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YouTube is losing its monopoly as the internet video guys

(TECH NEWS) YouTube no longer has a leg up on other internet video sites and very soon could lose its monopoly.

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Grew up with YouTube

I’m a YouTube junkie. I’ve watched something on YouTube almost every day for the past 3 years and I’m a slow adopter.

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YouTube has been around since 2005 and has essentially owned the online content creation space for video makers since it’s inception, but now it has a bit of a problem. It’s vulnerable as hell.

Not the only video site now

With new outlets like Vimeo and Watchable, YouTube isn’t the only place for these creators to go now.

Hell, instead of getting YouTube famous, people are getting famous on smaller platforms like Vine (R.I.P.), SnapChat and Instagram and then taking their short video skills to places like Watchable. One of BuzzFeed’s most popular stars now has a show on Watchable when all of BuzzFeed’s content is on YouTube! If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what does.

Terms and conditions

In the last few months, YouTube has released a few updates to the terms of use for the “community” and these updates are pissing a lot of people off.

Not necessarily because they are disagreed with (by everyone) but because it seems YouTube has a bit of an information dissemination problem.

A failure to communicate

The communication issues between YouTubers and YouTube started back when YouTube decided to demonetize videos.

The problem was, they had been demonetizing videos for some time and just never told anyone.

If you watch Philip DeFranco’s show from 6 months ago he goes into more detail.

Then 3 months ago, YouTubers ran into an issue with subscriptions.

Some channels, despite have loads of videos were getting marked as spam.

Subscriber numbers were skewed and everyone was pissed.

People brought it to YouTubes attention and after only going through 100 accounts/channels, they found no problem.

Again, if you watch Philip DeFranco’s video, he gives you a bit more context. Essentially in both cases, YouTube responded with a tweet or piss poor video and then refused to give any interviews or more information.

Now that brings us to the current.

YouTube launched a new feature on filtering. You have two choices.

Strict or Not Filtered.

You have to OPT into the Strict but if you do basically any video with “adult language” i.e. sexy talk, cursing etc. is removed from your feed regardless of whether you subscribe to that creators channel or not.

The feature has been out for a few weeks but didn’t really get a lot of coverage until the LGBTQ community notice that many of their videos were getting filtered out.

Even ones covering completely tame content simply because it related to the LGBTQ community. Creators like Tyler Oakley had one of his videos entitled “8 Black LGBTQ+ Trailblazers Who Inspire Me” censored under the strict filter.

Stories from multiple people about their decisions to come out or changes genders are filtered under the strict category despite not being graphic in any way.

DeFranco himself shows that none of his videos would show up if the strict filter were on because of his use of language, but as he points out YouTube gives a very vague reason as to why things are removed under the strict filter.

The problem with this is that YouTube doesn’t tell its creators or the public what is defines as adult.

It doesn’t have content ratings like TV shows and when pressed on the matter, YouTube again sends out vague tweets and refuses interviews.

Playing a dangerous game

So what does YouTube’s inability to accurately inform its creator community and public have to do with it being vulnerable? Everyone knows, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

If YouTube cannot learn to treat its users with respect by giving them accurate information before they push out new features, creators will gradually start leaving the platform for platforms that are newer and have less rules and because viewers are invested in the content made by these specific creators and not YouTube itself, they’ll have no reason to stick with YouTube.

Step it up YouTube. You really have no other choice.

#YouTubeTrouble

Pam Garner is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas, currently pursuing her master's degree in graphic and web design. Pam is a multi-disciplined creative who hopes to one day actually finish her book on all of her crazy adventures.

Tech News

Airbnb has blocked 50K+ bookings for being too big during COVID-19

(NEWS) Airbnb has cancelled a huge number of reservations as a security precaution during COVID-19 in the past year or so.

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In the last year or so, Airbnb has purposefully prevented at least 50,000 people from making irresponsible reservations on their properties, in many cases blocking those people from the platform itself. This prevention, at least in theory, helped cut down on the number of COVID parties during the pandemic.

According to The Verge, Airbnb’s head of trust and safety communication, Ben Breit, acknowledged blocked reservations in several cities across the United States, including Dallas, San Diego, and New Orleans. Breit confirmed that this response was an attempt to prevent large gatherings and parties during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic during which many areas banned group activities involving more than a few people.

While some requests for reservations were simply denied or “redirected”, many users were blocked from using Airbnb entirely. Airbnb noted that the number of blocked requests outpaced the number of people who were blocked, signifying that some accounts attempted to make more than one reservation before being removed from the platform.
Airbnb reportedly stated that “Instituting a global ban on parties and events is in the best interest of public health” prior to enacting a total ban on rentals at the beginning of 2020, a decision that gave way to the blocks and redirections in the last 12 months.

The evaluation system used to flag problematic reservations is relatively simple, according to Breit: “If you are under the age of 25 and you don’t have a history of positive reviews, we will not allow you to book an entire home listing local to where you live.”

