Posts with «arts & entertainment» label

Fox News host Dan Bongino earned himself a Google Ads ban too

Days after he was permanently banned from YouTube, Dan Bongino has also lost his ability to earn revenue from Google ads. On Friday, the Bongino Report Twitter account sent out a tweet suggesting Google had revoked the pundit’s AdSense account. Later that same day, Tech Policy Press confirmed the suspension with Google. The company told the outlet Bongino’s website had violated its AdSense publisher policies.

“We have strict publisher policies in place that explicitly prohibit misleading and harmful content around the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrably false claims about our elections,” a Google spokesperson told Engadget. “When publishers persistently breach our policies we stop serving Google ads on their sites. Publishers can always appeal a decision once they have addressed any violating content.”

Bogino’s YouTube ban came down from Google after the Fox News host attempted to evade a prior suspension related to the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policy. He posted a video to one of his accounts questioning the effectiveness of masks against the coronavirus. At that point, YouTube temporarily suspended Bogino. It then permanently banned him after he attempted to post that same video to another channel, thereby violating the platform’s terms of service.

On an episode of his podcast titled “I’m Daring YouTube to Do This,” Bogino said before the initial suspension he would continue to post videos about his claims on masks until the company took action. And while it appears he actively courted Google to ban him in both instances, the loss of AdSense revenue has the potential to hurt Bongino more than losing access to YouTube. On Twitter, Claire Atkin, the co-founder of Check My Ads, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting disinformation in the digital advertising industry, said the Gateway Pundit, a website that spread COVID-19 and election misinformation, lost $1.1 million in annual revenue after Google revoked its AdSense account.

Netflix will have to face 'Queens Gambit' defamation suit, judge rules

Netflix is learning that careless dialogue in its fictional shows can have serious implications. Its bid to get a recent defamation suit dismissed has been rejected, meaning it will have to face the plaintiff — Georgian chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili — in court. 

In September, Gaprindashvili filed a suit against the streaming giant, accusing the company of defamation and "false light invasion of privacy." As the world's first female grandmaster, Gaprindashvili was mentioned in Netflix's series The Queen's Gambit — a period drama about a chess prodigy. 

In one scene during a chess match, a radio commentator says in passing "The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex. And even that's not unique in Russia. There's Nona Gaprindashvili, but she's the female world champion and has never faced men."

According to the suit, not only is the allegation that Gaprindashvili hadn't faced men at that time "manifestly false," it's also "grossly sexist and belittling." It states that "By 1968, the year in which this episode is set, she had competed against at least 59 male chess players (28 of them simultaneously in one game), including at least ten Grandmasters of that time."

Stanley Sherman via Getty Images

The show is based on a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis that also mentions Gaprindashvili. However, the part which Netflix appears to have based this particular bit of its script on says, "The only unusual thing about her was her sex; and even that wasn't unique in Russia. There was Nona Gaprindashvili, not up to the level of this tournament, but a player who had met all these Russian Grandmasters many times before." Netflix's version is clearly different.

The streaming provider had moved to strike the case in November, saying in its filing that "the Series is a fictional work that a reasonable viewer would not construe as conveying fact." It also said that "a reasonable viewer would not draw the negative implication that Plaintiff alleges."

However, US District Judge Virginia Philips denied that motion today, writing that "the fact that the Series was a fictional work does not insulate Netflix from liability for defamation if all the elements of defamation are otherwise present."

The ruling also states that "at the very least, the line is dismissive of the accomplishments central to Plaintiff’s reputation." It also points out that, when filing its motion to dismiss, "Netflix’s own evidence demonstrates knowledge of the truth in its choice to deviate from the text of the Novel, which states that Plaintiff had faced the male Russian Grandmasters 'many times before.'"

Gaprindashvili is seeking damages of at least $5 million, as well as for Netflix to remove the statement that she never played men from the show. 

