Advertisers Blacklist Hard News, Migrate to Lifestyle Pubs

To avoid having their ads appear next to offensive online material, companies now stipulate the type of web content — or even specific websites — they want to avoid. Blacklists have always existed but are getting longer and more specific for many advertisers. That’s a problem for numerous large and small news publishers, who find their outlets avoided by advertisers in favor of less controversial lifestyle publications. Colgate-Palmolive, Subway and McDonald’s are among many companies blocking digital ads in hard news. Continue reading Advertisers Blacklist Hard News, Migrate to Lifestyle Pubs

Google Assistant Wins Top Spot in Loup Ventures IQ Test

In Loup Ventures’ 2019 Digital Assistant IQ Test, comprised of 800 questions, Google Assistant came in first, understanding 100 percent of the questions and answering 92.9 percent of them accurately. Last year, Google Assistant, also top-ranked, answered 85.5 percent correctly. Apple’s Siri also improved, understanding 99.8 percent of the questions (versus 2018’s 99 percent) and correctly answering 83.1 percent of the time (versus 2018’s 78.5 percent). Amazon’s Alexa came in third. Continue reading Google Assistant Wins Top Spot in Loup Ventures IQ Test

Ad-Supported YouTube Originals to Be Free For Everyone

YouTube has released new details regarding its previously announced transition to ad-supported free content to be made available via YouTube Originals. According to a statement from the YouTube team: “New YouTube Originals series, movies, and live events released after September 24, 2019 will be made available to non-members to watch for free, with ads. For series, members will get immediate access to every episode of a new season, while non-members will have to wait for each new episode to be released.” Continue reading Ad-Supported YouTube Originals to Be Free For Everyone

Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

A bipartisan group of Congress members castigated Facebook for hiring contractors to transcribe audio clips and urged regulation to prevent it in the future. The transcriptions were made to help Facebook improve its artificial intelligence-enabled speech recognition, and are part of a move to improve the capabilities of voice assistants (Amazon, Apple and Google are among companies that have taken similar approaches). Last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) circulated a draft law that would impose steep fines and even prison for executives who failed to protect users’ personal data. Continue reading Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

FTC Chair Open to Option of Breaking Up Major Tech Firms

Federal Trade Commission chair Joe Simons stated that, in the face of anti-competitive and antitrust behavior, he would be willing to break up the big tech companies, although, “it’s not ideal because it’s messy.” He’s head of a task force to examine these behemoths, including a close look at whether Facebook acquired startups, such as Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, to stifle competition. The FTC approved both purchases. The FTC is working in parallel with the Justice Department’s antitrust unit. Continue reading FTC Chair Open to Option of Breaking Up Major Tech Firms

Google Search Updates Plan to Improve Podcast Discovery

Google now makes it easier for users to find individual podcasts in search results, showing potential episodes that fit search terms and playing back those podcasts. Users will have to ask Google or Google Assistant for podcasts about that particular topic — that is, “find a podcast on golden retrievers” — which will then open in Google Podcasts’ web app. Google, which houses a 2+ million podcast index, said it will eventually support third-party playback and drop the “podcast” search term requirement. Continue reading Google Search Updates Plan to Improve Podcast Discovery

Draft Executive Order Gives FCC, FTC Sway Over Internet

According to sources, the White House drafted an executive order that would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to determine how Facebook, Twitter and other large tech companies curate their websites. The FCC would be tasked with developing regulations on how (and when) the law protects social media platforms when they remove or suppress content, and also charges the Federal Trade Commission with taking the new regulations into account when investigating or suing these companies. Continue reading Draft Executive Order Gives FCC, FTC Sway Over Internet

Huawei Reveals Info on Harmony, Its Alternative to Android

Huawei Technologies released details on HarmonyOS, its new operating system to replace Google’s Android on its smartphones and other devices. The Chinese company created its own OS in anticipation of the U.S. government’s expanded technology blacklist. Huawei consumer device business chief Richard Yu said the company would prefer to run Android but is ready to switch its phones to HarmonyOS “in just one or two days” if necessary. According to Yu, the open-source HarmonyOS will also work on smartwatches and other connected home devices. Continue reading Huawei Reveals Info on Harmony, Its Alternative to Android

Verizon to Sell Tumblr to WordPress Owner Automattic Inc.

