mfioretti: google*

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  1. this article analyses Google’s two main advertising systems, AdWords and AdSense, and proposes that these financial models have significant effects upon online discourse. In discussing AdWords, this article details some of the tensions between the local and the global that develop when tracing flows of information and capital, specifically highlighting Google’s impact on the decline of online language diversity. In outlining AdSense, this article demonstrates how Google’s hegemonic control prescribes which parts of the web can be monetised and which remain unprofitable. In particular, in drawing from existing studies, evidence is provided that Google’s AdSense programme, along with Google’s relationship with Facebook, incentivised the rise of fake news in the 2016 US presidential election. This work builds on existing scholarship to demonstrate that Google’s economic influence has varied and far-reaching effects in a number of contexts and is relevant to scholars in a range of disciplines. As such, this article is intended as a discursive introduction to the topic and does not require specific disciplinary background knowledge. In doing so, this article does not attempt to provide the final word on Google’s relationship to digital capitalism, but rather, demonstrate the profitability of a Post-Fordist perspective, in order to enable a wider engagement with the issues identified.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-017-0021-4
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-02)
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  2. Earlier this month, writer James Bridle published an in-depth look at the underbelly of creepy, violent content targeted at kids on YouTube – from knock-off Peppa Pig cartoons, such as one where a trip to the dentist morphs into a graphic torture scene, to live-action “gross-out” videos, which show real kids vomiting and in pain.

    These videos are being produced and added to YouTube by the thousand, then tagged with what Bridle calls “keyword salad” – long lists of popular search terms packed into their titles. These keywords are designed to game or manipulate the algorithm that sorts, ranks and selects content for users to see. And thanks to a business model aimed at maximising views (and therefore ad revenue), these videos are being auto-played and promoted to kids based on their “similarity” – at least in terms of keywords used – to content that the kids have already seen. That means a child might start out watching a normal Peppa Pig episode on the official channel, finish it, then be automatically immersed in a dark, violent and unauthorised episode – without their parent realising it.
    Advertisement

    YouTube’s response to the problem has been to hand responsibility to its users, asking them to flag videos as inappropriate. From there, the videos go to a review team that YouTube says comprises thousands of people working 24 hours a day to review content. If the content is found to be inappropriate for children, it will be age-restricted and not appear in the YouTube Kids app. It will still appear on YouTube proper, however, where, officially, users must be at least 13 years old, but in reality, is still a system which countless kids use (just think about how often antsy kids are handed a phone or tablet to keep them occupied in a public space).

    Like Facebook’s scheme, this approach has several flaws: since it’s trying to ferret out inappropriate videos from kids’ content, it’s likely that most of the people who will encounter these videos are kids themselves. I don’t expect a lot of six-year-olds to become aggressive content moderators any time soon. And if the content is flagged, it still needs to be reviewed by humans, which, as YouTube has already acknowledged, takes “round the clock” monitoring.

    When we talk about this kind of challenge, the tech companies’ response is often that it’s simply the inevitability of scale – there’s no way to serve billions of users endless streams of engaging content without getting it wrong or allowing abuse to slip by some of the time. But of course, these companies don’t have to do any of this. Auto-playing an endless stream of algorithmically selected videos to kids isn’t some sort of mandate. The internet didn’t have to become a smorgasbord of “suggested content”. It’s a choice that YouTube made, because ad views are ad views. You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette, and you’ve got to traumatise a few kids to build a global behemoth worth $600bn.
    Facebook asks users for nude photos in project to combat revenge porn
    Read more

    And that’s the issue: in their unblinking pursuit of growth over the past decade, these companies have built their platforms around features that aren’t just vulnerable to abuse, but literally optimised for it. Take a system that’s easy to game, profitable to misuse, intertwined with our vulnerable people and our most intimate moments, and operating at a scale that’s impossible to control or even monitor, and this is what you get.

    The question now is, when will we force tech companies to reckon with what they’ve wrought? We’ve long decided that we won’t let companies sell cigarettes to children or put asbestos into their building materials. If we want, we can decide that there are limits to what tech can do to “engage” us, too, rather than watching these platforms spin further and further away from the utopian dreams they were sold to us on.
    https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...ra-wachter-boettcher?CMP=share_btn_tw
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  3. Similarly, GOOG in 2014 started reorganizing itself to focus on artificial intelligence only. In January 2014, GOOG bought DeepMind, and in September they shutdown Orkut (one of their few social products which had momentary success in some countries) forever. The Alphabet Inc restructuring was announced in August 2015 but it likely took many months of meetings and bureaucracy. The restructuring was important to focus the web-oriented departments at GOOG towards a simple mission. GOOG sees no future in the simple Search market, and announces to be migrating “From Search to Suggest” (in Eric Schmidt’s own words) and being an “AI first company” (in Sundar Pichai’s own words). GOOG is currently slightly behind FB in terms of how fast it is growing its dominance of the web, but due to their technical expertise, vast budget, influence and vision, in the long run its AI assets will play a massive role on the internet. They know what they are doing.