New York's Obie Awards will consider streaming theater for the first time

For the first time in its storied history, New York City’s annual Obie Awards will consider virtual, digital and audio productions, the event’s organizer, the American Theater Wing, announced on Friday. The move comes in response to the challenges Off- and Off-Off-Broadway artists and groups have had to face through the coronavirus pandemic. Due to some of the strictest lockdown restrictions in the country, many New York theater companies turned to online streaming to survive.

“We wanted to make sure that the work that did happen was eligible,” Heather Hitchens, the CEO and president of the American Theater Wing, told The New York Times. “The Obies respond to the season, and to the evolving nature and rhythms of theater.”

The American Theater Wing hasn’t decided on an exact date for this year’s show, but Hitchens told The Times she expects it will take place sometime in November and involve an in-person presentation. In addition to expanding the mandate of the Obies to honor online productions, judges will consider projects staged between July 1st, 2020 and August 31st, 2022. That's because the most recent Obie Awards took place in 2020. The American Theater Wing is also responsible for the Tony Awards, and 2022 will mark the first year that the organization will have staged the Obies on its own.  

It’s hard to say what the future will bring, particularly in the middle of a constantly changing pandemic, but the American Theater Wing’s decision to consider online productions could open the door for the Obies to consider shows staged outside of New York City.

‘TikTok, Boom’ tries and fails to do the most

Near the end of TikTok, Boom, content creator and beatboxer Spencer X chokes up. “TikTok has really changed my entire life,” he says while fighting back tears. He’s one of a few influencers profiled in the 90-minute documentary, which premiered at Sundance 2022 this weekend. It also features activist Feroza Aziz, best known for her viral video that slipped criticism of China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims into what initially appeared to be a makeup tutorial. Other subjects include reproductive rights activist Deja Foxx and Douyin content creator Jason Zhang, whose experiences with the app are all fascinating and moving.

Directed by Shalini Kantayya, TikTok, Boom is meant to “[dissect] one of the most influential platforms of the contemporary social media landscape." The film’s description on the Sundance festival portal says it “examines the algorithmic, sociopolitical, economic and cultural influences and impact of the history-making app.” Unfortunately, if you were hoping to learn anything new about why the For You algorithm is so creepily intuitive, why its parent company ByteDance collects so much data or what exactly are the app's ties to the Chinese government, you'll be disappointed.

In general, the documentary tries to cover too much. It jumped from Aziz finding a community of Afghan-Americans on the app, to X defying his parent’s expectations to make a career out of beatboxing, to sexism, racism, child predators, body image issues, TikTok’s creation and ByteDance’s history, all within the first 40 minutes. There’s discussion of the impact on creators’ mental health, Facebook’s interest in buying TikTok, the reinforcement of social disparities, China’s control and censorship, Trump’s rallies in Tulsa, the subsequent ban of the app and more. In the second half, there’s even a random dramatic reenactment of “a statement made by a former ByteDance employee” during the COVID-19 outbreak.

If TikTok, Boom was trying to catalog every time TikTok made the news, it did an admirable job. But in its effort to recap history, the film fails to deliver any insight. I could have easily Googled “TikTok timeline” and gotten all the same information without having to sit in front of my TV for 90 minutes. Had the documentary narrowed its focus, I suspect I would have learned more.

But in its effort to recap history, the film fails to deliver any insight.

I also have a small, but important gripe. The film needs more careful editors. It features B-roll and expert interviews correctly pronouncing and spelling the app Douyin that predated TikTok. Mere seconds later, the narrator and an onscreen graphic both mispronounce and misspell Douyin as “Duoyin.” Another spelling error: a list of so-called “Sensored words” in a graphic as opposed to “censored.”

Maybe I’m nit-picking, but mistakes like this affect the credibility of any documentary, which should be a well-researched piece of video journalism.

That leads me to my biggest problem with TikTok, Boom: It makes some dangerous assumptions. At one point in the film, an animated rendering insinuates that TikTok scans a user’s face while they’re watching videos and determines if they’re smiling or not. The film posits that this information is then fed into the algorithm that lets ByteDance recommend more content on your For You page.

