YouTube has been criticized through they years over the way it recommends videos to people — more specifically, the opaque nature of the Google-owned platform’s algorithms. While we don’t really understand how it all works, we do know that it relies on a real-time feedback loop to suggest new videos to watch, with the suggestions differing for each viewer based on their individual viewing activity.
Studies have suggested that YouTube plays a big part in fueling conspiracy theories, spreading misinformation, and “radicalizing” society, and the company has apparently made some efforts to reel in the monster it created. However, with a looming U.S. presidential election, this offers a golden opportunity to investigate how ideas spread online, which is Mozilla today lifted the lid on a new research initiative designed to better understand how YouTube algorithms actually work.
With RegretsReporter, a browser add-on for Firefox and Chrome, Mozilla is inviting users to submit reports to Mozilla whenever they are recommended “harmful” videos. Once installed, a user can click on the “frowning” RegretsReporter icon in their browser bar, which only works when an active YouTube video is on screen .
This will surface the video-viewing history of that session, and allow users to hit a “report video and history” button.
Before submitting, the user is asked to provide more information on what they found regrettable about the video.
According to Mozilla, it hopes to gain insights into the patterns around frequency or severity of harmful content, and whether there are specific usage patterns that lead to such recommendations being made.
The true value of RegretsReporter will, of course, lie in the quality and quantity of data it garners. According to Mozilla, each report submitted will include YouTube browsing history for up to 5 hours prior to submitting the report — this will include what kind of YouTube pages that were visited, and how they were reached. Users can also manually delete any specific video from their history that they don’t want to submit, though this would presumably compromise the integrity of the data.
Moreover, it’s pretty clear that YouTube recommendations are based on viewing patterns dating back much further than 5 hours, so this raises questions on how insightful this research is likely to be — even if it does manage to achieve meaningful scale in terms of installations. Mozilla acknowledges this shortfall, but still thinks there is enough value in the data it does to obtain meaningful takeaways.
“Many of our research questions can be studied without knowledge of a user’s full viewing data,” Brandi Geurkink, senior campaigner at Mozilla, told VentureBeat. “For example, are there identifiable patterns in terms of frequency or severity of reported content? And does the report frequency increase for users after they send their first report? That said, we know that the insights we glean won’t be comprehensive. We aim to identify areas where more examination is needed, and then build momentum to enable that deeper examination.”
And then there is the issue of data privacy, a thorny subject in today’s internet age. In addition to the data it collects at every form submission, Mozilla’s privacy T&Cs note that the add-on will gather “periodic, aggregated information” about a user’s YouTube usage, such as how often they visit YouTube and for how long — but not what they watch or search for on the platform.
So there is some trade-off here in terms of how willing the public are to participate in a program that seeks to shine a light on YouTube’s murky AI smarts, and the data they’re willing to divulge to Mozilla.
From Mozilla’s perspective, RegretsReporter constitutes part of an ongoing campaign against YouTube, which has included research and recommendations for YouTube to fix its problem based on Mozilla’s inaugural “YouTube regrets” campaign last year. Among its suggestions at the time were for YouTube to open up more of its data and commit to working with independent researchers. In lieu of that, RegretsReporter goes some way toward taking control out of Google’s hands, albeit with limited scope.
“We were shocked by the number of responses to our initial YouTube Regrets campaign, which indicates that this is a widespread problem,” Geurkink added. “We hope that this will translate into thousands of downloads of the extension.”
Based on its findings, Mozilla said that it may work with other researchers, journalists, policymakers, and “even engineers within YouTube” on solutions to the YouTube algorithm problem, and it plans to publish the results of its research for public consumption — thought it stopped short of giving any timescales.
“It’s hard to say [when Mozilla will publish results] without first an understanding of how users will use the extension and an average rate of regrets,” Geurkink continued. “But we will be performing regular analysis from the time that we launch, rather than waiting a fixed period of time. So we plan to share findings soon after we uncover them.”
