Days after he was permanently , Dan Bongino has also lost his ability to earn revenue from Google ads. On Friday, the Bongino Report sent out a tweet suggesting Google had revoked the pundit’s AdSense account. Later that same day, confirmed the suspension with Google. The company told the outlet Bongino’s website had violated its AdSense .
“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 . 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, , the co-founder of , 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.
One of the largest online marketplaces for non-fungible tokens is once again the center of controversy. Mere months after one of its employees for to profit on NFT drops, OpenSea caused a stir among its users this week when it abruptly announced it was putting a restriction on its free minting tool. The feature allows individuals to create and list an NFT without first paying a “,” the fee that crypto miners charge to write new data to a blockchain.
To all the creators in our community impacted by the 50 item limit we added to our free minting tool, we hear you and we're sorry.
, OpenSea said it would add a 50 item limit to the tool. Predictably, the announcement wasn’t popular among OpenSea users, and the company quickly reversed course. But in doing so, it provided some context about the feature. In a spotted by , the company said more than 80 percent of the NFTs recently created through its free minting tool involved either plagiarized work or spam.
It’s a staggering number, but one that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Artists and photographers have that the company hasn’t done enough to prevent scammers and bots from profiting from their work. In fact, there’s an entire dedicated to documenting NFT thefts.
"Every decision we make, we make with our creators in mind. We originally built our shared storefront contract to make it easy for creators to onboard into the space," OpenSea said on Twitter. “We didn't make this decision lightly. We made the change to address feedback we were receiving from our entire community.”
OpenSea added it was working on several “solutions” it hoped would appease users while deterring bad actors. Moving forward, the company promised it would preview those changes before rolling them out broadly.
Neil Young's frustrations with go far beyond COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. A day after his music was removed from the platform, he said he "felt better" after leaving and slammed Spotify for its sound quality compared with other streaming services.
"Amazon, Apple Music and Qobuz deliver up to 100 percent of the music [quality] today and it sounds a lot better than the shitty degraded and neutered sound of Spotify,” Young wrote in published to his website. "If you support Spotify, you are destroying an art form." He urged fans to switch to "a platform that truly cares about music quality."
Young, who claims "Spotify streams the artist's music at five percent of its quality," has long been vexed by the audio quality on some streaming platforms. He temporarily his music from them in 2015. Young launched his that year, but Pono shut down in 2017.
In February 2021, Spotify said it planned to in some markets that year. That didn't happen. The company it was "excited to deliver a Spotify HiFi experience to Premium users in the future," but didn't offer a timeline.
, and all started offering CD-quality music streaming as part of their standard plans last year. and also offer hi-res streaming.
Earlier this week, Young Spotify of allowing Joe Rogan to share COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and gave the platform an "it's him or me" ultimatum. Spotify, which reportedly paid north of $100 million to and said it has taken down more than 20,000 COVID-related podcast episodes, barely flinched. The service pulled the musician's songs, though said it regretted Young's decision and hoped he'd return soon.
Meanwhile, Young wrote that he supported free speech and companies' right to choose what to profit from, "just as I can choose not to have my music support a platform that disseminates harmful information.” He said he was standing "in solidarity with the frontline healthcare workers who risk their lives every day to help others" and "as an unexpected bonus, I sound better everywhere else."
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.
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.
Perhaps taking inspiration from blockbuster music experiences in , Warner Music Group is creating a performance venue in the metaverse. It's 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 with official metaverse avatars for its artists.
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.
The r/antiwork subreddit forum has temporarily gone private following a rough interview between Fox News personality Jesse Watters and one of the subreddit's moderators, Mashable reported. Other mods said they're dealing with "cleanup from ongoing brigading," or attacks by other subreddits, "and will be back soon."
Members of the forum felt that the interview didn't reflect well on them, as it focused more on the moderator personally rather than the movement itself. "This person had the chance to prove to the world the problems with the current work culture yet just said 'laziness is a virtue,'" one commenter stated.
The subreddit's catch-phrase is "Unemployment for all, not just the rich." It has more than 1.7 million users and was the fastest-growing non-default reddit across the site as of this writing. Growth doubled in the last three months alone, as workers tired of COVID-19 pandemic conditions and low wages.
While it originally started as an anti-capitalism forum, the subreddit is now used to discuss workers' rights, talk about bad bosses, air grievances and more. Previously, the site has been implicated in a hack on business receipt printers to insert pro-labor messages.
"Most of the posts on r/antiwork are from retail and fast food workers, nurses, teachers, and other essential workers who are being screwed over during the pandemic," said another user on Twitter, according to The Independent. "But then... [this moderator] goes on TV and sets the entire thing back by a decade.”
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.
Squarespace is taking on Patreon, YouTube and the safe-for-work segment of OnlyFans with the launch of its new video offering. The web host is enabling its users to upload video directly to their Squarespace site and sell access on a one-off or recurring subscription basis. These clips will be hosted natively on the platform itself although users can route in videos from YouTube and Vimeo where necessary. The company added that it has built a new native video player with “slick playback” and “deep integration into the Squarespace platform.”
This is very much an extension of the work Squarespace took to enable its users to earn subscription revenue back in 2020. Much as it did back then, the company said that its new paywall and membership features are targeted toward chefs, instructors, wellness providers and educators. While the company has conceded that it will not be proactively moderating content uploaded on its platform, it does say that the material has to abide by its terms of service, which currently prohibit violent conduct and hate speech.
Creators will get the opportunity to upload 30 minutes of video content for free, with users needing to sign up for a Member Areas plan to get more. On the low end, the basic plan offers five hours of video space, while the Pro tier offers 50, with the promise of lower transaction fees as you grow.
This is part of a broader push that many sites are making into taking a slice of the aforementioned platforms’ pie. Just yesterday, Substack announced that it was expanding into video as a way of keeping creators within the same ecosystem.
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.