at all.

I call this the ennui of learned helplessness.

Lie #3: Artists Cannot Access Content ID

By using the word “access” when it comes to Content ID, YouTube is equivocating yet again.   If you are an independent artist and your distributor has a CMS account (and that’s a small group), do you have access to Content ID?

No.  At best, you can tell your distributor what you do and do not want monetized.  They will only devote so much time to you, however, and they won’t do the manual claiming on UGC, etc., at least not until you get some pretty significant traction on YouTube (meaning over 5,000 views or so on a particular video).

Your distributor will not allow you to get your hands on their CMS or Content ID dashboards.  There’s a good reason for this, which is that the way Google licenses Content ID there’s a good chance that the distributor (such as Tunecore or CD Baby) could never get enough seats for its particular CMS license to allow all the distributed artists to have individual access, and there’s no view in Content ID that would show one artist’s tracks without showing that user all the other artist’s tracks handled by that distributor.

Why?  Because YouTube doesn’t design the system for “independents”.

Lie #4:  Independent Songwriters are SOL

Notice YouTube never talks about independent songwriters having “access” to Content ID.    The closest that an independent songwriter comes to getting access to Content ID is if they opted into the HFA YouTube license connected to the out of court settlement of the class action against YouTube that was a companion case to Viacom v. YouTube (and which wasn’t certified as a class, but is often referred to as a class action by people wishing to avoid using the legal term “putative”).

So ask independent songwriters who opted in to the HFA license how that “access” is working out for them.

Lie #5:  Content ID Is Another Nondisplay Use of Other People’s Stuff

Google has made a subspecialty of acquiring data for one use and actually using it for other purposes–undisclosed purposes.

Remember “GOOG-411”?  This Google product was the “free” Google directory assistance (very similar to Google Voice). Former Googler (and former Yahoo!er) Marissa Meyer told  Info World years ago that GOOG-411 was not intended to be what it appeared to be:

You may have heard about our [directory assistance] 1-800-GOOG-411 service. Whether or not free 411 is a profitable business unto itself is yet to be seen. I myself am somewhat skeptical. The reason we really did it is because we need to build a great speech-to-text model … that we can use for all kinds of different things, including video search.

The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that. … So 1-800-GOOG-411 is about that: Getting a bunch of different speech samples so that when you call up or we’re trying to get the voice out of video [such as from YouTube], we can do it with high accuracy.

That’s right–Google told you the product was doing one thing, but in actual fact it was always intended to be something entirely different.  The real action was in the background where users couldn’t see it.  If Marissa Meyer hadn’t let it slip in an interview, you might never have known.

If you have a Content ID contract, check out this language in paragraph 2:

By providing Reference Files, you grant Google a non-exclusive, royalty-free, limited license to (a) store, copy (including the right to make temporary cache and storage copies), modify or reformat, excerpt, analyze, use to create algorithms and binary representations, create ID Files and otherwise use those Reference Files, the ID Files and the associated metadata in connection with the System

And there it is:  “otherwise use”.  Pretty broad grant of rights, eh?  You could say that “in connection with the System” is limiting, but how would you ever know what “in connection with” means?

Remember Google Books?  Ever heard of “corpus machine translation“?  Google uses the scans of the tens of millions of books it stole from authors in the background to improve its translation algorithms.  If the authors had brought their case about that, do you think the court would have been so quick to find this obviously massively commercial application a fair use?

Bevo ≠ Unicorn King

Once again, YouTube has scammed their way past artist objections such as those in Maria Schneider’s post and Irving Azoff’s open letter.  I think this is partly because the whole Content ID system is such inside baseball–once you accept the idea that requiring artists to use these legacy DMCA tools is even acceptable, which I don’t.  Reporters just don’t know what questions to ask.

Now they do.

(Some of this post previously appeared on MTP in other posts.)

What’s Good for the Goose: Europe for Creators Asks for Equal Time on YouTube for Their Pro-Article 13 Messages — Artist Rights Watch

March 19, 2019 Comments off

In case you had any doubts, YouTube’s antics in pushing its messaging on copyright reform in Europe should dispel the idea that it is a neutral platform.

When safe harbors for companies like YouTube were created in the US and in Europe 20 years ago, it was with the idea of providing a little latitude to reasonable people acting reasonably on the condition of being a neutral platform–for not creating an app for Room 101 where 2+2=5.

