Start Up: YouTube woos kids advertisers (again), Soros warns Facebook and Google, HomePod why art thou?, Hawaiian filenames, and more

The NotPetya ransomware came from Russia and had truly dramatic effects on the Maersk shipping business. Photo by portalgda on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Quickly, Friday! I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

YouTube tries to think of the children • Bloomberg

Mark Bergen and Lucas Shaw:


Months of outrage had followed reports that YouTube had let terrorist leaders continue to post recruiting videos and aired the juvenile blunders of young stars PewDiePie (who cracked anti-Semitic jokes) and Logan Paul (who filmed the corpse of an apparent suicide). The bigger problem for advertisers: bewildering, sometimes grotesque videos appearing on YouTube’s dedicated channel for children. Think young kids being force-fed or a knockoff of a popular cartoon pig being tortured in a dentist’s chair.

Google’s solution was to safeguard a tiny slice of YouTube, one sanitized for marketers, with every video vetted by human moderators. The rest of the familiar YouTube free-for-all would have far fewer channels running ads. Advertisers would have less reason to worry that their pitches might run ahead of Nazi humor or child exploitation. “The human review is fantastic,” says Jon Anselmo, chief digital officer with ad giant Omnicom Media Group. “The devil will be in the details.”

YouTube has pledged to hire 10,000 people to root out inappropriate clips and train computers to do the same, and it will beef up the rating system for advertisers paying for its Google Preferred premium package. A second tier of YouTube creators will still be allowed to run ads and get a piece of that revenue, but newbies will have to prove themselves. Other details remain elusive. YouTube said in a statement that it aims to “curb bad actors, stabilize creator revenue, and provide greater assurances to advertisers.”

The creation of this walled garden marks a big change for YouTube, which has always presented itself as a playground where any video creator can become popular enough to make a living.


Interesting. Back in 2014 I criticised YouTube for its lack of age striation; it seems that now there’s actual money (or the absence of it) involved, YouTube is properly interested. Could still do better, though.
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The Hawaii missile alert culprit: poorly chosen file names Medium

Jared Spool:


Saturday morning, January 13, 2018 at 8:09am Hawaii time, a staff member of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s (HIEMA) State Warning Point office was going through their routine shift change checklist. They went through the same checklist every time they started their shift. It was routine. It wasn’t interesting.

At one point, they opened up their IPAWS alert software, retrieved a list of saved “templates” and picked one from a list of 9. What they picked was named PACOM (CDW) — STATE ONLY.

Only, this wasn’t the template file they meant to open. The template they meant to open was named DRILL — PACOM (CDW) — STATE ONLY. Other than the word DRILL in the file name, the two files were nearly identical. I say nearly, because there was one other difference: The drill version sent a message only to test devices, while the non-drill version sent the exact same message to every mobile phone in Hawaii.


…Sending a message to millions of phones about an incoming ballistic missile should, one would think, have a confirmation message. It did. But so did the test message. It also required the user type in a special password to ensure they intended to send the message to every recipient, but so did the test message.


But then in the event of a real missile alert it would be all “who knows the password? WHO KNOWS THE DAMN PASSWORD??” Wouldn’t it?
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LG’s Q4 profits jump 84%, still misses expectations (Update: Full 2017 earnings report) • AndroidAuthority

Matt Adams:


LG has released a full breakdown of its 2017 financial results including figures for Q4. As expected, LG’s mobile division posted operating losses for an eleventh straight quarter. The total loss came in at 213.2bn won ($192m), which is slightly higher than analyst estimates, but also far lower than losses in Q3 2017. LG cited strong sales of the LG V30, other premium phones, and “business structure” changes for the improvement.

While LG’s mobile division continues to struggle, the wider company is booming. Not only did LG acheive a record full-year revenue of 61.4trn won ($55.4bn), its profits soared to 2.47trn won ($2.24bn) – a massive 85% increase compared to 2016.