But Airbnb didn’t entirely remove multiple-body listings or large rentals. The Verge reports that flagged users with the aforementioned criteria were still able to book both small rentals in local locations and larger rentals in reasonably distant locations.

Regardless of the optics here, Airbnb’s policy efficacy can’t be ignored. Multiple cities reported comparatively “quiet” holiday seasons–something that may contribute to Airbnb’s decision to extend their policy through the end of this summer.

The hosting company is also offering increased security measures, such as noise detection and a 24-hour hotline, at a discounted rate to property owners.

As both the vaccine gap and the proliferation of the Delta variant of COVID-19 continue to contribute to outbreaks, one can reasonably expect Airbnb to hold to this policy.

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Tech News

TL;DV summarizes video meetings so folks can catch up in quickly *with* context

(TECHNOLOGY) TL;DV makes catching up on video team meetings slightly more tolerable and easily digestable.

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2021 was the year of virtual meetings, and while there are some perks associated with remote collaboration (I’m looking at you, pair of work pants that I didn’t have to wear once this year), these meetings often feel exponentially more arduous than their dressed-up counterparts. TL;DV, a consolidation app for Google Meet, looks to give back a bit of your time.

TL;DV (an acronym for “Too Long; Didn’t View”) is a Google Chrome recording extension that helps users specify important sections of meetings for anyone who needs to view them asynchronously. Users can tag specific segments in Google Meet sessions, transcribe audio, and leave notes above tagged sections for timestamp purposes, and the subsequent file can be shared via a host of both Google and third-party apps.

While the extension is only available for Google Meet at the time of writing, the TL;DV team has included a link to a survey for Zoom and MS Teams users on their site, thus implying that the team is looking into expanding into those platforms in the future.

The mission behind TL;DV is, according to the website, to empower users to “control how we spend our precious time” in the interest of combatting FOMO and meeting fatigue. By dramatically shortening the amount of time one must spend perusing a meeting recording, they seem well on their way to doing so.

Of course, the issue of human oversight remains. It seems likely that meeting facilitators will drop the ball here and there while tagging sections of the recording, and employees who miss crucial information in a recorded session are sure to be frustrated in the process–just not as frustrated as they might be if they attended the entire meeting live.

The current (free) version of TL;DV is in Beta, so users will have a three-hour cap on their videos. The development team promises a professional version by the end of 2021, with the added bonus of leaving prior recordings available for free for anyone who used the Beta. This is certainly an extension to keep an eye on–whether or not you’re remaining remote in 2022, virtual conferencing is no doubt here to stay.

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Tech News

Hiding from facial recognition is a booming business

(TECH NEWS) ‘Cloaking’ is the new way to hide your face. Companies are making big money designing cloaking apps that thwart your features by adding a layer of make up, clothing, blurring, and even transforming you into your favorite celebrity.

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Facial recognition companies and those who seek to thwart them are currently locked in a grand game of cat and mouse. Though it’s been relentlessly pursued by police, politicians, and technocrats alike, the increasing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, workplaces, and housing complexes remains a widely unpopular phenomenon.

So it’s no surprise that there is big money to be made in the field of “cloaking,” or dodging facial recognition tech – particularly during COVID times while facial coverings are, literally, in fashion.

Take Fawkes, a cloaking app designed by researchers at the University of Chicago. It is named for Guy Fawkes, the 17th century English revolutionary whose likeness was popularized as a symbol of anonymity, and solidarity in V For Vendetta.

Fawkes works by subtly overlaying a celebrity’s facial information over your selfies at the pixel level. To your friends, the changes will go completely unnoticed, but to an artificial intelligence trying to identify your face, you’d theoretically look just like Beyonce.

Fawkes isn’t available to the general public yet, but if you’re looking for strategies to fly under the radar of facial recognition, don’t fret; it is just one example of the ways in which cloaking has entered the mainstream.

Other forms of cloaking have emerged in the forms of Tik Tok makeup trends, clothes that confuse recognition algorithms, tools that automatically blur identifying features on the face, and much more. Since effective facial recognition relies on having as much information about human faces as possible, cloaking enthusiasts like Ben Zhao, Professor of computer science at the University of Chicago and co-developer of Fawkes, hope to make facial recognition less effective against the rest of the population too. In an interview with The New York Times, Zhao asserts, “our [team’s] goal is to make Clearview [AI] go away.”

For the uninitiated, Clearview AI is a start-up that recently became infamous for scraping billions of public photos from the internet and privately using them to build the database for a law enforcement facial recognition tool.

The CEO of Clearview, Hoan Ton-That, claimed that the tool would only be improved by these workarounds and that in long run, cloaking is futile. If that sounds like supervillain talk, you might see why he’s earned himself a reputation similar to the likes of Martin Shkreli or Ajit Pai with his company’s uniquely aggressive approach to data harvesting.

It all feels like the beginning of a cyberpunk western: a story of man vs. machine. The deck is stacked, the rules are undecided, and the world is watching. But so far, you can rest assured that no algorithm has completely outsmarted our own eyeballs… yet.

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