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Battling Big Tech’s advertising monopoly

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Battling Big Tech’s advertising monopoly

The following is adapted from Rep. Ken Buck’s new book Crushed: Big Tech’s War on Free Speech.

The first brilliant idea Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page had was to “crawl” — and trawl — the World Wide Web. Using spiders, it would copy what it found, create vast databases of web content, and then “index” that content, evaluating it for relevancy against search queries. The logic rules driving those relevance evaluations are known as the Google algorithm.

That algorithm is used to return search results. Google then launched its business using other sites’ content. And one of the primary reliable content creators is newspapers.

YES, BAN TIKTOK

In 2018, Google earned an estimated $4.7 billion by including links to newspaper articles in its search results, according to a study by the News Media Alliance. Google doesn’t produce any original news content; earnings are primarily generated by selling targeted ads tied to its search results. This means the content of news articles — searchable words and images — is directly connected to driving ad sales.

According to the study, news articles represented 40 percent of the links on search results. Despite that, Google did not pay a single cent to newspaper publishers for displaying their content and providing links to their stories. In the last decade, Google profits have skyrocketed. Alphabet, the company that now owns Google, reported revenues of $75 billion in Q4 of 2021, of which $62 billion was generated by Google advertising.

By optimizing and selling its ad vision, Google and its Big Tech brothers have stripped local newspapers and magazines of the advertising dollars these community institutions rely on to survive. The drop in ad revenue has proved lethal. More than 60 American dailies and 1,700 weeklies have closed since 2004.

The papers that have survived have seen their news-gathering budgets slashed. This effectively silences speech within communities and shrinks the marketplace of ideas at a grassroots level.

The collapse of local newspapers doesn’t end with the loss of jobs and the elimination of important big news stories. The small stories that unite communities disappear, too. The coverage of church events, town hall meetings, local fairs, and local team sports evaporates. These types of stories help communities define and cement themselves. They are a bonding agent.

Ensuring our free press has the financial strength to operate and fulfill its role as an unimpeded publisher of information is critical to keeping the marketplace of ideas open. To counteract the erosion of the press’s financial stability, initiated in part by Google and Facebook, we need to allow the free press to defend itself.

As crazy as it sounds, newspapers and other news providers are prohibited by the antitrust laws from banning together and negotiating a deal with the monopoly tech platforms. That, apparently, would be unfair — to the monopolies!

You can’t make this stuff up.

One legislative solution that I’ve championed would lift antitrust restrictions against small media companies banding together to negotiate. This will let publishers negotiate and collect from the digital platforms that have greatly profited from news organizations’ work. The proposal provides a four-year safe harbor window to hammer out terms to recoup advertising and subscriptions from digital giants who used news articles to gather data.

Google and Facebook don’t have any incentive to negotiate with deserving members of the media because as it currently stands, the monopolies get their content for free and receive all the revenue. The only leverage that small newspapers can have is to band together and deny Google and Facebook a large quantity of original content. But I hope a legislative solution can be crafted that allows a more even negotiating position.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Ken Buck represents Colorado’s 4th Congressional District.



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Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

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Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A judge in Kenya has ruled that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, can be sued in the East African country.

Meta tried to have the case dropped, arguing that Kenyan courts do not have jurisdiction over their operations, but the labor court judge dismissed that in a ruling on Monday.

A former Facebook moderator in Kenya, Daniel Motaung, is suing the company claiming poor working conditions.

Motaung said that while working as a moderator he was exposed to gruesome content such as rape, torture and beheadings that risked his and colleagues’ mental health.

He said Meta did not offer mental health support to employees, required unreasonably long working hours, and offered minimal pay. Motaung worked in Facebook’s African hub in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, which is operated by Samasource Ltd.

Following the judge’s decision that Meta can be sued in Kenya, the next step in case will be considered by the court on Mar. 8.

Meta is facing a separate court case in which two Ethiopians say hate speech was allowed and even promoted on Facebook amid heated rhetoric over their country’s deadly Tigray conflict.

That lawsuit alleges that Meta hasn’t hired enough content moderators to adequately monitor posts, that it uses an algorithm that prioritizes hateful content, and that it responds more slowly to crises in Africa than elsewhere in the world.

The Associated Press and more than a dozen other media outlets last year reported that Facebook had failed to quickly and effectively moderate hate speech in several places around the world, including in Ethiopia. The reports were based on internal Facebook documents leaked by former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen.