There is no evidence that TikTok does this. In fact, unless Apple and Google’s privacy indicators (which show when your phone’s cameras are being used) are malfunctioning, people would know if an app was watching them. It’s more likely that the TikTok, Boom team misinterpreted terms in the app’s privacy policy that states it’s collecting “faceprints and voiceprints.”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

That’s not to say ByteDance is completely in the clear here; it’s never explicitly explained why it’s gathering that data. Other parts of its privacy policy are even more alarming, like the fact that ByteDance collects information about users’ "keystroke patterns or rhythms." In 2020, the company had to publicly admit wrongdoing and agree to stop accessing users’ clipboard data every few keystrokes. Back then, it claimed this was part of an anti-spam feature. Now, the latest versions of iOS and Android will alert you if an app has accessed or pasted content from your clipboard, so you can be aware of unnecessary data collection.

Look, I get it. The For You algorithm can be so uncanny that people scramble to find nefarious reasons for its effectiveness. It’s just like when we all wondered if Instagram and Facebook were listening to our conversations to serve us eerily timely ads. But it’s one thing for individuals to wonder if your phone is spying on you and a whole other problem if a documentary recklessly claims it’s happening. The filmmakers don’t seem to realize the responsibility it has to its viewers.

In fact, had TikTok, Boom just focused on breaking down the For You algorithm or studying exactly what data the app is collecting (and in that context its ties to China), the film might have unearthed something illuminating. Instead, it ends up being a mostly redundant recap with a catchy title.

Warner Music Group is building a 'musical theme park' in the metaverse

Perhaps taking inspiration from blockbuster music experiences in Fortnite, Warner Music Group is creating a performance venue in the metaverse. It's teaming up with The Sandbox to create a "hybrid of musical theme park and concert venue" on the platform.

Some of WMG's vast roster of artists (which includes the likes of Ed Sheeran, Green Day and Dua Lipa) are expected to play shows and take part in music experiences on the virtual stage. At a later date, The Sandbox will offer ardent fans the chance to buy virtual property next to WMG's section of the metaverse.

The deal will result in The Sandbox's first music-themed world. The platform has teamed up with artists including Snoop Dogg, Deadmau5 and Steve Aoki on an individual basis, but this is its biggest music partnership to date. WMG and The Sandbox didn't say when the virtual venue will debut.

Other major music companies have started making moves in the metaverse. Last month, Universal Music Group joined the bandwagon with official metaverse avatars for its artists.

Peacock has 9 million subscribers

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service ended last year with 9 million paid subscribers. Comcast, the streamer’s parent company, shared the milestone during its Q4 2021 earnings call. The announcement marks the first time either company has disclosed just how many people pay for Peacock.

In a call with analysts, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said the streaming service has approximately 24.5 million monthly active users, reports Variety. Of those who pay for Peacock, the majority opt for the platform’s $5 ad-supported tier. When you include ads, Roberts said the company generates close to $10 in average revenue per user who subscribes to the service.

In 2022, Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh said the company plans to spend $3 billion on content for Peacock, doubling its current investment. Moving forward, Comcast could spend as much as $5 billion annually building out Peacock’s media library “over the next couple of years.” Some of that money will come from the company’s linear TV platforms, with Roberts telling analysts Comcast is “committed to reallocating resources and increasing investment” in Peacock due to the platform’s growth.

In practice, Comcast and NBCUniversal are likely to spend at least some of that money on reclaiming content that has ended up on other streaming platforms, including Disney’s Hulu. “Much of our strong NBC content premieres on Hulu, over time we’d like to bring that back to Peacock,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said. The company previously paid $500 million to get The Office back from Netflix.

The 'Mortal Kombat' movie is getting a sequel

Warner Bros. and New Line are creating a sequel to the Mortal Kombat film with Moon Knight writer Jeremy Slater onboard, Deadline has reported. It will follow up the original R-rated film that did decent box office numbers ($83 million world wide) considering the pandemic, and was HBO Max's most successful film to date when it launched last April. 

