Amazon Opens Stage 15: New LA Virtual Production Facility

Amazon Studios has officially opened its 34,000-square-foot virtual production stage in Culver City, California. On hand for the Monday ribbon-cutting ceremony was director Reginald Hudlin, whose Eddie Murphy-starrer “Candy Cane Lane” will be the first feature to shoot there. Once the set for films including “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “RoboCop,” Stage 15 has undergone a transformation from its original 1940 configuration, now housing a wall of more than 3,000 LED panels as well as 100 motion capture cameras in what is LA’s largest virtual production stage. Continue reading Amazon Opens Stage 15: New LA Virtual Production Facility

Cryptocurrency Implosion Continues with BlockFi Bankruptcy

The fallout from cryptocurrency exchange FTX’s implosion continues, as BlockFi becomes the latest crypto lender to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, in the wake of similar moves by Voyager and Celsius. BlockFi, which was to have been acquired by FTX, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey indicating more than 100,000 creditors, and liabilities combined with assets that range from $1 billion to $10 billion. An outstanding loan to Sam Bankman-Fried’s bankrupt American division FTX US for $275 million was among the liabilities. Continue reading Cryptocurrency Implosion Continues with BlockFi Bankruptcy

Samsung 5-Year Plan Speeds Advanced-Chipmaking Timeline

Samsung wants to dominate the global market for advanced semiconductors, unveiling plans to begin producing chips with a 2-nanometer spec in 2025 and launching into the even more advanced 1.4-nanometer market in 2027. The timeline takes the South Korean company beyond the 3-nanometer chip production it began in June. Samsung says it will more than triple production capacity in five years, positioning it to challenge Taiwan’s TSMC in terms of volume, and potentially surpass it in the high-end market for “smart chips.” TSMC said it will mass produce 3nm chips this year and start 2nm production by 2025. Continue reading Samsung 5-Year Plan Speeds Advanced-Chipmaking Timeline

Streaming Drives Massive Hollywood Soundstage Expansion

The streaming wars are spurring a content surge that is driving a demand for production space. The latest beneficiary of that is Television Center, a six-acre Art Deco complex on Romaine Street in Hollywood. The former home of the Technicolor Hollywood film lab is being remade as Echelon at Television Center in a $600-million makeover courtesy of Bardas Investment Group and Bain Capital Real Estate. Plans are underway for a complex of offices and a 620,000-square-foot studio with four soundstages and underground parking for more than 1,000 cars, spanning two city blocks. This is one of several production facilities in the planning stages. Continue reading Streaming Drives Massive Hollywood Soundstage Expansion

Netflix Expands Games Initiative with a New Studio in Finland

Netflix has made some budgetary cuts recently, but not in gaming. After three acquisitions, the company is building its first game studio from scratch. The new unit will be Netflix’s second gaming outfit in Finland, and the company has hired Zynga’s Marko Lastikka to run it. Earlier this year, the streamer acquired the Helsinki-based Next Games. The company’s mobile games portfolio also includes developers Boss Fight Entertainment in Allen, Texas and Glendale, California’s Night School Studio. Helsinki “is home to some of the best game talent in the world,” according to Netflix VP of game studios Amir Rahimi. Continue reading Netflix Expands Games Initiative with a New Studio in Finland

Biden Calls on Congress to Cease Immunity for Social Media

President Biden welcomed guests to the White House last week for the inaugural United We Stand Summit, an event to combat hate speech and violence. “There are core values that should bring us together as Americans, and one of them is standing together against hate, racism, bigotry, and violence that have long haunted and plagued our nation,” Biden told the bipartisan group. Participants gave the president a standing ovation when he specified that he will work to “hold social media companies accountable for spreading hate.” “I’m calling on Congress to get rid of special immunity for social media companies and impose much stronger transparency requirements,” Biden said. Continue reading Biden Calls on Congress to Cease Immunity for Social Media

California Governor Signs Online Child Protection Bill into Law

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act into law last week, making his state the first in the nation to adopt online child safety measures. The bipartisan legislation requires online platforms to default to privacy and safety settings that protect children’s mental and physical health. The new law, cosponsored by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (D-15th District) and Jordan Cunningham (R-35th District), prohibits companies that provide online services and products in California from using a child’s personal information and forbids collecting, selling, or retaining a child’s geolocation, among other things. Continue reading California Governor Signs Online Child Protection Bill into Law

