YouTube bans dangerous or harmful pranks

YouTube has said it will no longer allow dangerous stunts or pranks that could be emotionally distressing for kids. From its FAQ:

We’ve updated our external guidelines to make it clear that challenges like the Tide pod challenge or the Fire challenge, that can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances, have no place on YouTube.

It’s interesting for a number of reasons. Me on BBC News:

The move comes in response to so-called “challenges” that have sometimes resulted in death or injury. The Google-owned video sharing site said such material had “no place on YouTube”. However, the firm appears to be failing to enforce its existing rules on harmful content.

Interesting because a) it gives its moderators a wildly ambiguous task when it comes to decided what is dangerous or harmful, and b) the site is already really struggling cleaning up other stuff. Buzzfeed’s Davey Alba writes:

Nearly a year after YouTube pledged to remove images of graphic bestiality from its platform, simple search queries that include the word “girl” along with “horse” or “dog” (“girl horse” or “girl and her horse”) return dozens of videos promoted with thumbnails of women seemingly engaged in sexual acts with those animals.

As I mentioned in my short piece for BBC radio, what was once “don’t try this at home” is now very much “don’t put this on YouTube”. We’ll see if it works.

Another Snap exec is leaving

Snap loses another high profile executive. Company filing, via CNBC:

On January 15, 2019, Tim Stone, our Chief Financial Officer and principal financial officer, notified us of his intention to resign to pursue other opportunities. Mr. Stone has confirmed that this transition is not related to any disagreement with us on any matter relating to our accounting, strategy, management, operations, policies, regulatory matters, or practices (financial or otherwise). Mr. Stone’s last day has not been determined. Mr. Stone will continue to serve as Chief Financial Officer to assist in the search for a replacement and an effective transition of his duties, including through our scheduled full year 2018 financial results announcement.

Stone only joined the company eight months ago.

It’s not all bad news, though – Snap says it’s coming in at the higher end of its guidance for Q4.

CNBC adds:

Stone’s departure follows a string of other top-level exits in the past year, including chief strategy officer Imran Khan in September, and finance head Andrew Vollero and vice president of monetization engineering Stuart Bowers in May.

Roku explains Infowars stance

Roku isn’t removing Alex Jones’ Infowars from its platform as they it says it is unaware of any policy breaches. TechCrunch:

The decision to allow the channel comes at a time when Jones and Infowars are in the headlines again because of a recent update in the legal battle between the Sandy Hook families and the Infowars program. The families are suing the conspiracy theorist for spreading the false claim that the school shooting was an elaborate hoax, and that Infowars peddled these stories to stoke fear and sell more products like survivalist gear and gun paraphernalia, The New York Times reports.

This is an “organisation” that lives to push the boundaries into dark, unacceptable places. I can’t think of a single example of a platform standing firm on Infowars and the problem going away.


New US drone rules will allow flying at night, over people

The US aviation authority has published new proposed rules about how and when drones can be flown, by professionals, in the US. Reuters:

The FAA is proposing ending requirements that drone operators get waivers to operate at night. Through 2017, the FAA granted 1,233 waivers and “has not received any reports of (drone) accidents,” it said.

The FAA would require that drones have “an anti-collision light illuminated and visible for at least three statute miles,” as well as testing and training.

Under the FAA’s proposals, operators would be able to fly small unmanned aircraft weighing 0.55 pounds (0.25 kg) or less over populated areas without any additional restrictions.

Great news for drone makers. Here’s what market-leader DJI said in an emailed statement:

“Drones prove every day that they belong in the sky doing important work for America, and everyone benefits when it is easier for professionals to safely fly over people and at night,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs. “Drones have helped rescue more than 200 people from peril around the world, and drones help professionals do their work faster, safer, more efficiently and at a lower cost. Removing the barriers to routine night operations and flight over people will mean more benefits for more people.”

The firm notes that currently night flying is allowed, but only if the FAA issues a waiver. This has happened, DJI says, 1,233 times so far without “a single accident” reported.

How algorithms are taking over Big Oil

For generations, the oil industry has offered extremely well-paid work to men and women willing to endure tough conditions and long hours (often) away from home.