Verizon announced that it is selling New York-based Tumblr to WordPress parent company Automattic Inc. Terms of the deal have not been formally announced, although some reports suggest that Automattic paid less than $3 million. Verizon purchased Tumblr in 2017 following its Yahoo acquisition; Yahoo paid $1.1 billion for the blogging platform four years earlier. Today, Tumblr is an active social networking hub and home to 475 million blogs. While it has a dedicated community, it does not share the same cultural impact as platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Continue reading Verizon to Sell Tumblr to WordPress Owner Automattic Inc.

Latest Facebook Pitch to Publishers Offers Licensing Fees

Facebook, in preparation for a news section due to launch later this year, has offered news outlets as much as $3 million to license headlines and article previews. According to sources, Facebook has pitched Disney’s ABC News, Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones, The Washington Post and Bloomberg, for deals that would last for three years. Google already offers AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) allowing articles to load quickly on smartphones, and Snapchat has revenue-sharing deals with publishers on its “Discover” tab. Continue reading Latest Facebook Pitch to Publishers Offers Licensing Fees

How Apple and Huawei Compare in Manufacturing Devices

Huawei Technologies unveiled its anticipated in-house software it hopes will replace Google’s Android. The new Harmony operating system (formerly code-named “Ark,” Chinese name “Hongmeng”) is evidence of Huawei’s move towards self-reliance in the face of U.S. sanctions against the sale of U.S. components to the company and the escalating trade war between the two countries. In fact, Huawei’s new emphasis on autonomy is similar to that of Apple, which bought Intel’s modem manufacturing unit and also attempts to bulletproof its pipeline in an uncertain economic environment. Continue reading How Apple and Huawei Compare in Manufacturing Devices

Streaming Bundle to Feature Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, Hulu

Starting November 12, Disney plans to offer consumers a $12.99-per-month streaming bundle that includes Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu’s ad-supported tier. November 12 will mark the U.S. debut of the anticipated Disney Plus service. Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the bundle during the company’s most recent earnings call with Wall Street. According to Iger, Disney is in discussions with Amazon, Apple and Google to offer Disney Plus via additional platforms. “We think it’s important to achieve scale relatively quickly and they’ll be an important part of that,” he said. Continue reading Streaming Bundle to Feature Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, Hulu

Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Google is pausing Google Assistant voice transcriptions in the European Union for at least three months. In mid-July, it admitted that about 1,000 private communications were made available to human contractors evaluating Assistant’s speech recognition accuracy, revealing personal and private information. A Google spokesperson reported that the company ceased voice transcription involving human moderators after learning of additional leaks in the Netherlands. Amazon will allow Alexa users to opt out of the human review of recordings and Apple has halted its program allowing human contractors to listen in on Siri recordings. Continue reading Google Stops Human Review of Assistant Voice Clips in EU

Google’s Upcoming Pixel 4 to Feature Gesture Technology

Google plans to introduce its next smartphone, the Pixel 4, with new gesture technology. The company, betting that gestures will be the “next big thing” after touchscreens, dubbed the controls “Motion Sense,” and unveiled a video showing controls such as blinking and hand waving. When Pixel 4 is debuted in October, its Motion Sense will turn off alarms, skip songs, and silence phone calls. Gesture technology is expected to be a dramatic change in how we interface not just with phones, but many other electronic devices. Continue reading Google’s Upcoming Pixel 4 to Feature Gesture Technology

Apple Ends Practice of Humans Monitoring Siri Recordings

Apple will no longer allow human contractors to listen in on users’ Siri recordings to “grade” them, and will not resume the program until it has completed a “thorough review.” The company also stated that, as part of a future update, users will be able to opt out of the quality assurance program. Apple told users that Siri data might be used to improve their experience, but not that humans would be listening to it. Most of the compromised confidential information was recorded via an accidental trigger of Siri. Continue reading Apple Ends Practice of Humans Monitoring Siri Recordings

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