Not only is YouTube not a neutral platform, but YouTube and its parent Google are using YouTube to do the very thing with public discourse that Google is being prosecuted for with commercial transactions–using its monopoly position to crowd out competition.

This press release from Europe for Creators sums it up with this statement to YouTube: “You advocate freedom of expression but what we have seen is a media service dedicated to the promotion of its own views, based on false information and scare tactics.”

A cautionary tale for artist advocates around the world.

PRESS RELEASE

Brussels, 15 March 2019

Europe For Creators is asking YouTube for access to the same tools YT has used to promote its own messages on the EU’s copyright directive and article 13. The request is to allow Europe For Creators to message YouTubers and place banner ads on YouTube’s network, in the same way YT has done.

An open letter has been sent by Europe For Creators, a coalition of professional organisations of writers, musicians, producers, comedians, films makers coming from all over Europe and representing 12 million jobs across the European cultural and creative sectors. YouTube’s behaviour in using its own network and advertising has been the subject of much debate about the platform’s dominance.

Read the full letter below and on Article13.org.
An Open Letter to Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube

Dear Ms Wojcicki,

After almost three years’ worth of in-depth examinations and negotiations involving the three EU Institutions, 28 Member States, 751 MEPs, and thousands of experts and stakeholders, the European Parliament is about to take a formal decision on the directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.

The aim of one of the main provisions of this directive – Article 13 – is to ensure that platforms such as YouTube fairly compensate the creators whose works are made available through their services. In other words, to play fair and respect the creators who made YouTube what it is today.

We believe that the Copyright Directive will create a level playing field for the European Digital Single Market, with fair and equal rules for all.

There is ample public debate around this directive and your right to defend your position, as a concerned party, is not in question. Indeed, the positions you have taken in the media or through your own videos against Article 13 are well known and nourish the public debate.

However, since the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Sept. 12 to approve its version of the Copyright Directive, YouTube has been actively using its own services to influence public opinion, often with misleading or false information.

You have taken advantage of your considerable influence over 1.8 billion monthly users as the biggest media entity in the world to:

  • Circulate your own message to video makers and YouTubers
  • Create a uniquely formatted page, similar to SaveYourInternet, on Youtube.com
  • Create a portal comprising all videos defending your position on Article 13
  • Run banners, pop-ups and push notifications on YouTube defending your point of view and directing traffic to your unique YouTube.com webpage

This is unprecedented and raises ethical questions.

Moreover, YouTube enabled the propagation of misinformation – such as the claims that Article 13 would lead to the shutting down of YouTube channels, kill European startups, put an end to memes and gifs and harm freedom of speech. In other words: change the Internet as we know it. Such scaremongering deliberately ignores the special protections provided in the text and misleads public opinion.

It interferes with the democratic and balanced debate that all European citizens are entitled to. We believe it is totally unfair and unacceptable that your service, which dominates the online market, is exclusively used as a media service to promote your own commercial interests in a debate over European legislation.

You advocate freedom of expression but what we have seen is a media service dedicated to the promotion of its own views, based on false information and scare tactics.

We believe in pluralism and open, democratic debate. We believe our views also need to be voiced to your audience. That is what freedom of speech is all about.

This is why we are asking you to let us, over the week of March 18-24:

  • send a message to the same YouTubers so we can share with them our vision of article 13 – the one we promote on our website, www.article13.org.
  • publish banner ads on YouTube as you did for the “saveyourinternet” campaign

Acting as a media service requires responsibility and accountability to ensure democratic debate.

Best regards,

EUROPE FOR CREATORS

About Europe For Creators:
A gathering of professional organisations of writers, musicians, producers, comedians, films makers coming from all over Europe…. We represent some 12 million jobs across the European cultural and creative sectors. We are people, not bots. And we are protesting against the false divide that has been put between citizens and us.

About IMPALA:
IMPALA – IMPALA is the European association of independent music companies. Its mission is to grow the independent music sector, return more value to artists, promote cultural diversity and entrepreneurship, improve political access and modernise perceptions of the music sector.