China threatens antitrust investigation of Google
China is preparing to launch an antitrust probe into Alphabet’s Google, looking into allegations it has leveraged the dominance of its Android mobile operating system to stifle competition, two people familiar with the matter said.
The case was proposed by telecommunications equipment giant Huawei last year and has been submitted by the country’s top market regulator to the State Council’s antitrust committee for review, they added.
A decision on whether to proceed with a formal investigation may come as soon as October and could be affected by the state of China’s relationship with the United States, one of the people said.
The potential investigation follows a raft of actions by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to hobble Chinese tech companies, citing national security risks.
This has included putting Huawei on its trade blacklist, threatening similar action for Semiconductor Manufacturing International and ordering TikTok owner ByteDance to divest the short-form video app.
It also comes as China embarks on a major revamp of its antitrust laws with proposed amendments including a dramatic increase in maximum fines and expanded criteria for judging a company’s control of a market.
A potential probe would also look at accusations that Google’s market position could cause “extreme damage” to Chinese companies like Huawei, as losing the U.S. tech giant’s support for Android-based operating systems would lead to loss of confidence and revenue, a second person said.
The sources were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and declined to be identified. Google did not provide immediate comment, while Huawei declined to comment.
China’s top market regulator, the State Administration for Market Regulation, and the State Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The U.S. trade blacklist bars Google from providing technical support to new Huawei phone models and access to Google Mobile Services, the bundle of developer services upon which most Android apps are based.
Google had a temporary license that exempted it from the ban on Huawei but it expired in August.
It was not immediately clear what Google services the potential probe would focus on. Most Chinese smartphone vendors use an open-source version of the Android platform with alternatives to Google services on their domestic phones. Google’s search, email and other services are blocked in China.
Huawei has said it missed its 2019 revenue target by $12 billion, which company officials have attributed to U.S. actions against it. Seeking to overcome its reliance on Google, the Chinese firm announced plans this month to introduce its proprietary Harmony operating system in smartphones next year.
Chinese regulators will be looking at examples set by their peers in Europe and in India if it proceeds with the antitrust investigation, the first source said.
“China will also look at what other countries have done, including holding inquiries with Google executives,” said the person.
he second source added that one learning point would be how fines are levied based on a firm’s global revenues rather than local revenues.
The European Union fined Google 4.3 billion euros ($5.1 billion) in 2018 over anticompetitive practices, including forcing phone makers to pre-install Google apps on Android devices and blocking them from using rivals to Google’s Android and search engine.
That decision prompted Google to give European users more choice over default search tools and giving handset makers more leeway to use competing systems.
Indian authorities are looking into allegations that Google is abusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app.
A look at Trump’s most failed businesses, according to his tax records
A bombshell New York Times report released Sunday said Donald Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and nothing at all for much of the previous decade.
Those same records reported that some of Trump’s businesses have been hemorrhaging money.
His golf courses showed combined losses of $315.6 million, while his hotel and real estate umbrella company also posted multimillion-dollar losses. Crown jewels of his empire, like the Mar-a-Lago club, did not make the list.
Here’s a look at which of Trump’s iconic properties are struggling the most, according to the Times investigation.
Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Trump has 15 golf courses across the globe. His tax records show major losses at a handful of them.
Trump reported combined losses of $315.6 million on golf courses since 2000 in the tax records viewed by The New York Times.
He has a total of 15 golf courses across the world, but just three of his European courses accounted for a fifth of that figure.
Trump’s three European courses, one in Ireland and two in Scotland, posted $63.3 million in losses.
His golf club in Doonbeg, Ireland, is located in a village with a paltry population of 200. In November 2018, the Associated Press reported that the course had lost money four years in a row. Around the same time, the AP reported, Trump received approval to build a wall around the resort to protect it from rising sea levels. The move angered residents, as it could potentially harm dunes and local public beaches.