TikTok on the Hot Seat at Senate Homeland Security Hearing

Executives from four social media giants defended the privacy, security and content moderation protocols of their platforms to the Senate Homeland Security Committee Wednesday. In her first appearance before Congress, TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas was grilled on whether the short-form video app shares data about American citizens with the Chinese government. ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is based in Beijing, and its potential censorship of user content was another area of concern. Questions for the group — which included representatives from Meta Platforms, YouTube and Twitter — ranged from extremists to biometrics. Continue reading TikTok on the Hot Seat at Senate Homeland Security Hearing

California Attorney General Files Antitrust Suit Against Amazon

California attorney general Rob Bonta has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon, claiming the e-tailer has managed to bend competition and pricing to its will. Only about 25 million of Amazon’s 147 million U.S. customers are domiciled in California, but if the measure succeeds it could impact regulations across the country and across the globe. “For years, California consumers have paid more for their online purchases because of Amazon’s anticompetitive contracting practices,” Bonta said Wednesday. “Amazon’s market dominance, allowing the company to make increasingly untenable demands on its merchants,” resulted in “higher prices and more control.” Continue reading California Attorney General Files Antitrust Suit Against Amazon

Aalyria: Google Spinout Plans to Deliver High-Speed Internet

Google’s Project Loon, a plan to use balloons to beam broadband Internet to unserved areas, was shut down in 2021 after eight years, but Loon’s core technologies have propelled a spinout, Aalyria, which is developing advanced networking and laser communications that far exceed anything available today, extending connectivity where there is no infrastructure “at an exponentially greater scale and speed,” according to the company. Aalyria’s first commercial client is the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a division of the U.S. Department of Defense that awarded an $8 million contract to develop high-speed Internet in space. Continue reading Aalyria: Google Spinout Plans to Deliver High-Speed Internet

California’s Online Child Safety Bill Could Set New Standards

A first of its kind U.S. proposal to protecting children online cleared the California Legislature Tuesday and was sent to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom. The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act will require social media platforms to implement guardrails for users under 18. The new rules will curb risks — such as allowing strangers to message children — and require changes to recommendation algorithms and ad targeting where minors are concerned. The bill was drafted following Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s 2021 congressional testimony about the negative effects of social media on children’s mental health. Continue reading California’s Online Child Safety Bill Could Set New Standards

U.S. Cities Are Luring Silicon Valley Firms and Tech Workers

Tech workers are adjusting to new hiring conditions, with the larger firms in traditional digital power corridors said to be cutting back while diverse cities step-up to attract new businesses that can boost the local economy. Hiring freezes and layoffs among larger tech firms such as Apple, Netflix and Twitter are meant to mitigate fear of a looming recession. Into the void comes an increasingly aggressive phalanx of cities and towns across the U.S. providing grants and other perks to attract companies. The idea is businesses bring a tax base and staff can work remotely or take advantage of cost savings by relocating to more affordable markets. Continue reading U.S. Cities Are Luring Silicon Valley Firms and Tech Workers

Online Child Safety Gains Steam at State and Federal Levels

Online privacy protections for consumers are in focus on Capitol Hill, with the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) getting particular attention. A coalition of more than 100 organizations, including Fairplay and the American Psychological Association are calling on senators to advance KOSA this month. Co-sponsored by senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), the legislation would require social media platforms to conduct annual audits to identify risks to minors as well as more concrete steps like opting out of algorithmic recommendations and disabling “addictive” features.  Continue reading Online Child Safety Gains Steam at State and Federal Levels

Massachusetts Court Objects to Gig Worker Ballot Measure

A proposed Massachusetts ballot initiative designating gig drivers as independent contractors was nixed by a state court that deemed it an attempt to avoid liability by companies like Uber and Lyft in the event of accident or crime. The Tuesday ruling effectively halted a $17.8 million campaign in support of a bill the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said violates the State Constitution, with hidden language excepting drivers from being “an employee or agent” of a gig company. The move is the latest in a series of skirmishes between gig companies and local governments.  Continue reading Massachusetts Court Objects to Gig Worker Ballot Measure

Big Tech Fights Antitrust Bill as Congress Moves Toward Vote

Big Tech is pulling out all the stops to prevent Congress from signing the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO) into law before the midterm elections. Amazon and Alphabet have rallied forces in opposition to the antitrust measure whose principal goal is to halt “self-preferencing,” or the ability of online giants to use their market strength in one area to help boost sideline subsidiaries through preferential treatment. For instance, Alphabet using its wholly-owned search engine Google to promote its own shopping or travel products. Continue reading Big Tech Fights Antitrust Bill as Congress Moves Toward Vote