    These are no longer the same companies as 4 years ago. GOOG is not anymore an internet company, it’s the knowledge internet company. FB is not an internet company, it’s the social internet company. They used to attempt to compete, and this competition kept the internet market diverse. Today, however, they seem mostly satisfied with their orthogonal dominance of parts of the Web, and we are losing diversity of choices. Which leads us to another part of the internet: e-commerce and AMZN.

    AMZN does not focus on making profit.
    https://staltz.com/the-web-began-dying-in-2014-heres-how.html
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  4. A snap decision by Google has begun to reshape the drug treatment industry, tilting the playing field toward large conglomerates — the precise opposite outcome Google had hoped to achieve.

    The fateful decision was made September 14. Google faced pressure from an exposé in The Verge released a week earlier, documenting how shady lead generators game its AdWords system. High-cost ads based on rehab keywords referred users to phone hotlines that gave the impression of being independent information services, but were actually owned by treatment center conglomerates. Representatives, who reap large fees based on how many patients they sign up, employ high-pressure sales tactics to push people into their favored facilities, whether or not that facility is the right one for the patient.

    This deceptive marketing can lead to substandard treatment and massive overbilling. It also made lots of money for Google, which was shown in the story actively courting addiction treatment advertisers.

    And so Google made a quick call: It effectively stopped running ads from treatment facilities. At first blush, that may look like a happy alignment of the public good and a company’s need for good public relations, with Google taking a hit to make the world a better place in the midst of an epidemic.

    But the problem of economic concentration is so deep in the United States today that peeling back one layer merely reveals another. Without ads, addicts or their parents are left only with the organic search results.
    https://theintercept.com/2017/10/17/google-search-drug-use-opioid-epidemic
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-10-30)
    Voting 0
  5. Quando Facebook dichiara un miliardo di utenti, il mondo non sarà mai più come prima: ogni azienda deve esserci, attratta dall’idea di poter mandare messaggi gratis ai propri fan. Ben presto non più gratis, bensì pagando, per la gioia degli investitori.

    Il confine fra contenuti e pubblicità sembra ormai un ricordo del passato.
    Il futuro è la televisione

    Google e Facebook continuano la propria corsa, all’apparenza inarrestabili. Negli Stati Uniti, il duopolio porta a casa 3 dollari su 4 della “pubblicità” (si fa per dire: è direct marketing) su Internet, e addirittura il 99% dei nuovi investimenti sul web.

    Il problema è che questo filone aureo (si fa per dire) si è ormai esaurito.

    Google e Facebook hanno un rapporto price per earning che è il doppio di quello di altre aziende media americane, ma non hanno più praterie davanti a sé da conquistare e facili e prevedibili guadagni futuri che possano giustificare un elevato rapporto P/E.

    Per difendere il proprio titolo in Borsa, devono attaccare la pubblicità di tipo brand.
    E la pubblicità di tipo brand non va sui banner, non va sui social e non va sui video delle Mentos, bensì in televisione, su programmi come serie TV, film e sport.

    Google o Facebook dovranno reinventarsi come produttori di contenuti di qualità, come ha già iniziato a fare Netflix. Ma che vantaggio competitivo possono vantare Google o Facebook su Disney (ABC), Comcast (NBC), Viacom (CBS) o Time Warner (HBO)?
    https://www.dotcoma.it/2017/10/24/il-declino-di-google-e-facebook.html
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  6. When it comes to human beings — what motivates them, how they interact socially, to what end they organize politically — figures like Page and Zuckerberg know very little. Almost nothing, in fact. And that ignorance has enormous consequences for us all.
    http://theweek.com/articles/731764/genius-stupidity-silicon-valley
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  7. Running TPM absent Google’s various services is almost unthinkable. Like I literally would need to give it a lot of thought how we’d do without all of them. Some of them are critical and I wouldn’t know where to start for replacing them. In many cases, alternatives don’t exist because no business can get a footing with a product Google lets people use for free.

