Genius Media vs. Google

It was recently exposed that Google may be copying lyrics from the Genius website for its own benefit after their watermark was found in Google’s lyric boxes. Genius has filed a lawsuit against Google and LyricFind, who provided Google with the lyrics, and is seeking at least $50 million. Reps from Genius notified Google of the watermark issue, but the execs only said they would look into and didn’t comment on why it was there. Genius says the only way the watermark would appear was if the lyrics were directly copied and pasted from the website. I feel Google should be embarrassed at how blatantly they were caught copying from other creators in their attempts to keep users on their site.

This is important to pay attention to, because while it seems like a minor dispute that seems to have done little harm, it continues to add to competitors cases that Google is partaking in anti-competitive practices. They will do anything to keep users on their own sites instead of providing them with the selection of others providing content. It is believed that Google will become a focus for federal and state investigators probing for potential antitrust violations.

When reading the article I was quickly reminded of an interview I watched with the CEO of Yelp, who has been battling Google’s anti-competition practices for years. His company suffered greatly when Google changed their format to show reviews of restaurants directly on the search page without having to click any links or scroll. It seems Google will go to any lengths, even directly ripping off a competitor, to keep website traffic on their content.



Paging Dr. Google

Google now has access to millions of medical records thanks to a new partnership with the Ascension hospital network, and even though the companies intentions are unknown, there are already privacy concerns. The program, named Nightingale, is currently under investigation by federal regulators from the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure it doesn’t violate HIPPA. Both parties involved insist they want to have better care and resources for their patients.

On the podcast, Reset, Christina Farr, a tech and health reporter for CNBC, spoke on how this isn’t new for Google’s habits. She observes that how Google likes to gather as much data as they can and then try and figure out how they can use their engineering powerhouse of a company to suggest products and tools built off the data.

While we may be sharing our health status to Google through our searches, it feels very different to them having information like, whether you have HIV or are at risk for diabetes. There is speculation on what what Google is trying to do, but nothing is certain. One theory is that they want to create a database that could help detect diseases earlier, by using the their large-scale database.

This is not the first time Google has showed interested in the Health care industry. They has Google Health from 2008-2012, which actually allowed users to upload their health records. They also launched Google Cloud Healthcare API in 2018, which is a platform that is supposed to allowed healthcare providers to easily, securely, and instantaneously collaborate while taking care of you.

I personally think it is troubling that Google could have my medical history, while it supposedly anonymous and general information, signs have pointed to names being attached to records. They already have so much information on us, but to gather and have access to data as personal and important as health records could have serious concerns. I think there could even be conflicts of interest in whatever Google decides to do with the data.


Tackling Deepfakes

Twitter has spoken out on how it plans to take on what it describes as “synthetic and manipulated media.” They have released draft guidelines on how it plans to handle deepfakes, but it wants its users to chime in and help shape their potential polices. Twitter deems- any media that has significantly altered or fabricated with the intention to mislead people or misconstrued the original message- as its definition for synthetic and manipulated media, these are often through deepfakes and shallow-fakes.

The current guidelines allow Twitter may place notice, warn people before they share or like, or add a link citing why it is believed the media to be false. If Twitter thinks a deepfake has harmful intentions it can remove the tweet entirely, the site already banned porn deepfakes last year. But none of these guidelines are finalized, and users have until November 27th to give feedback using through surveys and hashtags. The Twitter teams will review the feedback and incorporate it into its guidelines, releasing the finalized version 30 days before they go into full effect.

This is the first time I have seen or heard any social media platform to start taking action against deepfakes and other forms of media manipulation and I am quite honestly impressed. To see Twitter taking a notion on a problem, that might not be too dangerous now, but could cause issues in the foreseeable future is important. Deepfakes and other related media are starting to become more common, but since they haven’t caused major chaos nobody does anything until its too late. To be ahead of the game and prevent any major disasters is so important in the digital age filled of fake news and bad intentions. I also commend Twitter utilizing it user base and allowing the people to tell them what they think should be put in place as guidelines, it means they care about taking the right measures to ensure their people feel protected.


1.5x Viewing Speeds Takes Binge-Watching to New Levels

Netflix announces new feature for its mobile and tablet users only that would allow them to watch shows and movies in 1.5 speed. You can keep watching in normal speed, but also slow it down (0.5x or 0.75) or speed it up (1.25x or 1.5x). This was at first simply just speculation, Keela Robinson, Netflix’s VP seemed to confirm it in a blog post on Monday. But Netflix assures this is just another new feature that they are testing which is something they are always doing, but this mobile feature won’t been seen any time soon as they wait to make decisions based on feedback. I personally don’t know how many users would take advantage of this new addition as I think many people are fine watching shows and movies in their normal speed, but I could be wrong.

