Good Monday Morning

It’s November 6th. Tomorrow is Election Day. All politics are local and likely affect your day-to-day life more than national elections. has a sample ballot and directions to your polling place. Please vote.

Today’s Spotlight is 731 words — about 3 minutes to read.

Headlines to Know

  • EU regulators extended a ban on Facebook and Instagram’s targeted advertising across Europe after privacy compliance failures.
  • Uber and Lyft agreed to pay $328 million in New York’s largest wage-theft case, compensating drivers who were cheated out of earnings and benefits.
  • Google introduced a new ‘small business’ label on Search and Maps to help shoppers connect with local businesses, and will also include AI-driven product images and enhanced business panels.

Spotlight on Short Video’s Social Shakeup

Who’s Who:  TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram dominate the social video landscape. Each is vying for a bigger slice of the daily screen time pie and (more importantly) revenue.

TikTok’s consideration of grocery sales signals a shift from mere content to comprehensive user utility.

YouTube countered with an aggressive stance against ad blockers, indirectly reinforcing its ad-revenue model.

Instagram is increasing Reels’ time limits and tightening the linkage it has to Threads and Facebook.

Screen Time Tug-of-War: They’re not just battling for views; they’re wrestling to become the go-to app for both creators and consumers. TikTok’s engagement rates and cultural impact are potent, but YouTube’s expansive content and Google-backed infrastructure present a formidable challenge. Instagram, with its Facebook lineage, isn’t far behind either. 

Converging Course: The overarching theme? Each platform is evolving beyond its original form. Short-form video is just the hook; the goal is a seamless integration of content, commerce, and technology to lock users into their ecosystems, blurring lines between social media, retail, and entertainment.

Strategic Stakes: It’s a high-stakes game where the prize is user dependency. As they encroach on each other’s turf, the question looms—will users prefer a jack-of-all-trades app, or will the dilution of their core features backfire? The answer lies in how effectively each can integrate new services without diluting their brand essence.

Practical AI

Quotable“A poll should not have appeared alongside an article of this nature, and we are taking steps to help prevent this kind of error from reoccurring in the future.”

— Microsoft’s statement following an AI generated poll that asked news readers to surmise about the cause of a woman’s death reported in an adjacent article.

Biden Signs AI Order: The executive order mandates that AI platform developers report on safety testing via a standardized “red-teaming” process.

 Tool of the Week: Glaze (and soon to be released Nightshade) help protect visual artists’ work by subtly altering the machine readable sections to stop derivations. 

Did That Really Happen — No, IRS Cuts Don’t Offset Israeli Aid

Despite claims in viral social media memes, a bill that proposes exchanging $14.3 billion in Israeli military aid in place of an equivalent amount in IRS funding is wrong. Multiple economics experts say that taxpayers could lose upward of $30 billion in the swap because the IRS funds are earmarked to chase tax cheats and close loopholes.

Following Up — Spotify to Exclude Most Songs from Royalties

We previously wrote at length about the illusion of ownership and how the modern internet has upended traditional artist payouts. Now, despite increasing subscription prices, Spotify’s proposed 2024 royalties will exclude songs with fewer than 1,000 streams each year. This move would hurt independent artists and do little to stop what critics claim is rampant fraud.

Screening Room — Travolta’s Holiday Night Fever for Capital One

The minute long spot Includes the Bee Gees hit & ’77 movie actress Donna Pescow in a cameo.

Science Fiction World — Google Does Your Math Homework Now

Google can now show students step-by-step instructions for solving math problems that include trigonometry and calculus. The company claims that it can even handle word problems in physics. 

Coffee Break — The Invisible Epidemic

Data scientists at The Pudding have brought stunning visuals to the information collected in the American Time Use Survey. One conclusion: everyone’s different, but social interactivity continues to decrease.

Sign of the Times

Good Monday Morning

It’s October 30th. Happy Halloween tomorrow with a comforting note: researchers cannot find any instances of children ever being seriously harmed or killed by doctored trick-or-treat candy. 

Today’s Spotlight is 839 words — about 3 minutes to read.

Headlines to Know

  • California authorities suspended Cruise’s robotaxi permits following an incident involving one of its driverless vehicles. 
  • Elon Musk boorishly trolled Wikipedia during its annual fundraising campaign by offering to make a $1 billion donation if the company changed the service’s name to Dickipedia. Separately, Fidelity further wrote down the value of its holdings in Musk’s X and has now devalued the original investment by 65% in under 1 year. 
  • Google announced eight measures to bolster daily task accessibility, with significant emphasis on voice control and customizable settings for individual functional needs.

Spotlight on Meta Sued Over Kids’ Health

Forty-one states and the District of Columbia filed suit against Meta, alleging that the mental health of children is harmed by addictive features such as harvesting personal data about children and creating tactics designed to keep them online longer that are built into the systems.

This legal challenge highlights the culmination of growing concerns surrounding Meta’s child-centric offerings like Messenger Kids and the proposed Instagram for Kids, programs that drew strong opposition from psychologists and other experts, who urged Meta to abandon them.

Documents provided by corporate whistleblower Frances Haugen in 2021 led to bipartisan outrage in Congress and days of headlines, illuminating Meta’s internal deliberations on their findings regarding children’s mental health impacts. The scrutiny, intensified by Haugen’s revelations and the planned services for children under the age of 13, eventually derailed those plans.

One damning internal slide read, “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”

As this blockbuster case unfolds over the coming months, Meta is sure to face withering criticism over more than 5 years of negative headlines related to privacy and child safety. Repercussions or scrutiny will also undoubtedly extend to other popular networks among children, including YouTube, Snap, and TikTok. T

Practical AI

Quotable“There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording.”