    But here’s where the rubber really meets the road. The publishers use DoubleClick. The big advertisers use DoubleClick. The big global advertising holding companies use Doubleclick. Everybody at every point in the industry is wired into DoubleClick. Here’s how they all play together. The adserving (Doubleclick) is like the road. (Adexchange) is the biggest car on the road. But only AdExchange gets full visibility into what’s available. (There’s lot of details here and argument about just what Google does and doesn’t know. But trust me on this. They keep the key information to themselves. This isn’t a suspicion. It’s the model.) So Google owns the road and gets first look at what’s on the road. Not only does Google own the road and makes the rules for the road, it has special privileges on the road. One of the ways it has special privileges is that it has all the data it gets from search, Google Analytics and Gmail. It also gets to make the first bid on every bit of inventory. Of course that’s critical. First dibs with more information than anyone else has access to. (Some exceptions to this. But that’s the big picture.) It’s good to be the king. It’s good to be a Google.

    There’s more I’ll get to in a moment but the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is so vastly important to the entirety of the web, digital publishing and the entire ad industry that it is almost impossible to overstate. Again. They own the road. They make the rules for the road. They get special privileges on the road with every new iteration of rules.


    ow Google can say – and they are absolutely right – that every month they send checks for thousands and millions of dollars to countless publishers that make their journalism possible. And in general Google tends to be a relatively benign overlord. But as someone who a) knows the industry inside and out – down to the most nuts and bolts mechanics – b) someone who understands at least the rudiments of anti-trust law and monopoly economics and c) can write for a sizable audience, I can tell you this.: Google’s monopoly control is almost comically great. It’s a monopoly at every conceivable turn and consistently uses that market power to deepen its hold and increase its profits. Just the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is textbook anti-competitive practices.

    There’s one way that Google is better than Facebook. When Facebook is getting a bigger and bigger share of the advertising pie, that money is almost all going to Facebook. There are some small exceptions but that’s basically the case. When Google is making insane amounts of money on advertising, it’s not really the same since a huge amount of that advertising is running on websites which are getting a cut. Still, the big story is that Google and Facebook now have a dominant position in the entirety of the advertising ecosystem and are using their monopoly power to take more and more of the money for themselves.

    We’re basically too small for Google to care about. So I wouldn’t say we’ve had any bad experiences with Google in the sense of Google trying to injure us or use its power against us. What we’ve experienced is a little different. Google is so big and so powerful that even when it’s trying to do something good, it can be dangerous and frightening.


    Now in practice all this meant was that two or three old stories about Dylann Roof could no longer run ads purchased through Google. I’d say it’s unlikely that loss to TPM amounted to even a cent a month. Totally meaningless. But here’s the catch. The way these warnings work and the way these particular warnings were worded, you get penalized enough times and then you’re blacklisted.

    Now, certainly you’re figuring we could contact someone at Google and explain that we’re not publishing hate speech and racist violence. We’re reporting on it. Not really. We tried that. We got back a message from our rep not really understanding the distinction and cheerily telling us to try to operate within the no hate speech rules. And how many warnings until we’re blacklisted? Who knows?

    If we were cut off, would that be Adexchange (the ads) or DoubleClick for Publishers (the road) or both? Who knows?

    If the first stopped we’d lose a big chunk of money that wouldn’t put us out of business but would likely force us to retrench. If we were kicked off the road more than half of our total revenue would disappear instantly and would stay disappeared until we found a new road – i.e., a new ad serving service or technology. At a minimum that would be a devastating blow that would require us to find a totally different ad serving system, make major technical changes to the site to accommodate the new system and likely not be able to make as much from ads ever again. That’s not including some unknown period of time – certainly weeks at least – in which we went with literally no ad revenue.

    Needless to say, the impact of this would be cataclysmic and could easily drive us out of business.

    Now, that’s never happened. And this whole scenario stems from what is at least a well-intentioned effort not to subsidize hate speech and racist groups. Again, it hasn’t happened. So in some sense the cataclysmic scenario I’m describing is as much a product of my paranoia as something Google could or might do. But when an outside player has that much power, often acts arbitrarily (even when well-intentioned) and is almost impossible to communicate with, a significant amount of paranoia is healthy and inevitable.
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/a-serf-on-googles-farm
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  8. Not all ideas are the same, and not all conversations about ideas even have basic legitimacy

    I need to be very clear here: not only was nearly everything you said in that document wrong, the fact that you did that has caused significant harm to people across this company, and to the company’s entire ability to function. And being aware of that kind of consequence is also part of your job, as in fact it would be at pretty much any other job. I am no longer even at the company and I’ve had to spend half of the past day talking to people and cleaning up the mess you’ve made. I can’t even imagine how much time and emotional energy has been sunk into this, not to mention reputational harm more broadly.

    And as for its impact on you: Do you understand that at this point, I could not in good conscience assign anyone to work with you? I certainly couldn’t assign any women to deal with this, a good number of the people you might have to work with may simply punch you in the face, and even if there were a group of like-minded individuals I could put you with, nobody would be able to collaborate with them. You have just created a textbook hostile workplace environment.