On top of creating Moon Knight (with Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke), Slater is working on Stephen King's The Tommyknockers adaptation for Universal and an upcoming Netflix movie directed by Travis Knight. He also developed The Umbrella Academy for Netflix. 

The original film was as gory as you'd expect considering the violence of the game, but screenwriter Greg Russo also tried to inject some humor. It's not known if Mortal Kombat director Simon McQuoid will be involved again, but last year he said a sequel could happen "if the fans want another one." 

The original did seem designed to set up another sequel, though, with one one critic describing it as "the homework you have to do before the fun." It received a middling 54 percent Rotten Tomato critic rating, but was appreciated more by audiences that gave it an 86 percent score. 

Spotify will remove Neil Young music following Joe Rogan dispute

Spotify already has an answer to Neil Young's ultimatum following outrage over allegations Joe Rogan is spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. As The Wall Street Journalreports, Spotify is in the midst of removing Young's music from the streaming service worldwide. His (very large) catalog was still available as of this writing, but we'd suggest listening to Harvest one more time just in case.

Young has reportedly been in talks with Spotify and his label Warner Records since posting an open letter threatening to pull his albums. The artist made the formal request on Wednesday (January 26th), and the music is apparently poised to disappear within "several hours."

In a statement to Engadget, Spotify said it "regret[ted]" Young's decision and hoped to have him back "soon." It also defended its anti-misinformation practices, claiming it accepted a "great responsibility" in juggling both listener safety and creator freedom. The company added it had pulled over 20,000 podcast COVID-related episodes since the pandemic began. It didn't say why it was still hosting Joe Rogan Experience episodes that contained misinformation, though, including unsupported claims from Dr. Robert Malone that "psychosis" led people to believe vaccines were effective.

Spotify also didn't offer reasons for its decision. However, the company is believed to have paid over $100 million to land a multi-year distribution deal with Rogan. While the exact terms of the agreement aren't clear, Spotify might suffer financial and legal consequences if it pulls Rogan's episodes.

You can read Spotify's full statement below:

We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon.

'Not Tonight 2' launches on Steam February 11th

You won't have to wait long to see how the creators of Not Tonight tackle American politics. PanicBarn and No More Heroes have revealed their "political dark comedy" title Not Tonight 2 will be available on Steam February 11th, with a console version coming later in 2022. A final PC beta launches January 28th. As teased early on, the game continues that Papers, Please-style focus on checking IDs as a bouncer while throwing in minigames — and, of course, addressing US political issues head-on.

The game centers around Kevin, Malik and Mari as they travel across an 'alternative' US to save their friend Eduardo from deportation. As with the first Not Tonight, the sequel doesn't pull punches – it examines climate change denial, anti-immigration policies, American religious views and the pitfalls of capitalism. While there are certainly silly parts (such as serving poutine in a Canada-controlled Montana), the aim is as much to make you think about sensitive issues as it is having fun.

The series is, in some ways, a criticism of the games industry's aversion to politics. Heavyweights like Ubisoft will claim their games aren't political even when that's clearly not true, and others will simply steer clear of politics altogether. PanicBarn's game effectively challenges developers to embrace political commentary — that is, to risk alienating some customers in the name of making a statement.

Respawn is making three more Star Wars games

EA has announced that Respawn Entertainment is making three more Star Wars games. The studio — also known for Titanfall and Apex Legends — is working on a follow up to its hit 2019 action-adventure title Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, though it’s not clear if the upcoming game is a direct sequel.

A first-person shooter overseen by a former Star Wars Battlefront producer in the pipeline too. In addition, a strategy game produced by Respawn is on the way, with Bit Reactor leading development. The new third-party studio is headed up by Greg Foertsch, who previously worked on the XCOM series.

EA's exclusive license to develop and publish Star Wars games expires next year. An open-world Star Wars game from Ubisoft’s The Division 2 studio Massive Entertainment is already in the works, while Quantic Dream is developing Star Wars: Eclipse. Before those and EA's trifecta of titles even get close to hitting your console or PC, you'll be able to dive into Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, which arrives on April 5th.