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Recode Daily: YouTube has shifted its stance on harassment yet again

Plus: Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple are readying their lobbyists for a regulatory reckoning. 

The YouTube logo. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After an onslaught of criticism, YouTube shifted its stance on harassment yet again. The video platform company has for years waffled over what kinds of content on its platform it considers violative. This week, it’s done it again. On Wednesday night, YouTube said it would reexamine and update its harassment policies — but it only did so after an outpouring of condemnation over how it handled complaints from Vox YouTube host Carlos Maza about a fellow creator harassing him on the platform with impunity. First, on Tuesday, the company said a series of videos in which the conservative media figure Steven Crowder calls Maza homophobic slurs didn’t violate its policies. Then, under public pressure, YouTube said on Wednesday it would temporarily demonetize Crowder’s channel. That didn’t resolve tensions either, as The Verge’s Elizabeth Lopatto writes: “YouTube’s policies have satisfied no one in this very public debacle.” By Wednesday night, the company published a blog post explaining its reasoning for keeping up the videos but promised to take a “hard look at our harassment policies with an aim to update them.” YouTube did not give itself a deadline for announcing these policy changes.
[Elizabeth Lopatto / The Verge]

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Microsoft deleted a massive online database of 100,000 faces it shared without people’s consent. After the Financial Times reported in April that Microsoft was hosting a public database featuring 10 million images of 100,000 people’s faces, the tech giant has pulled down the database without any fanfare. People whose images were included in the database, referred to as MS Celeb, had not agreed to participate. The database scraped its many faces from search engines and online videos, and the Financial Times reports they were “used to train facial recognition systems around the world, including by military researchers and Chinese firms such as SenseTime and Megvii.” (Both of these firms are under scrutiny for providing technology the Chinese government uses to surveil minorities like its Uighur Muslim population, many of whom the state has sent to political reeducation camps.) Microsoft’s decision to delete MS Celeb doesn’t mean the facial images have disappeared entirely; the database is still circulating on open source websites.
[Madhumita Murgia / Financial Times]

Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple are readying their lobbyists for a regulatory reckoning. The reports that US government regulators and legislators are preparing to launch antitrust investigations into the business practices of the four biggest companies in tech didn’t quite take these giants by surprise. Bloomberg reports that similar scrutiny in Europe had already compelled them to hire lawyers and lobbyists to convince regulators that they shouldn’t be broken up or forced to change how they operate. These deep-pocketed companies have been pouring money into Washington to prepare for the battle: “Google, Amazon and Facebook set company records for lobbying spending in 2018,” according to Bloomberg.
[Gerrit De Vynckand and David McLaughlin / Bloomberg]

WarnerMedia is considering a mid-priced streaming service that bundles HBO, Warner Bros. content, and Cinemax. The media company, which is owned by AT&T, had once planned to offer three price tiers of streaming services to cord cutters. According to the Wall Street Journal, now it’s rethinking that strategy as Disney, Apple, and NBCUniversal launch their own competitively priced services in an already crowded market. The platform WarnerMedia is discussing would cost between $16 and $17 a month, which is only a little more than what it charges for its HBO Now stand-alone service, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Consumers have limited money to spend on a growing number of options,” the Journal writes, citing a study that found cord cutters are willing to pay about $38 on a variety of streaming services.
[Lillian Rizzo and Joe Flint / Wall Street Journal]

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