 

 

Le Tatou’s Excellent Explainer on YouTube’s Role in Article 13 Lobbying–from @TatouProd

March 18, 2019 Comments off

“What no one tells you about Article 13”

As we’ve read in recent reporting from Europe, Google’s Susan Wojcicki has been twisting arms among their “YouTubers” to put out videos not only opposing Article 13, but also using the Google party line.

Now that’s starting to backfire because Ms Susan doesn’t really understand how this treating the artist like they’re stupid thing always does.  Think about it–can you imagine Lucian Grange telling Taylor Swift, “Yo, Tay Tay, I need some help on Universal’s latest antitrust review so you can help Universal look cool and make me a video that toes the corporate line?”

Ah, no.  That would never, never happen.  Not only would it never happen, it would probably backfire.

Enter Le Tatou, who are significant YouTube stars in French.  They produced a very thoughtful and articulate (face it–these guys are YouTube stars who actually know stuff, like how to actually research an issue and present it to the public–if you’re wondering why, try applying to a French university some time).

Their Article 13 explainer demonstrates how YouTube has tried to manipulate YouTubers and deceive the public.  The video is in French with English subtitles and you really should take the time to watch the whole thing.

It’s also really funny.

 

@SusanWojcicki Thanks YouTube “Creators” for Making Her Rich

February 6, 2019 Comments off

Google Goes After Children as Lobbyists: What is to be done?

December 6, 2018 Comments off

Our friend and long-time artist rights advocate Karoline Kramer confirms what we’ve been seeing around the world–Google is trying to turn kids into lobbyists for their corporate interests in lobbying against safe harbor reform in Europe.  It was entirely predictable that YouTube’s efforts would come to the US in short order.

While it’s really difficult to understand how pre-teens could find the rebarbative Lyor Cohen to be an appealing influencer, the indiscriminate scare tactics may indicate an even deeper problem–inducing Internet addiction and then manipulating that addiction for profit.  Now where have we seen that business model before?

Andrew Orlowski confirms in the Register that it’s not just happening in the US–YouTube’s campaign drove one German teen to threaten suicide.  This is why nations protect children from all kinds of manipulation by unscrupulous adults who should know better.  It’s also another reminder of just how insidious Internet companies really are.  I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating:

Google, Facebook and their ilk are not in the media business or the music business–they are in the addiction business.  And with this manipulation campaign against children to profit Google and Facebook, these charlatans are starting to reveal themselves for all the world to see.

How do we know this?  Aside from Sean Parker (and other Facebook executives) telling us that Facebook intentionally set about to create massive addiction through manipulating levels of dopamine in the brain chemistry of users, there are an increasing level of studies that demonstrate the behavioral addictions created by social media in particular (see, for example, the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, and also Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked.)

YouTube appears to be manipulating trending topics to favor its seeded video messaging against Article 13 like this one.  To state the obvious, none of these manipulation videos are age-protected and YouTube is favoring its own content–exactly what Google is being fined by the European Commission billions of dollars for doing.

You have to ask–surely this children campaign violates some laws?  If we are going to permit Google and Facebook to operate their addiction-producing business, do we want to allow them to target children?  Imagine if an addictive drug company directed a public messaging campaign toward children to get their parents to vote against elected officials who wanted to regulate that company?   Would we not be shocked?

And given what Google and Facebook know about their users, would it come as a shock that they weren’t just targeting all kids, but were specifically targeting specific children because their parents were influencers or elected officials?  And before you scoff, how would we ever know?

Google and Facebook’s sleazy tactics and manipulation of children demonstrate yet again that they need to be regulated and that they think they have grown beyond the power of the nation state to regulate any of them.

What is to be done?  The answer is obvious.

 

 

 

YouTube Recruits Children to Lobby Against Article 13

December 3, 2018 Comments off

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No one should be surprised that Google and Facebook are now recruiting children for their lobbying campaign against copyright reform in Europe.  They’re using an old pimp’s scare tactic–get them addicted and then threaten to cut them off.  As former Facebook President Sean Parker said, “God only knows what [Facebook is] doing to our children’s brains.”  Actually, you don’t have to go as high as God–Google, YouTube and Facebook know exactly what they’re doing to our children’s brains.  (Kind of old news to MTP readers–see But Do Their Eyes Glow: The Children of the Lessig God and the Viking Pirate Kings from 2006.)

