Twitch Inks Live-Streaming Deal With Indie Music Companies

Amazon-owned Twitch, which now has 17.5 million average daily visitors, responded to the escalating problem of its users being hit with music copyright takedowns. Under pressure by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), Twitch debuted a beta version of Soundtrack by Twitch, an in-platform music streaming service featuring 1+ million copyright-cleared songs by independent artists that can be used legally and free of charge as background music. Continue reading Twitch Inks Live-Streaming Deal With Indie Music Companies

Facebook Makes New Natural Language Model Open Source

Facebook and AI startup Hugging Face open-sourced their new natural language processing model, Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG), which finds and interprets contextual information on the fly. RAG is now available as a component of the Hugging Face transformer library, integrated with the new Datasets library to offer the indexed knowledge source RAG relies on. According to Facebook, RAG can alter or add to its internal knowledge, letting researchers control the model without needing to retrain it. Continue reading Facebook Makes New Natural Language Model Open Source

Amazon Explore Platform Delivers Unique Virtual Experiences

Amazon debuted Explore, a platform for live classes, sightseeing tours, personal shoppers and other virtual experiences hosted by local experts. The video is one-way but the audio is two-way so the user can ask questions and make requests of the video’s host. Among the offerings are a $129 bagel cooking class and, for $70, a 45-minute virtual tour of a Lima, Peru mansion. At launch, Explore offers 86 experiences across 16 countries, but the platform has potential for significant growth. Other companies offering virtual experiences include Airbnb and fitness company ClassPass. Continue reading Amazon Explore Platform Delivers Unique Virtual Experiences

Federal Government Probes Foreign Investments in U.S. Tech

As part of ongoing security concerns focused on technology, the Trump administration is now re-examining investments in U.S. tech startups by Chinese and other foreign groups, even investments that are years old. Heading the investigation is the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) which, after gathering information, can decide whether to probe specific deals more deeply and even demand that the foreign investor divest. The probe is based on the government’s belief that the United States did not sufficiently scrutinize these investments from China and other countries. Continue reading Federal Government Probes Foreign Investments in U.S. Tech

SpaceX Deploys Starlink Satellites to Washington Burn Zones

SpaceX tested its Starlink satellite in Washington state for emergency responders, the first early use of the service revealed thus far. Initial reports indicate improved setup times and significant decreases in latency. In early August, Washington’s state military, which includes its emergency response division, began using Starlink to bring Internet service to areas destroyed by wildfires via seven Starlink user terminals. Meanwhile, the four-year-old startup Swarm Technologies has placed 21 of its tiny satellites into orbit, to deliver Internet access to all types of devices. Continue reading SpaceX Deploys Starlink Satellites to Washington Burn Zones

Roku Announces Its New Ultra With Support for Dolby Vision

Roku is debuting a new Ultra with, for the first time, Dolby Vision, which plays back HDR (high-dynamic range) content. This new $100 Ultra also features a speedier quad-core processor, more RAM and around 50 percent better Wi-Fi range, although the company has not released full specs on the device. The form factor is now somewhat rounder, to house its revamped wireless antennas, and still features an Ethernet port, an HDMI cable and earbuds. Also new, the Roku Channel is available as a standalone Android and iOS app. Continue reading Roku Announces Its New Ultra With Support for Dolby Vision

YouTube Users Turn to Established and Indie News Channels

In light of the fact that 26 percent of Americans say they get news on YouTube, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey in January of 12,638 U.S. adults who consumed news on YouTube, asking about their experiences. The Pew study analyzed the news channels consumers watched and the content of videos on these channels, relying on a subset of videos published in December 2019. The study found a news environment on YouTube in which established news organizations and indie news channels “thrive side by side.”