Trump’s golf club in Aberdeen, Scotland, was also built on dunes. It opened in 2012, and the development process severely damaged the local environment, Business Insider previously reported. Business Insider also previously reported that the 18-hole golf course, which is accompanied by a 22-acre driving range, a whiskey bar, and a five-star hotel, routinely posts at least $1 million in losses every year.
His second Scottish golf club, in Ayrshire, is older — built in 1906 — and it is now home to two 18-hole courses, a 9-hole course, and a spa.
The three clubs totaled $63.3 million in losses, according to the the tax records viewed by The Times.
Trump’s largest golf club, the Trump National Doral near Miami, is losing the most significant chunk of change.
The Trump National Doral is Trump’s largest golf club. It includes four golf courses, tennis courts, a spa, and a luxury hotel. The property is right outside Miami, Florida.
The Doral golf course previously made national news in August 2019, when Trump suggested hosting the 2020 G7 summit there. Such a move would violate the Constitution, which prohibits the president personally benefiting from affairs of state. He later dropped the idea.
Trump paid $150 million for the property in 2012, and according to the Times, its losses through 2018 have totaled $162.3 million. The Times also reported that he put $213 million into the property, and tax records show it has a $125 million mortgage balance due in three years.
Trump reported losses of $315.6 million across all his golf properties.
It’s not just his golf properties that are losing money — many of his real estate investments are too, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.
The Trump International Hotel opened in October 2016. The hotel, which is located inside the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington DC, dates back to 1899 and required $200 million in renovations.
According to the the Times, tax records show losses at the hotel through 2018 of $55.5 million. What’s more is that the hotel carries a fair bit of debt — $160 million — that had not been paid down by the end of 2018.
The hotel, which is known for its astronomical prices, has become somewhat of a meeting ground for conservative groups and Trump’s associates, shrouding the hotel in ethical concerns about foreign dignitaries staying at the hotel, along with events that the federal government could possibly be funding.
Trump Corporation, the family’s real estate services company, reported losing $134 million since 2000, according to the Times.
The Times reported that Trump bankrolled those losses by providing the umbrella corporation with a loan. In 2016, he marked those loans on his tax records as a cash contribution instead.
Read the original article on Business Insider
‘Girlfriends’ star Reggie Hayes speaks out about hard times in racially biased Hollywood
With September marking the 20th anniversary of Girlfriends and its honorary release on Netflix, fans have been nostalgically binge-watching one of the most beloved Black sitcoms of the early aughts. But just last week, one of the show’s stars, Reggie Hayes, added a dose of reality by discussing the 2008 end of the series, and the subsequent personal struggles that led him to live in his sister’s garage.
“I had starred on this long-running show but I wasn’t Matt LeBlanc or one of the other kids from ‘Friends’ who had doors opening for them after their show ended… Those were pretty awful years,” Hayes told The Chicago Tribune. (Meanwhile, in contrast this week, ex-Friends star Jennifer Anniston shared thoughts on her longtime acting career on the iHeartRadio‘s Smartless podcast, calling the entertainment biz her “happy place.”)
Hayes explained that, despite Girlfriends having been one season short of becoming the longest-running Black sitcom of all time, life for him was hard after it ended. He said in the years that followed, he could occasionally book guest roles, but that “it wasn’t really enough to get by,” explaining that even obtaining a day job presented challenges “because people come in and take pictures of you and put it on the internet.”
That’s what happened in 2018 to Geoffrey Owens, who had previously starred in The Cosby Show, when was job shamed by being photographed while working at Trader Joe’s. Fortunately, his situation was turned around when Tyler Perry offered Owens a job shortly after.
This story about the man who played William on “Girlfriends” really got me thinking about how many black folks are living on the margins even if they briefly make a breakthrough. https://t.co/YlaF6AfpEI
— Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) September 24, 2020
I think about this all the time. Sitcom actors and video vixens. Whenever I watch old videos I’m always like, “I wonder what she’s doing now.”