— Paul McCartney, in a statement describing “Now and Then”, a song to be released this week after AI correction allowed producers to use long obscured vocals.

Google Bets On Anthropic:  Following Microsoft’s $10 billion investment in ChatGPT maker Open AI, Google announced a $2 billion investment in competitor Anthropic.

 Tool of the Week: Canva’s new Magic Studio does all sorts of nifty tricks, including translation, repurposing past creative, text-to-video, and lasso-style tools. 

Did That Really Happen — People Are Not Flying to Austria Instead of Australia 

A funny viral meme claimed that a special counter at Salzburg, Austria’s airport reroutes 100 passengers each year who meant to fly to Australia.  It may well happen, but the Washington Post confirmed the numbers are not tracked nor is there such a counter.

Following Up — MGM’s Costly Hack 

MGM Resorts said that the computer intrusion it suffered after a help desk employee inadvertently allowed a non-employee network access will cost the company $100 million in lost profit.

Protip — Going Off Grid with a Phone

The Markup has created an easy-to-use guide that shows how to use a cell phone and remain off-grid. Caveat: it’s not just burner phones or one time so you have to seriously want to do this. But it’s a great thought experiment read too.

Screening Room — De Niro & Butterfield for Uber One

Science Fiction World — Space Pollution Fine

The FCC has fined Dish Network $150,000 for failing to move its now defunct EchoStar-7 satellite away from other operational satellites. It’s the first time that the agency has enforced regulatory authority in space.

Coffee Break — The Headline Clock

Check out this whimsical clock where each new minute is displayed using clickable headlines from today’s news stories in a playful blend of words and numbers.

Sign of the Times

Good Monday Morning

It’s October 23rd.  Big Tech is reporting Q3 results this week: Microsoft and Alphabet tomorrow, Meta on Wednesday, and Amazon on Thursday. Expect a lot of product and holiday announcements.

Today’s Spotlight is 839 words — about 3 minutes to read.

Headlines to Know

  • FCC takes steps to reinstate net neutrality, undoing Trump-era repeal to promote equal internet access.
  • Minecraft, the bestselling video game ever, hits 300 million sales.
  • Atlassian to acquire video messaging platform Loom for nearly $1 billion, enhancing its collaboration tools amid rising hybrid work demand.
  • Best Buy to cease DVD, Blu-ray sales in-store and online by early 2024 while Netflix said that it would open 2 new stores weeks after stopping DVD mail fulfillment.
  • Google expanded social media links in its Business Profiles, allowing organizations to link to 7 of its competitors.

Spotlight on Airbnb’s Course to Navigate The Holidays

In March, we highlighted the regulatory challenges Airbnb faced. We also talked about security risks, ratings inflation, and complaints from municipalities about lost tax revenue.

The situation has since escalated in New York, with Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky voicing concerns over stringent regulations that virtually eliminate short-term rental options. New York City regulations now limit the number of guests and mandate hosts to be present during a guest’s stay.

Even smaller cities, like Bozeman, Montana, and Palm Springs are considering cracking down on Airbnb properties, as are larger world capitals like Paris and London.

Airbnb’s strategy in the face of such regulatory disparities has been to engage with local governments, attempting to shape rules that protect local interests while also supporting the home-sharing economy. As the winter holidays approach, Airbnb is also investing in promoting longer-term rentals, a segment not typically subject to short-term rental laws. 

Beyond regulation, Chesky is addressing operational hurdles. Recently, he acknowledged cleaning fees as a “huge problem” and unveiled measures to tackle it. Following the launch of Airbnb’s total price display, over 260,000 listings have lowered or removed cleaning fees. 

These regulatory tussles remain significant for both hosts and guests. Most host applications filed with New York don’t meet the city’s requirements. Hosts, especially in restrictive markets like New York, face the dilemma of adhering to laws, which in many cases means removing their listings, or facing hefty fines. Guests, on the other hand, find fewer and often more expensive lodging options, making travel less accessible.

Practical AI

Quotable“There are already a number of music lyrics aggregators and websites that serve this same function, but those sites have properly licensed publishers’ copyrighted works to provide this service,”

— Suit filed by music companies, including Universal, against Anthropic for allowing its AI chatbot to post music lyrics when responding to prompts.

Alexa Denies Election Results: The Amazon assistant is using information it sources online to tell its users that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen by a massive amount of election fraud,” in the latest horrifying example of Garbage In/Garbage Out.

 Tool of the Week: The AI Incident Database is a repository of user-supplied information about AI failures such as errant identifications of people or autonomous car collisions.  

Trends & Spends

Did That Really Happen — EU Wants Social Media Answers  

The EU is requiring that Meta, TikTok, and X (formerly Twitter) provide details on how they are combating Israel-Hamas conflict misinformation. Failure to comply with those regulations can result in fines of up to 6% of a company’s annual revenue.

Following Up — Online Tax Filing  

We’ve written extensively about how the federal government accused former participants in the Free Tax File program of improprieties. Now, the sector is navigating challenges resulting from the IRS’ announcement that it has expanded free direct filing to 13 states. 

Intuit is warning that the new program will hurt black taxpayers, a fraught statement that a researcher has already debunked. Meanwhile, the FTC has warned five tax prep companies that they may face penalties for tracking confidential data about taxpayers.

Protip — Hiding, Not Deleting Painful Photos

Google Photos now allows users to hide images of specific people or pets from their Memories feature, providing a respite for those troubled by past images. Lifehacker explains how.

Screening Room — Gallaudet & AT&T’s 5G Helmet