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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.

The New York Times Exposes Google’s Values Gap

November 6, 2017 Comments off

Americans are freedom loving people, and nothing says freedom like getting away with it.

From Long, Long Time by Guy Forsyth

The good thing about the Internet is that it brought people together.  The bad thing about the Internet is that some of those people previously only met on Death Row.

The New York Times has caught YouTube up to their old tricks, none of which will come as a surprise to team MTP or anyone else in the music business.  We have fought Google (and Facebook, Twitter and essentially every business using user generated content) about what boils down to one basic problem:  Google doesn’t pay anything like sufficient attention to what is being uploaded onto their monopoly video platform.  Google monetizes that failure–looking the other way–and that failure creates easily foreseeable commercial harm.  We even have a name for it: the “Value Gap.”

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But this time, the Times has surfaced how Google’s cavalier “see no evil” attitude is harming children.  This psychological and developmental harm isn’t about the value gap, it’s more about the depraved greed that produces another kind of gap altogether–a values gap.  And of course Google is trying to cover it up.

It was a typical night in Staci Burns’s house outside Fort Wayne, Ind. She was cooking dinner while her 3-year-old son, Isaac, watched videos on the YouTube Kids app on an iPad. Suddenly he cried out, “Mommy, the monster scares me!”

When Ms. Burns walked over, Isaac was watching a video featuring crude renderings of the characters from “PAW Patrol,” a Nickelodeon show that is popular among preschoolers, screaming in a car. The vehicle hurtled into a light pole and burst into flames.

The 10-minute clip, “PAW Patrol Babies Pretend to Die Suicide by Annabelle Hypnotized,” was a nightmarish imitation of an animated series in which a boy and a pack of rescue dogs protect their community from troubles like runaway kittens and rock slides. In the video Isaac watched, some characters died and one walked off a roof after being hypnotized by a likeness of a doll possessed by a demon.

Realize that Google has been pushing itself as a solution for cord-cutters for a while.  If you watched the World Series, you will have seen the ubiquitous Google ads for YouTube TV from Google’s partnership with Major League Baseball.  You’ll find YouTube on your Internet TV, easily accessed on your family television screen.  In case you hadn’t noticed, Google wants inside your house.

Google also launched YouTube Kids as another way to get into your house and tried to make everyone believe that it was safe for your children.  I knew this charm offensive was utter and complete crap and a prime example of Google’s values gap, but then I’m supposedly jaded and cynical.  You know who is also jaded and cynical?

In 2015, Senator Ben Nelson (D-FL) highlighted the flaws in the YouTube Kids app–remember, this is not the web version of YouTube, this is an app expressly targeted at parents of children “five and under”–FIVE AND UNDER.  As Senator Nelson describes them: “toddlers”.

Team MTP will, of course, know where this is going–the values gap.  Because Google refuses to take any responsibility for assuring that improper materials–materials that violate Google’s own policies and terms of use–get into places the materials are not supposed to be, a substantial amount of shocking stuff gets into the YouTube Kids app.

It must be said that challenging Google’s ability to keep bad things off of their service was also at the heart of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s questions he asked of Google and for which Google and the Shills–EFF, Engine Advocacy, R Street–went into litigation overdrive.  They never did answer those questions.

The Times reports that a Google flack told them:

[W]hile YouTube Kids may highlight some content, like Halloween videos in October, “it isn’t a curated experience.” Instead, “parents are in the driver’s seat,” he said, pointing to the ability to block channels, set usage timers and disable search results.

Sound familiar?  Kind of like you are free to send Google a takedown notice–and rest assured, they will fight any lawsuits from parents with the Communications Decency Act Section 230 defense they are vigorously lobbying to protect by trying to defeat the SESTA bill that would try to stop online pimping.

Parents are also encouraged to report inappropriate videos, which someone at YouTube then manually reviews, he said. He noted that in the past 30 days, “less than .005 percent” of the millions of videos viewed in the app were removed for being inappropriate.

“We strive,” he added, “to make that fraction even lower.”

Ah yes.  Report the bad stuff.  That should sound familiar, too.  Is that before or after your kid’s brain is fried?  And notice one thing that the Times let slip by–the switch from hard numbers to percentages.  Google does this all the time when they don’t want to acknowledge the scale of the problem by attempting to trivialize criticism by saying that the problem is just a tiny fraction of their business and they are trying so hard to do the right thing.  But like Zeno’s Arrow Paradox, they don’t ever quite seem to eliminate the problem.

But it’s a very, very low percentage of the bad stuff–less than 1/2 percent of millions.  So let’s say “millions” means at least two million (although it’s probably more).  Doing the math, .005 of two million is 10,000.  Even if it were 100, are you willing to bet that your child, or your sister, brother or cousin will be in that 10,000?  Sounds like a lot.

Senator Lindsay Graham recently told the counsel for Facebook, Google and Twitter that their respective companies had “enriched America.”  And then he paused for a second–I was expecting him to say “and America enriched you.”  But he didn’t, although I swear he was thinking it.

The question is–will we let these people continue to profit themselves from exploiting children?  Will we permit them to profit from the values gap?

 

 

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