Continue reading YouTube Users Turn to Established and Indie News Channels

Smaller Rivals Lose Google Search Engine Auction in the EU

To comply with a 2018 EU antitrust decision, Google now provides Android OS users in Europe a “choice” screen that lists competing search engines to pick as the device’s default. The problem is that numerous smaller search engines that have popular followings in Europe didn’t win spots in large European countries in the latest auction and therefore don’t appear on that list of choices. DuckDuckGo, for example, a U.S.-based search engine that doesn’t collect personal data, only won the auction in four small European countries. Continue reading Smaller Rivals Lose Google Search Engine Auction in the EU

Vocal Facebook Critics Form Their Own Rival Oversight Board

About 25 experts in various fields formed the Real Facebook Oversight Board, an alternative to the one Facebook has promised to launch soon. Hosted by Recode founder and The New York Times contributing opinion writer Kara Swisher, the Real Facebook Oversight Board will hold its first meeting — via Facebook Live — on October 1, to analyze the social media platform’s content moderation, policies and other issues as the 2020 presidential election looms. Meanwhile, Facebook’s board is expected to begin reviewing cases in October. Continue reading Vocal Facebook Critics Form Their Own Rival Oversight Board

App Developers Team to Oppose Apple, Google Store Rules

Thirteen app developers including Basecamp, Epic, Match Group and Spotify formed the nonprofit Coalition for App Fairness to oppose some of the policies of Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store. Coalition spokeswoman Sarah Maxwell said the impetus for forming the group was to recognize “we’re not alone in this, and maybe what we should do is advocate on behalf of everybody.” Apple and Google have been scrutinized by regulators in the U.S. and the European Union; the Justice Department is expected to file an antitrust suit against Google shortly.

Continue reading App Developers Team to Oppose Apple, Google Store Rules

Apple Under Increasing Pressure to Change App Store Fees

Apple’s 30 percent commission on digital goods and services in its App Store has raised the ire of numerous companies, including Netflix and Spotify, which have formed a coalition to promote legal and regulatory changes for app marketplaces. Apple and Epic Games are battling the issue in court, and Spotify filed an antitrust suit in Europe last year, with claims that it unfairly harms competitors. Apple is, however, giving a brief COVID-19-related reprieve on fees to some companies selling virtual experiences. Continue reading Apple Under Increasing Pressure to Change App Store Fees

Amazon Unveils Devices for Gaming, Autos and Smart Home

Amazon announced new smart home devices during its fall hardware event last week, including an expanded Fire Stick collection, redesigned Echo speaker lineup, and Ring in-home drone. Amazon is also launching its Luna cloud gaming service, and introducing Car Cam and Car Alarm to Ring’s lineup. Alexa’s capabilities have expanded, from being able to read books to children to a new security feature, Guard Plus, that can detect sounds around a user’s house and trigger dog-barking to scare off intruders. In times of COVID-19, said Amazon head of devices and services Dave Limp, “our homes have become our offices, our classrooms, movie theaters and more.” Continue reading Amazon Unveils Devices for Gaming, Autos and Smart Home

Walmart Propels Its Digital Future With Walmart+ and TikTok

With its new deal to invest in TikTok (with Oracle), Walmart is taking big steps to create a transformative digital-centric future and a company that can successfully compete with its closest rival, Amazon. One analyst predicted the TikTok deal could “redefine retail” and Cowen retail analyst Oliver Chen called it a “bigger-picture opportunity.” Although it’s not yet clear what Walmart will do with TikTok, it now has another way to engage with consumers not actively shopping online, perhaps gathering data or serving ads. Continue reading Walmart Propels Its Digital Future With Walmart+ and TikTok

Social Media Firms, Marketers Ink Deal to Limit Hate Speech

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter struck a deal with the World Federation of Advertisers to take steps to dampen hate speech and other harmful content on their platforms. In addition to establishing common definitions of such content, the platforms agreed to adopt coordinated reporting standards. Three months ago, many big advertisers boycotted Facebook in the wake of the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests. Facebook also revealed its Oversight Board will begin to hear cases as soon as mid-October. Continue reading Social Media Firms, Marketers Ink Deal to Limit Hate Speech

Proposed Legislation Would Weaken Shields for Social Media

The Justice Department sent Congress draft legislation to weaken Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, leaving Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms vulnerable to legal action for content posted by users. The proposed changes would create liability for platforms that allow “known criminal content” to remain once they are aware of it. President Trump claims that social media companies are biased against conservatives. The platforms have not been protected against some civil suits. Continue reading Proposed Legislation Would Weaken Shields for Social Media

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