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Mayor Woodards to Present 2023 State of the City Address

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Mayor Woodards to Present 2023 State of the City Address





This year’s theme is “Building Tomorrow Together.”

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Mayor Victoria Woodards will present the 2023 State of the City Address at the Mount Tahoma High School Auditorium (4634 S. 74th St. in Tacoma) on Thursday, March 16, at 6:30 p.m. This year’s theme is “Building Tomorrow Together.” Topics covered during her address will include community safety, affordable housing and homelessness, and Tacoma’s ongoing recovery from the global pandemic.

 

Community members wishing to attend this free, public event in person can visit cityoftacoma.org/stateofthecity for additional information and to register. Ample free parking is available at the venue. Event doors open at 5:30 p.m. 

 

There will be American Sign Language interpreters at the State of the City, which will also be available in Spanish, Vietnamese and American Sign Language via Zoom. It will simulcast in Spanish live on VT Radio Universal at vtradiouniversal.com, on TuneIn Radio and on the VT Radio Universal Facebook page.

Follow the State of the City Address Live on TV Tacoma and Facebook

 

Woodards’ remarks can be viewed on TV Tacoma or tvtacoma.com, and on Facebook Live at facebook.com/cityoftacoma.

 

On Rainier Connect, TV Tacoma is available within Tacoma city limits and in Pierce County:



·      

On channel 512 in high definition



·      

On channel 12 in standard definition



·      

On channel 21 in standard definition in University Place

 

On Comcast, TV Tacoma is available:



·      

On channel 321 in high definition within Tacoma city limits and in Pierce County



·      

On channel 12 in standard definition within Tacoma city limits



·      

On channel 21 in Pierce County



·      

Not available in University Place

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John Carmack Has Some Great Advice About Games Preservation

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John Carmack Has Some Great Advice About Games Preservation

Screenshot: Star Wars | Kotaku

Doom co-creator John Carmack, legendary game designer, rocket guy and VR enthusiast, left Meta/Facebook late last year after a decade working on the company’s virtual reality efforts. Just because he’s gone, though, doesn’t mean the company’s decisions are out of his thoughts.

Accompanying the news last week that Meta had blown through almost $14 billion on failed VR bullshit was the announcement that Echo VR—a game first released on the competing Rift system before its developers were bought by Facebook—would be shutting down.

It was far from the only game to be killed off last week, with Rumbleverse and Knockout City suffering similar fates, their collective departures helping remind us that modern video games have a serious longevity problem, in that once discarded by publishers they’re extremely vulnerable to simply disappearing forever.

It’s a problem that Carmack recently addressed, sending a lengthy statement to UploadVR last week that covers all kinds of angles surrounding Echo VR’s shutdown. The stuff I’m mostly interested in, though, are all the bits about how it’s important for studios to keep old games alive, and that cost and manpower shouldn’t be the only things they’re thinking about when making those decisions.

“Even if there are only ten thousand active users, destroying that user value should be avoided if possible”, he says. “Your company suffers more harm when you take away something dear to a user than you gain in benefit by providing something equally valuable to them or others.”

Of course, his experience with this stuff is largely built on his time at id Software, whose older games—like Doom and Quake—were slightly more popular than some random VR game with only a few thousand users. His basic point is valid though! As he expands on here, with some tips built not just around good PR, but solid development fundamentals as well:

Every game should make sure they still work at some level without central server support. Even when not looking at end of life concerns, being able to work when the internet is down is valuable. If you can support some level of LAN play for a multiplayer game, the door is at least open for people to write proxies in the future. Supporting user-run servers as an option can actually save on hosting costs, and also opens up various community creative avenues.

Be disciplined about your build processes and what you put in your source tree, so there is at least the possibility of making the project open source. Think twice before adding dependencies that you can’t redistribute, and consider testing with stubbed out versions of the things you do use. Don’t do things in your code that wouldn’t be acceptable for the whole world to see. Most of game development is a panicky rush to make things stop falling apart long enough to ship, so it can be hard to dedicated time to fundamental software engineering, but there is a satisfaction to it, and it can pay off with less problematic late stage development.

To its credit, Knockout City—one of the games I mentioned above—is doing exactly this. When its existing version shuts down later this year, a new standalone release will drop that will allow for private servers, in effect letting people keep and play the game until the end of time.

Like Carmack says, there should be more of this, please!

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