But this report in Forbes shows how that is under threat, today:

Artificial intelligence has come to the oil patch, accelerating a technical change that is transforming the conditions for the oil and gas industry’s 150,000 U.S. workers. Giant energy companies like Shell and BP are investing billions to bring artificial intelligence to new refineries, oilfields and deepwater drilling platforms. Already, these investments are paying for themselves by helping drill tricky oil wells faster, predict equipment failures and slash fugitive methane emissions.

The algorithmically-enhanced oil fields are, according to BP, producing 10% more “work”* with 43% less employee input. It’s also safer for both man and environment. Faced with that, it’s hard to make the case against this kind of innovation – but, again, where will those workers go instead?

*The Forbes report doesn’t specify what it means by “work”, per se. Let’s just say BP is enjoying significant efficiency gains.

Robot saves day in California gas station standoff 

The Sacramento Bee writes:

A suspect who tried to set a fire at an Ignacio gas station mini-mart was arrested Saturday afternoon after a six-hour standoff

How did this dramatic scene come to an end…?

The man eventually asked for a cigarette, but was denied because of the fire threat. Negotiators talked him into accepting a vapor pen if he would surrender. After the item was delivered by the robot, the man stepped out of the  vehicle and was arrested without further incident.

Technology saves the day, right? I thought so. But then I read why the suspect was angry in the first place…

The incident began about 7 a.m. when a man became upset over apparent confusion with the payment system while at the 76 gas station on Ignacio Drive, according to Novato Lt. Sasha D’Amico.

How Netflix works

This post on Medium didn’t so much blow my brain as shatter it into tiny pathetic pieces.

(I’m pausing here because, in the process of writing about this, I’ve now noticed this post was published in 2017. I’m carrying on. It’s good.)

Here’s the deepest of deep dives into how Netflix content gets to your eyeballs:

What isn’t as simple is what goes into running Netflix, a service that streams around 250 million hours of video per day to around 98 million paying subscribers in 190 countries. At this scale, providing quality entertainment in a matter of a few seconds to every user is no joke. And as much as it means building top-notch infrastructure at a scale no other Internet service has done before, it also means that a lot of participants in the experience have to be negotiated with and kept satiated — from production companies supplying the content, to internet providers dealing with the network traffic Netflix brings upon them.

I remember the days when a Netflix movie would arrive *in the mail*. A simpler time. But not a better one.

Scooter software glitch suddenly slams on the brakes

Scooter company Lime has admitted it is investigating a rather troubling issue in which riders are thrown off their scooters. While it looks into it, it has suspended its service in Switzerland.

According to TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden (who I met finally this week, after more than a year chatting over the airwaves at various points), a software reboot is causing the scooter’s “theft prevention” measures to kick in. In other words: it slams on the brakes:

The cessation of service comes after reports over the past several months detailed how users have been injured after their Lime scooters stopped abruptly. In November, a doctor broke his elbow after the speedometer on his vehicle failed, the brakes kicked in, and he was thrown into the air. (Fortunately, this happened in front of the hospital, where he also worked.)

Another rider dislocated his shoulder after falling over his Lime scooter’s handle bars when travelling at about 25 km/h (about 15 mph). A third suffered cuts and bruises in a similar incident to the other two: abrupt braking while travelling.

The Social Network 2

Screenwriter and director Aaron Sorkin thinks there could be a sequel to The Social Network, the film he made detailing the creation of Facebook. The Hollywood Reporter:

The prolific scribe revealed that he isn’t the only one who thinks so, either. Social Network producer Scott Rudin appears to be eager to get another Facebook movie off the ground. “I’ve gotten more than one email from him with an article attached saying, ‘Isn’t it time for a sequel?”’ said Sorkin, adding: “A lot of very interesting, dramatic stuff has happened since the movie ends with settling the lawsuit from the Winklevoss twins and Eduardo Saverin.”

You could probably get away with much of the same cast. But who would play Sheryl Sandberg, I wonder?

Apple buys 50 business class flights to Shanghai every day

United made a curious decision to create a display stand containing rather delicate information about its biggest (and presumably how unhappy) client, Apple.

It contains some eye-watering numbers. $150m spent on flights with United annually. Fifty business class seats to Shanghai every single day:

If you look closely, it says “This is confidential information, please do not share outside of United” at the bottom of each stand. Someone is getting in trouble.

Still, a fascinating glimpse at what it takes to keep the cogs turning when you’re making millions of phones some 7,000 miles away.