In the broader scheme of things, the losses on phones make little difference to LG; closing the division would be expensive and there might be some synergies with other divisions. It has now reached the stage where it’s, well, comfortably numb about the ongoing deficits.
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How anti-globalisation switched from a left to a right-wing issue – and where it will go next • The Conversation

Rory Horner, Daniel Haberly, Seth Schindler and Yuko Aoyama (from the universities of Manchester, Sussex, Sheffield and Clark):


Significant proportions of the US and other countries in the Global North have experienced limited, if any, income gains in the most recent era of globalisation. Leading global inequality expert Branko Milanovic has explored changes in real incomes between 1988 and 2008 to show who particularly lost out on relative gains in income. He found two groups lost most: the global upper middle class – those between the 75th and 90th percentiles on the global income distribution, of whom 86% were from advanced economies – and the poorest 5% of the world population.

A different picture emerges in the Global South. People living in Asia accounted for the vast majority of those who experienced relative income gains from 1988 to 2008. In comparison with the 1990s, the Global South now earns a much larger share of world GDP, has more middle-income countries, more middle-class people, less dependency on foreign aid, considerably greater life expectancy, and lower child and maternal mortality.


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Samsung refutes report of Xiaomi overtake, says still top Indian manufacturer ‘by a distance’ • SamMobile

“Adnan F”:


A spokesperson for Samsung has said that “As per the German research firm GfK, which tracks sales to end consumers, in the last (November) quarter, Samsung had a 45% value market share and 40% volume market share.”

This is an important distinction that the company is making here. It’s not going by reports of units shipped by market research firms and instead relying on numbers that indicate just how many handsets were actually sold to the end user. A unit can be shipped and stay on retailers’ shelves for months but that still doesn’t count as a sale for the company.

“Samsung is a full range player and leads the smartphone business across every segment of the India market in 2017. More importantly, Samsung is India’s ‘Most Trusted’ brand. We owe our undisputed leadership to the love and trust of millions of our consumers in India,” the spokesperson added.

Samsung India’s global vice president Asim Warsi also pointed out this distinction in a recent interview. “German research firm GfK reports final consumption which is the most important measure of market share,” adding that while shipment numbers are important, they don’t tell the final market share.


So the suggestion is that Xiaomi is “stuffing the channel” – pushing handsets in which just sit on shelves waiting to be sold. Also, strictly, Samsung *rebutted* the reports; it isn’t a refutation to say there are different ways to measure this stuff. Clearly its pride is wounded though.
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Soros forecasts end for Facebook and Google • FT

Peter Wells and Katie Martin:


More than just the survival of open society, Mr Soros said that “the survival of our entire civilisation is at stake”, and pointed to the rise of leaders such as Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un as having much to do with this, particularly for their brinkmanship around a possible nuclear war.

Having got that off his chest, Mr Soros turned his ire toward giant, monopolistic IT platforms, saying the likes of Google and Facebook had become “obstacles to innovation” whose quest to increase their share of users’ attention was inducing people to give up their autonomy. At the quickening pace Facebook had added its first and then second billion users, it would run out of people to convert within three years, he said.

That could all lead to a more alarming prospect, Mr Soros warned, in the form of alliances between authoritarian states and these giant, data-rich IT monopolies that would combine systems of corporate surveillance, in their infancy, with an already developed system of state-sponsored surveillance.

“The owners of the platform giants consider themselves the masters of the universe, but in fact they are slaves to preserving their dominant position. It is only a matter of time before the global dominance of the US IT monopolies is broken. Davos is a good place to announce that their days are numbered. Regulation and taxation will be their undoing and EU Competition Commissioner Vestager will be their nemesis.”


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Maersk reinstalled 45,000 PCs and 4,000 servers to recover from NotPetya attack • Bleeping Computer

Catalin Cimpanu:


These new details came to light yesterday, while Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chairman of [shipping company] A.P. Møller-Maersk, participated in a panel on securing the future of cyberspace at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.

The incident Snabe was referencing is the NotPetya ransomware outbreak that hit companies around the world.

“I’ll never forget, It was the 27 of June when I was woken up at 4 o’clock in the morning. A call came from the office that we had suffered a cyberattack,” Snabe said.