— Dion Rabouin 🇺🇸 (@DionRabouin) September 24, 2020
This stark contrast in outcomes for ex-TV stars — particularly Black vs. white — has not gone unnoticed, and people are taking to social media to call it out. In response to Hayes’ recent comments, one user wrote, “This broke me down to my components,” while another user Tweeted that it reminded him “about how many black folks are living on the margins even if they briefly make a breakthrough.”
Some have argued that the lack of longevity for Black entertainers is directly linked to bias in Hollywood. In June, Killing Eve star Sandra Oh, Avengers actor Anthony Mackie and former Scandal star Kerry Washington all called out the lack of diversity across the film and television industry. Mackie said, “It really bothered me that I’ve done seven Marvel movies where every producer, every director, every stunt person, every costume designer, every PA, every single person has been white.” That lack of diversity has prompted director Spike Lee to suggest that Hollywood adopt new regulations — similar to “the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for the league’s top jobs.”
Earlier this month, actor Jeremy Tardy tweeted that he would not return for season four of Dear White People, accusing Lionsgate of racial discrimination. “After being offered to return for several episodes my team was notified that our counter offer would not be considered and that the initial offer was the ‘best and final,’” he noted. “This news was disturbing because one of my white colleagues — being a true ally — revealed that they too had received the same initial offer and had successfully negotiated a counter offer.”
Unfortunately I will not be joining NETFLIX’s Dear White People for its fourth and final season
due to my experience with Lionsgate and their practices of racial discrimination.
After being offered to return for several episodes my team was notified that our counter offer would
— Jeremy Tardy (@Jeremy_Tardy) September 11, 2020
Also recently, Tia Mowry recalled a time, at the height of her Sister Sister’s popularity — when the show enjoyed even higher than Friends — when she and her twin, Tamera, were rejected by a popular teen magazine due to the color of their skin. “We were told that we couldn’t be on the cover of the magazine because we were Black, and we would not sell,” shared for Entertainment Tonight’s Unfiltered series, admitting that “as an adult,” it still hurts.
In 2018, former Living Single star Erika Alexander discussed how her sitcom actually inspired the creation of Friends, but never received the same treatment. “They both came from Warner Bros. We were on the ‘ranch lot’ and [Friends] was on the ‘big lot’ … We had nothing on that lot. We actually had no air conditioning. Our craft services table was basically rice with Tabasco sauce and Ritz crackers, but also what happened was the fact that we didn’t get the marketing … There were a lot of things that were in place to hold [us] down and make you not feel as valuable, but I’m sure if they looked and scaled, and looked at how much they made vs what they put in, I’m sure we’re on par if not way beyond what they made.”
Then there’s actress and comedian Mo’Nique Hicks, who got her start on TV with the 1999 hit sitcom The Parkers and, despite her 2010 Oscar win for Precious, claims she has since been blackballed and labeled as “difficult” — a characteristic often reserved for Black women who dare to challenge the status quo. Just last year, Hicks made headlines when she called out Netflix for “gender bias and color bias” after the network offered her $500,000 for a comedy special — which was less than Netflix reportedly paid Amy Schumer, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock for their shows.
Indeed, according to a 2016 Variety investigation, the pay gap between white actors and those of color was stark; it’s widest for women of color, with a Hollywood Reporter piece noting, “Perceptions that ‘black projects’ don’t play overseas, and Asian- and other minority-led projects don’t perform domestically, contribute to lowballing.”
Hayes, in addition to facing financial hardships, now has congestive heart failure, and was recently admitted to the hospital with breathing difficulties related to the California wildfires.
“Here in L.A., the sky has been orange with smoke and it was just really terrible. So, I was in the hospital overnight, they were having trouble getting my blood pressure back down. Seems like the more they look, the more problems they find.,” he shared. “The good thing is, I don’t have the coronavirus.”
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