    If you hadn’t written this manifesto, then maybe we’d be having a conversation about the skills you need to learn to not be blocked in your career — which are precisely the ones you described as “female skills.” But we are having a totally different conversation now. It doesn’t matter how good you are at writing code; there are plenty of other people who can do that. The negative impact on your colleagues you have created by your actions outweighs that tremendously.

    You talked about a need for discussion about ideas; you need to learn the difference between “I think we should adopt Go as our primary language” and “I think one-third of my colleagues are either biologically unsuited to do their jobs, or if not are exceptions and should be suspected of such until they can prove otherwise to each and every person’s satisfaction.” Not all ideas are the same, and not all conversations about ideas even have basic legitimacy.
    https://medium.com/@yonatanzunger/so-...-this-googlers-manifesto-1e3773ed1788
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  9. As Google looks for ways to keep people using its own mobile search to discover content — in competition with apps and other services like Facebook’s Instant Articles — the company is announcing some updates to AMP, its collaborative project to speed up mobile web pages.

    Today at the Google I/O developer conference, Google announced that there are now over 2 billion AMP pages covering some 900,000 domains. These pages are also loading twice as fast as before via Google Search. Lastly, the AMP network is now expanding to more e-commerce sites and covering more ad formats.

    In Google’s post announcing that AMP pages load faster — which Lunden links to — they also explain some additional capabilities offered to AMP pages:

    Many of AMP’s e-commerce capabilities were previewed at the AMP Conf and the amp-bind component is now available for origin trials, creating a new interaction model for elements on AMP pages.

    Forms and interactive elements were previously verboten in AMP land, but they’re now allowed through a proprietary — albeit open source — and nonstandard fork of HTML largely developed and popularized by one of the biggest web companies out there.
    https://pxlnv.com/linklog/amp-taking-over
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-05-30)
    Voting 0
  10. Google doesn’t generally make money from Google News itself, because it doesn’t place advertisements in the service (though it does of course place ads in its main search service, where results are sometimes augmented with Google News results). In contrast, ancillary copyright destroys the entire business model of small aggregation startups. CEDRO, Spain’s equivalent to VG Media in this arena, recently decided that aggregators should pay €0.05 per user per day in ancillary copyright fees – for the popular local aggregation startup Menéame, this works out as 20 times the company’s turnover. Obviously, this is completely untenable for a small business.

    So, given the German and Spanish experiences, what is the push for ancillary copyright actually trying to achieve? On the face of it, the aim is to get Google to pay publishers for sending readers to their articles. This is in itself a very strange idea, as publishers get to make money from showing ads to those readers, but let’s take it at face value for a moment. Even if Google were to continue to use those snippets, and if it started to pay those fees, the law would kill its small, European competitors in the news aggregation space – no-one would invest in them, because their businesses would haemorrhage money. Wealthy Google, if it stayed in the space, would end up dominating the EU news aggregation market even more than it does now.

    But this isn’t going to happen. Google is not going to start paying anyone to link to their online content, because that would be the beginning of the end for Google’s core business model – a win-win situation where the company benefits from being the gatekeeper for the public’s attention, and linked-to sites benefit from the traffic Google freely sends them.

    Günther Oettinger has claimed that the might of a pan-EU law would force Google to open its coffers, but he’s wrong. Nobody can force a company to engage in a line of business that will lose it money. If pushed, Google would undoubtedly do across the EU what it did in Spain: shut down Google News. This may benefit the traditional press publishers that hate online competition – and perhaps this is why they, with their vast offline marketing budgets, have lobbied so hard for an EU ancillary copyright law. But it would cause infinite harm to smaller European publishers and the innovative European startups that are trying to develop cleverer ways of connecting publishers with their readers.

    There are many flaws in Article 11 as proposed – its vague wording could penalise social media users; there’s no guarantee that journalists themselves would benefit from the fees; and it could lead to the last two decades of journalism becoming less accessible to the public. But even if the wording were tweaked, the basic concept remains fundamentally flawed. Nobody would benefit, apart from the handful of large press publishers that are trying to turn back the clock to protect their bottom lines.

    There’s no doubt that the news industry is in crisis, nor that digitalisation is largely to blame. It’s a deeply complex problem, and solutions are urgently needed. But ancillary copyright is not one of those solutions. If anything, it would hold back the innovation that’s so desperately needed to rescue the industry – innovation that might come not from Google, but from the bright minds in the EU.
    http://copybuzz.com/copyright/ancillary-copyright-poison-not-cure
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