“The impact of that is that we basically found that we had to reinstall an entire infrastructure,” Snabe continued. “We had to install 4,000 new servers, 45,000 new PCs, 2,500 applications.”

“And that was done in a heroic effort over ten days. Normally —I come from the IT industry— I would say it’s gonna take six months. It took ten days,” Snabe added, referring to his previous position as SAP’s CEO.


The CIA has concluded that Russia was behind NotPetya. Maersk did OK – it handled 80% of normal volume manually.
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“This is serious”: Facebook begins its downward spiral • Vanity Fair

Nick Bilton:


There’s another theory floating around as to why Facebook cares so much about the way it’s impacting the world, and it’s one that I happen to agree with. When Zuckerberg looks into his big-data crystal ball, he can see a troublesome trend occurring. A few years ago, for example, there wasn’t a single person I knew who didn’t have Facebook on their smartphone. These days, it’s the opposite. This is largely anecdotal, but almost everyone I know has deleted at least one social app from their devices. And Facebook is almost always the first to go. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other sneaky privacy-piercing applications are being removed by people who simply feel icky about what these platforms are doing to them, and to society.

Some people are terrified that these services are listening in to their private conversations. (The company’s anti-privacy tentacles go so far as to track the dust on your phone to see who you might be spending time with.) Others are sick of getting into an argument with a long-lost cousin, or that guy from high school who still works in the same coffee shop, over something that Trump said, or a “news” article that is full of more bias and false facts. And then there’s the main reason I think people are abandoning these platforms: Facebook knows us better than we know ourselves, with its algorithms that can predict if we’re going to cheat on our spouse, start looking for a new job, or buy a new water bottle on Amazon in a few weeks. It knows how to send us the exact right number of pop-ups to get our endorphins going, or not show us how many Likes we really have to set off our insecurities. As a society, we feel like we’re at war with a computer algorithm, and the only winning move is not to play.


It’s true; I deleted the Facebook app from my phone literally years ago. (If I go there on mobile, it’s via the website.) Instagram annoys the hell out of me because of its algorithmic feed; I’d like to see what people have posted just now, not what an algorithm thinks I’d like. I realised the other day that if Twitter moved to an algorithmic feed I’d feel like giving it up.

Bilton thinks there’s even a vague possibility Facebook could be extinct – or split from Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp – in five years.
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Apple HomePod: tell Me where You come from, I will tell You who You are • Tech.pinions

Carolina Milanesi:


It will be interesting to see how Apple deals with the shared music experience with HomePod. Will we be able to train Siri to recognize different voices and therefore set up different profiles? Or will HomePod be linked to one phone and one profile but everybody could ask Siri anything music related? What about HomeKit? Will I be the lady of the house or will the whole family be able to turn the lights on and off?

Building a relationship with a personal assistant takes time and trust but should be more straightforward to set up from a technology perspective. When shared, the complexity that an assistant will have to deal with grows. No one has done that elegantly thus far other than for very top level actions, so Apple is not alone in having to figure this out. That is, of course, if Apple is interested in a communal Siri. Historically, Apple has been more focused on personal experiences than shared ones, mostly because those experiences were starting from a personal device.

If I am right and HomePod will be a music-first kind of device, I also start to wonder whether or not Apple believes in ambient computing. I certainly think, Apple believes in giving people options when it comes to how they interact with Siri, but they might not believe that smart home interactions and the value of an assistant can only be channeled through voice. This might explain why Siri’s skills and HomeKit’s support are not added at the same pace as we have seen with Amazon and Google.

We are still at the very beginning of this smart home, voice first and ambient computing roll out and I think it is hard to believe we know what consumers will eventually settle on. Right now, it is natural to think that because you can do more with a specific assistant that assistant is more advanced. Over time, however, we might not appreciate an assistant that is the Jack of all trades, and we might even be less trusting of an assistant that cracks a joke over one that is more focused and gets the job done.


Lots of people are puzzling over how other people are going to see the HomePod, and how it’s going to function. Not that Google Home has that nailed down either. Amazon has a lot of this space – though how *big* is it? How much do we want to talk to the walls?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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