Good Monday morning to you. It’s February 24th.
My parents celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on Sunday, March 1. A Leap Day every four years pushes their anniversary celebration back one day. Only five percent of all marriages reach 50 years, and there is no readily available data for longer periods. My wife and I are blessed because her aunt and uncle were married 69 years and now my parents have also reached 60. May you and your loved ones be so blessed. And happy anniversary with many more to come, Mom and Dad.
Today’s Spotlight is 1,384 words and takes about 5 ½ minutes to read.
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1. News To Know Now
1. The IRS is cautioning taxpayers to use two-factor authentication on tax preparation software. Those romantic softies issued the warning on Valentine’s Day. The agency said that “nearly two dozen tax practitioner firms” have reported data thefts this year. The agency has also backed away from a stance of considering video game virtual currency taxable, according to CNN reporting.
2. Tens of millions of Chinese students are unable to attend public schools because of COVID-19 virus closures. Officials have switched to online teaching to avoid further scheduling disruptions. As with their approach to fast hospital construction, the government has enlisted telecom firms to create enough bandwidth for 50 million simultaneous connections. News also broke late Sunday that South Korea has postponed the start of its school year by one week. MIT Technology Review has more.
3. School students in New Mexico, meanwhile, may have a new provider if a lawsuit filed by the state against Google succeeds. The state alleges that Google’s free email and office suite products and discounted computers are used in the school system, allowing Google to unlawfully collect data from children under the age of 13. Get the details at Consumer Reports.
2. YouTube News
Alphabet revealed this month that its YouTube unit generated $15.1 billion in 2019 revenue, up 36% in one year and nearly double its 2017 performance. That makes YouTube’s revenue about 75% of the size of Netflix, a company with a $166 billion market cap.
YouTube’s 20 million paid subscribers still trails other music services like Spotify (124 million), Apple (60 million), and Amazon Music (55 million), but it’s non-subscribing 1 billion users generate revenues that dwarf the others. As a result, Alphabet reports that it paid music rights holders $3 billion last year, which some industry analysts believe still lags Spotify and the others.
With a big number painted on YouTube’s news, regulators are looking hard at content uploaded by consumers and non-big brand users. The BBC’s Chris Fox filed a fantastic story about “fake kitchen hacks” that generated billions of views but don’t work. His video follows this story.
Andy Parker is experiencing an unimaginable YouTube news trauma. His daughter Allison was a reporter killed with her cameraman during a live television segment more than four years ago. Parker filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission last week because YouTube continues to host videos that show her murder. Parker joins Sandy Hook parents and others in complaining about the site’s responsiveness and its requirements to remove content.
There is horrifying content on YouTube, news and entertainment content. The Verge has done stellar reporting in the last year about contracts Accenture has to moderate Internet content and reported last month that Accenture employees were required to sign waivers acknowledging that the work could cause post-traumatic stress disorder. The Verge has details of employees paid $18.50 per hour to view videos flagged for extreme violence.
YouTube is the second most visited website in the world behind only corporate sibling Google and ahead of four Chinese sites and Facebook.
Smart links about YouTube News
Alphabet Q4 and 2019 earnings (PDF)
“How Many Users…” at Music Ally
“YouTube Says It Paid…” at Music Business Worldwide
“Father of Slain Journalist…” at The Washington Post
“YouTube Moderators Are Being Forced…” at The Verge
3. Google Search Updates
Google announced that it removed 75 million policy-violating reviews and 4 million fake business profiles from Google Maps using automation. Those profiles included 10 million photos and 3 million videos. Map spam has been an issue since before Google Maps was launched, and we applaud any cleanup, but this is unfortunately a never-ending process.And there were undoubtedly false positives so pay attention to your listings.
The company also announced that it will ramp up its efforts to deliver downloads via non-encrypted connections. Beginning in March, Google Chrome users will receive a warning when trying to download a non-encrypted file. Google will begin blocking non-encrypted executable files with the release of Chrome 83 scheduled for June.
Users accessing unencrypted PDFs, videos, images or music files will receive warnings beginning in March and be completely blocked by October. That means if your entire website isn’t serving completely encrypted files, you are going to start scaring your users with a warning in the next few weeks. Bleeping Computer has more details.
4. Debugged: No Free Ticket Giveaway
Alaska Air wants you to know that it continues to see “Anniversary Offer” scams about the ariline floating around Facebook. They got concerned enough to post a blog entry with lots of images and tips showing how to tell a real promotion from a fake promotion.
5. Also in the Spotlight: Twitter Disinformation
Twitter is under increasing pressure to keep misinformation and disinformation (deliberate untruths) clearly labeled as such. And it’s asking users to police the site for election misinformation that can now be reported via a special area under the “Report an Issue” function.
NBC News reported last week that the company is also experimenting with orange and yellow backgrounds on tweets that have inaccurate information.
The election information is as worrisome as a Brown University study publicized last week that found 25% of tweets about climate change denial or rejecting climate science were written by automated “bots”. Fewer than 5% of tweets advocating climate change action were posted by bots.
6. Great Data: Watch A Map Sketch
Sometimes you want a map of a town or area’s for purposes other than navigation. There are artistic reasons or logos or all sorts of creative ways to use an isolated street map. It’s a smart use of free geographical data that map providers don’t necessarily make easy to access.
7. Protip: Detecting ISP Throttling
Maybe your equipment is slow. Maybe there’s just a slowdown at your ISP. Or maybe your ISP has had it up to here with your data-using ways and has reduced your bandwidth.
8. Following Up: Dot Org Domains
We’ve been updating you regularly about the proposed sale of the dot org domain registry to a private firm. We learned last week that Ethos Capital, the private firm, has agreed to cap the .org price for 8 years at 10% per year. That means that the maximum wholesale price for a one year domain name registration in 2028 will be around $21.
9. Great New Ads: Sephora
Watching this journey as a girl ages to maturity is so good that you almost forget that you’re watching a longform advertisement.
10. Coffee Break: Unseen YouTube Videos
Imagine that you can click on a website and view “unnamed, unedited, and previously unseen” videos uploaded to YouTube.