This isn’t the only new feature that Netflix has in its back pocket ready for testing. They are working on new playback controls that would allow the brightness to be adjusted without having to manually go to the phone settings. Robinson also said they corrected the audio pitch at slower and faster speeds.

Big names in Hollywood, like director Judd Apatow, have already spoken out against the possible additions to the streaming platform. He claimed, “Distributors don’t get to change the way content is presented.” Director Peyton Reed tweeted that he and every director would fight against this ‘terrible’ idea. It will be interesting to see how Netflix reacts to this initial feedback some from some major Hollywood content creators.


Verizon and Disney+ Team Up

With the release of Disney’s streaming service right around the corner, November 12th, there is no surprise that they are looking for ways to team up with other leaders in the tech industry. Verizon is going to be offering a year of free Disney+ to new and existing unlimited customers, and new Fios home internet customers and new 5G home internet customers. This is not the first time an internet and cable provider has teamed up with a streaming service, Comcast now includes Netflix as a part of package bundles and AT&T’s Direct TV also has deal with Netflix. The new streaming service announced by Apple, Apple TV+, has a deal where if you purchase a new Apple product, you will get a year of the services for free. Hulu, which Disney is a 60% shareholder, has also been put into a bundle deal where customers can get Disney+, Hulu, and Espn+ for $12.99. All of these streaming services are looking for ways to expand their customer base and stand out among the rest.

With the deal with Verizon and the offer of a bundle will give Disney+ millions of customers right from the jump. And with Verizon’s announcement alone, Netflix shares were down 3.7% as of the morning of October 22nd. Disney+ is trying to be able to compete with an already competitive market that is crowded with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and the highly anticipated Apple TV+. Disney’s monthly subscription will be $6.99, which is much cheaper than Netflix current pricing

Articles: CNBC and The Verge

Politicians and Tech Companies: A Tale as old as Facebook

Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced recently that she will refuse any donations larger than $200 dollars from executives in tech and media. This is very on brand for the presidential candidate, as she has already made a promise to breakup larger tech companies like Facebook and Google. She fears that these companies have way too much power in their industry and make it difficult for any competition to enter the market. She also fights against big tech exces using donations to have influence in congress on whether they pass or block certain legislation that impacts their companies.

She has already made herself enemy No. 1 in Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s eyes, as he was recorded saying in a meeting that he would “go to the mat” to fight Warren if she became president. The current Sen. has brought up the idea of separating Instagram and WhatsApp from Facebook in the past and the immediately rubbed Zuckerberg the wrong way, even though ultimately the trio remained intact. She also made a point about how Facebook doesn’t fact check the political ads on the site, and refused to remove a false ad made by the Trump reelection campaign. To prove her point she ran her own false ad and even pointed out that there was a lie within the ad.

Now that the major brands and companies are predominately tech and media based there is no surprise that they would try to use their money and support to gain political preferences. In 2016, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica had one of the largest election based scandals ever, which resulted in a $5 billion fine to Facebook. Politics and the tech industry will never be separate entities again.

Article X


Will Deepfakes lead to doomsday?

Over the past several years the AI technology known as “deepfakes” have become a noticeable threat to the future. People fear that this tech will be used to create chaos and could potentially lead to wars. For now, no real issues have arisen that have caused any national panic, but celebrities and other unsuspecting victims have found their faces being superimposed on the bodies of porn actors. According to research lab, Deep Trace, that are dedicated to looking into the world of deepfakes, there are over 14,678 deepfake videos online, 96% of them being pornographic. Clearly, the technology is not currently being used to cause mass destruction or political disarray on any level, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. Most of the victims to deepfakes of all kinds are Western subjects, but this technology is not just a Western phenomenon. Other videos that use deepfakes of political figures or well-known players in the business world are typically parodies of the subject.

While the current market of deepfakes videos seems to be juvenile and used to fulfill some tech geniuses fantasy, what makes the future so scary is how easy the creation is becoming. Deep Trace found that average users are able to experiment and come up with different algorithms and versions of these videos. These are then being created into reusable codes and transferred with tools a non-expert could navigate. Niche websites like Github, 4chan, and 8chan are examples of there communities of deepfake creators are popping up. While, these parties typically use the software for nonsense work like turning Seth Rogan into Christian Bale seamlessly while doing an interview, there will always be a fear that it will turn into malicious and harmful intentions, like propaganda. George Patrini, leader of Deep Trace lab’s, stated, “And the idea of deepfakes alone is enough to destabilize political processes.”

