Good Monday morning. It’s December 21st. This is the last issue of Spotlight this year. We will see you back here after all the celebrating. Wear a mask if you’re out and about. Get the vaccine if you can. I want you around for a very long time.
Today’s Spotlight is 1,368 words — about a 5 minute read.
1. News to Know Now
a. Facebook restarted some political advertising, but they are limited to the U.S. Senate elections in Georgia. This is a continuing problem for non profit organizations during their biggest fundraising season. Facebook defines organizations working in civil rights, the environment, health care, security, gun violence prevention, and education as political advertisers. They have not been able to advertise — even for fundraising purposes — since the polls closed on Election Day.
b. Adult website Pornhub removed all content from its website that was not uploaded by one of its partners or models. The company scrambled fast after New York Times columnist Nick Kristof published an essay on December 4 about nonconsensual content that might be on the site. The company denied the charge, but quickly instituted a policy change when Mastercard and Visa began investigating whether they would continue to accept payments on the site. Pornhub and its competitors have some of the largest volume of web traffic in the world. They get more monthly visitors than PayPal, Spotify, Wikipedia, and every major bank and media enterprise. The website logged 42 billion visits last year, a daily rate of 115 million.
c. Amazon’s Alexa assistant is now a real-time translator for people speaking English and one of these languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Hindi. A user can ask Alexa to begin translating, and the device (including the phone app) will translate both sides of the conversation.
2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News
Johns Hopkins Dashboard or Animations
COVID-19 Forecast Hub
Google County Level Mobility Reports
Long-Term Care COVID Tracker
NPR’s County-Level Hospital Tracker
COVID-19 Tech News
Clever Strategy: Distribute Covid Aid With Satellite Data – Wired
Debunked Covid Myths Survive Online Despite Facts – The Associated Press
SimpliSafe Offers Social Distancing Sweater – MediaPost
Social Media Already Losing Vaccine Misinfo Fight – Recode
3. Search Engine News
Data Google Provided
- Google confirmed last Wednesday that its Core Update rollout finished. That’s a big update that Google makes several times a year. You should annotate your search reports now to indicate that Google rolled out a major update between December 3 and December 16.
- Search Engine Land reported that Google is now testing a website results section on Google Maps. That’s big news for all and huge for retail.
- Google announced that its Augmented Reality features in search now allow you to project Baby Yoda into images of your room or to test different cosmetics on your face. Not one to wear makeup, I was more interested in Baby Yoda, but Google is regularly updating its AR capabilities so be thinking about how your organization can leverage that.
What Google Debunked
- Responding to a user question on Twitter, Googler John Mueller said that Google does not prioritize any particular publishing platform for indexing. He continued, “It’s not uncommon to see some pages from new sites get crawled quickly, and old sites to get crawled slowly (say if we haven’t seen useful changes there in a long time). It’s not the rule, but it can happen.” (h/t SEO Roundtable)
4. In the Spotlight — Google Advertising Lawsuit Filed
If you’re playing the home version of the “Let’s Break Up The World’s Largest Search Engine Game,” regulators sued Google twice last week, including filing a highly anticipated Google advertising lawsuit.
Here’s what’s going on:
The first suit: Distribution and Access — October.
The Department of Justice joined with multiple states in alleging that Google pays billions of dollars each year to ensure that it functions as the internet’s gatekeeper. Google was accused of behaving in an anticompetitive manner because it acted in a way that denied competitors access to mobile devices and other online placements.
The second suit: Advertising — December 2020
This Google advertising lawsuit was filed by nine Republican state attorneys general with Texas’ Ken Paxton in the lead. The suit in Texas alleges that Google’s advertising reach harms consumers by raising costs for companies promoting their goods and services. The advertising suit also claims that Google and Facebook colluded to control the digital advertising market.
The third suit: Preferential Search Results — December 2020
Thirty-eight states and territories filed a complaint alleging that Google’s search results unfairly show the company’s products that compete with advertisers. The suit accuses the company of creating entry barriers that require companies providing similar services to pay Google for advertising to be shown higher in the search results.
Everyone Else — Now & 2021
The FTC notified nine Big Tech companies that it wants specific information regarding collection and use of user data, advertising targeting, algorithms that determine what content is shown, market and analytics research regarding user engagement, and business practices related to children and teens. The nine companies that must furnish the data within 45 days are Amazon, TikTok, Discord, Facebook, Reddit, Snap, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube.
Our Take: The Google advertising lawsuit is the big one because advertising generates the revenue that pays for nearly everything else. This is also the suit alleging Google and Facebook collusion. That explosive revelation defines the narrative for all actions against either company. The FTC is also conducting a pretty broad fishing expedition. Remember that the FTC is independent and bipartisan. Their activity will not change much if at all in a new Biden administration.
5. Debunked — Surgeon General on Vaccines
Outgoing Surgeon General Jerome Adams was interviewed by Yahoo Finance on Wednesday and did a good job acknowledging concerns about the vaccine with this statement:
“I keep saying it’s OK to have questions. Because there are some real harms that have been done to people of color in the past in the name of science by the government, by medical officials, the Tuskegee experiment, Henrietta Lacks who got her cells taken without her permission. And so people rightly have some distrust based on what’s happened historically.”
Read the short but worthwhile interview here.
6. Following Up — Walmart Tests Driverless Trucks
We’ve been telling you about Walmart’s aggressive plans to keep up with Amazon on delivery. Last week the company announced that it is using a multi-temperature truck to move items between a fulfillment center and store two miles apart. The trucks have been operating with a supervising human driver and logged 70,000 miles. Now they’ll be testing the route without a driver.
7. Protip — Easiest Video Chat Services for Families
Yeah, sure, you’re a Zoom expert, but you’ll undoubtedly be talking with people who aren’t as well versed at video conferencing.
Review Geek breaks down Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft options.
Screening Room – Beerman
9. Coffee Break — The Tops in 2020
You apparently love our animal-themed coffee breaks more than any others. After crunching the data, it was our furry friends (along with one slimy one) that you clicked on the most. Here are the most popular 2020 Coffee Breaks:
1. We looked into moose licking road salt from cars, and it’s true. This great Canadian segment shows one of the very large creatures in action. It’s on YouTube.
2. Brod, the adorable Bernese Mountain Dog who lives with Irish President Michael D. Higgins, crashed an early March International Women’s Day event and looked for his human. Once he found him, he plopped down and demanded belly rubs. Of course there is video.
3. Back to Canada we go for a recent CBC documentary showing an octopus interacting with a human handler. See a one minute long clip on Twitter here.
4. Sometimes you just have to let loose and do what you love. That’s the lesson from Leny the Golden Retriever as he runs up a hill to slide down and then dashes up again. Watch Leny here on a short loop.
I’ll let myself out. Enjoy.
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