This has come up recently in two different ways in Europe through Google and Facebook’s lobbying campaign against the Directive on Copyright in the Single Digital Market, also known as “Article 13.” (“Article 13” refers to the section of the draft directive that gives Google, Facebook et al the most agita).  Article 13 would go a long way to closing Europe’s version of the highly profitable safe harbors for Google and Facebook.  Thus stopping the biggest income transfer in history, also known as the “value gap,” or as I call it, the alibi.

Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament Julia Reda has been a leading voice against Article 13 in the European Parliament, although she’s actually done a super job of self-destructing.  Her latest foot in mouth was a smug celebration of Google’s child lobbying techniques:

Julia Child Lobbying'

And then there’s the pop-up ads on YouTube that come up in that nagware prompt asking you to subscribe to YouTube premium (no matter how many times you decline)–the popup now has a prompt to “learn more” about Article 13:

youtube popup

Who do you think this is directed at, hmmm?   And then YouTube uses its seeding accounts on other social media to praise the lobbying campaign and create spin.  Sometimes the connection is with Twitter users like this person who actually appears to work at the Google Digital Garage in Manchester:

Emma Gray

And there you have it.  But this is really old news–who can forget Jimmy Wales’ admonition to the young plagiarists who copy their homework assignments directly from Wikipedia (ask any teacher, it’s true).  His warning of the Wikipedia blackout for the fake SOPA campaign was pretty clear (as reported in the Hollywood Reporter):

“Student warning,” Wales wrote. “Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday! #sopa”

This is not to overlook the “Young Pirates“, the Pirate Party’s own generational campaign that has some really unsavory historical overtones, although one has to believe those overtones are unintended.

But the worst of this is what appears to be a campaign targeting the children of MEPs.  According to European researchers, there were calls made to some of those children trying to convince them to convince their parents to vote against Article 13.

None of this should come as a surprise–YouTube has a long history of failing to protect children from a host of unsavory activities on YouTube.  A must read post by James Bridle tells us of the truly bizarre goings on at YouTube Kids.

I’ve also been aware for some time of the increasingly symbiotic relationship between younger children and YouTube. I see kids engrossed in screens all the time, in pushchairs and in restaurants, and there’s always a bit of a Luddite twinge there, but I am not a parent, and I’m not making parental judgments for or on anyone else. I’ve seen family members and friend’s children plugged into Peppa Pig and nursery rhyme videos, and it makes them happy and gives everyone a break, so OK.

But I don’t even have kids and right now I just want to burn the whole thing down.

Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatise, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level. Much of what I am going to describe next has been covered elsewhere, although none of the mainstream coverage I’ve seen has really grasped the implications of what seems to be occurring.

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In a recent interview with Kara Swisher on Recode, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki got this question from the audience:

[My] nine year old [daughter], she uses YouTube essentially as her search engine.  Obviously the parent company Google is incredible at search and the search always comes up good even though there’s a lot of crappy web pages.  When it comes to YouTube she watches kids oriented videos and then the “recommended” list comes up, there’s some really disgusting stuff in there….It seems really bad, and my kid is well under 13, she’s not supposed to be able to see this stuff and she sees it all…

Senator Ben Nelson commented on content that Google allows to be “readily available and promoted by Google” like wine tasting tips, how to make sulphuric acid and toxic chlorine gas, and some of the YouTube videos that James Bridle discovered.  The answer?  Parents can notify Google of problems and Google will help parents restrict what their children can see.

Senator Nelson asks why should parents have to do any of this?  (Sort of like why should any artist have to monitor the Internet 24/7 to send DMCA notices?)  Imagine how he would feel if his children (or grandchildren) were contacted to lobby against him?

So on a certain level, not only is YouTube recruiting kids to lobby their parents, they are actually recruiting kids to lobby for YouTube on an issue that actually could address some of the problems that their parents may have with YouTube itself as parents.

Let’s be clear–this is all about the money.  Google and Facebook have produced the addiction in their users, adults and children alike, that they are now trying to exploit through scare tactics.  Because let’s face it–as Sean Parker tells us, these companies are not in the media business or the music business.

They are in the addiction business, make no mistake.

And now they are twisting that addiction for a corporate lobbying campaign with one purpose–enriching themselves through the greatest income transfer of all time and doing so at any cost.

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