I have increasingly become aware of the concept and use of deepfakes as I take different media courses over the years and I have become more and more alerted by their potential uses. I have seen stories break where random women have found their face used in porn videos and other celebrities facing the same issues, and while not necessarily a world threatening issue, it is violating and unsettling. I then later saw an example of a deepfake being used on a video of President Donald Trump that made it seem like he was reciting a string of degrading nonsense sentences. While this was supposed to be for comedy I became worried by the idea of someone creating a fake charged with political propaganda that could cause war or worse. Luckily nothing of that nature has been done, but with the political climate becoming increasingly unsteady you never know what people will do.



Facebook is Crumbling- and the endless controversies don’t help

Facebook has a mole and there is now witch hunt within the company to find out who. Over two hours of audio was leaked to The Verge from a all-hands meeting, exposing CEO Zuckerberg ranting about Sen. Warren’s plans to break up the company and how he wants to demolish TikTok. Zuckerberg is often painted in a poor light by media outlets, but this raw uncut audio really puts a bad taste in users mouths. Zuckerberg tries to come off as reserved and composed when in the eye of the public, but this is the first real look the public is getting of him behind close doors.

Clearly the leak shows there are not only issues externally with Facebook, but internally employees aren’t happy either. Transparency is apparently encouraged within the company, but leaks are intolerable. Facebook often reminds employees to never talk to reporters about any issues or scandals going on at the moment or from the past. Anyone who is found to be a leak is terminated, and they even have teams that are meant to just investigate scandals and seek out the ‘lose ends’.

This isn’t the first sign of low morale among employees at Facebook. Back in November the results to a survey were leaked showed that employee morale had dropped across numerous metrics.

Overall, Facebook I think is example No.1 of companies I would never want to work for. The morals and values of the company seem to be non existent or can’t be taken for face value. They don’t seem to have an issue with selling out and invading people’s privacy, which are thing I find troubling.

Alexa’s Show and Tell feature- Accessibility through Technology

The rise in the smart home device has showed rapid increase in sales over the last few years, but companies like Amazon are turning to customer feedback to improve their devices. It was recently revealed that Amazon’s Echo Show will help blind and low-vision users tackle daily challenges. The show and tell feature allows the user to simply hold up an item and ask “Alexa, what am I holding?”, and using the computer vision and machine learning, the device will respond with its best guess. The company worked with the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired to work on research and development. It hopes to help with everyday tasks such as cooking and putting away groceries.

Show and Tell isn’t the only new accessibility update Amazon has rolled out recently, Alexa’s voice speed can now be adjusted to go as slowly or quickly as desired. Other companies seem to be working to integrate more accessibility functions into their devices, for example Comcast built an eye controlled remote to help users with movement issues.

I think it is great that companies are looking for ways to make their devices useful for those handicapped or impaired or just making operating their devices much easier, but it is also in the very early stages. Amazon’s show and tell feature does not seem to be able to be 100% accurate, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. I think we will see more and more smart how devices and remotes move towards more accessible features because I think that is an area of the market that could benefit from these products greatly.


AI: Futuristic Technology Being Programmed with Old Fashioned Views

A recent trend on Twitter blew up, where users uploaded a picture of themselves to the ImageNet Roulette Website and AI would try to caption or guess the type of person they are. The captions or options are supposed to range from anything “computer-user” to “creep” to “enchantress”, but some people fear the technology had biases ingrained into its hardware.

ImageNet is the database in which the AI technology trained with, which was complied in 2009 of 14 million labeled images. The Roulette AI was trained on 2833 sub-categories of “person” to then be able to label the uploaded photos into these sub-categories.

The issues arises when most people of color are getting negative captions or labels to their uploads photos such as, “bad person”, “wrongdoer”, or “offender”. Stephen Bush, an editor for New Statesmen Political, uploaded a picture of him photoshopped in to Napoleon costume and was given the label “Igbo”, and ethnic group from Nigeria.

With this trend exploding across Twitterverse, the creators decide to use this as a way to highlight what could happen if the fundamental date that AI algorithms use is bad or biased. This is important because as we turn more to AI technology we cannot have biases of race, gender, or class ingrained into the system or the technology won’t work in society.