All posts in “Australia”

The annual PornHub year in review tells us what we’re really looking at online

PornHub, a popular site feature people in various stages of undress, saw 33.5 billion visits in 2018. There are currently 7.53 billion people on Earth.

Y’all have been busy.

The company, which owns most of the major porn sites online, produces a yearly report that aggregates user behavior on the site. Of particular interest, aside from the fact that all of us are horndogs, is that the US, Germany, and India are in the top spots for porn browsing and that the company transferred 4,000 petabytes of data or about 500 MB per person on the planet.

We ignore this data at our peril. While it doesn’t seem important at first glance, the fact that these porn sites are doing more traffic than most major news organizations is deeply telling. Further, like the meme worlds of Twitter and Facebook, Stormy Daniels and Fortnite made the top searches which points to the spread of politics and culture into the heart of our desires. TV manufacturers should note that 4K searchers are rising in popularity, which suggests that consumer electronics manufacturers should start getting read for a shift (although it should be noted that there is sadly little free 4K content on these sites, a discovery I just made while researching this brief.)

Need more frightening/enlightening data? Here you go.

Just as ‘1080p’ searches had been a defining term in 2017, now “4k” ultra-hd has seen a significant increase in popularity through-out 2018. The popularity of ‘Romantic’ videos more than doubled, and remained twice as popular with female visitors when compared to men.

Searches referring to the dating app ‘Tinder’ grew by 161% among women, 113% among men and 131% by visitors aged 35 to 44. It was also a top trending term in many countries including the United Kingdom and Australia. The number of Tinder themed fantasy date videos on the site is now more than 3500.

Life imitates art, and eventually porn imitates everything, so perhaps it’s no surprise to see that ‘Bowsette’ also made our list of searches that defined 2018. After the original Nintendo fan-art went viral, searches for Bowsette exceeded 3 million in just one week and resulted in the release of a live-action Bowsette themed porn parody (NSFW) with more than 720,000 views.

Bowsette. Good. Moving on.

The Bible Belt representing well in the showings with Mississippi, South Carolina, and Arkansas spending the most time looking at porn. Kansas spent the least. Phones got the most use as porn distribution devices and iOS and Android nearly tied in terms of platform popularity.

Windows traffic fell considerably this year while Chrome OS became decidedly more popular in 2018. Chrome was popular when it came to browsers used while the Playstation was the biggest deliverer of flicks to the console user.

Porn is a the canary in the tech coal mine and where it goes the rest of tech follows. All of these data points, taken together, paint a fascinating picture of a world on the cusp of a fairly unique shift from desktop to mobile and from HD to 4K video. Further, given that these sites are delivering so much data on a daily basis, it’s clear that all of us are sneaking a peek now and again… even if we refuse to admit it.

Amazon’s international stores are shipping to Australia again

Amazon opens its international stores to Australia again.
Amazon opens its international stores to Australia again.

Image: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Although the Australian version of Amazon launched last year, it hasn’t yet quite had the same breadth of products as its U.S. counterpart.

From Thursday, Aussies will be able to buy from Amazon’s international stores, after the company backflipped on a decision to block shipping to Australian customers.

In July, Amazon controversially stopped Australian shoppers from purchasing products from its international stores, after the company deemed it was too difficult to collect the country’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) from these orders.   

New laws introduced on Jul. 1 meant that companies would need to charge GST on all purchases made overseas which were shipped to Australia. Previously, the tax only applied to purchases above $1,000.

“Following the announcement of these changes, we listened to the customer feedback and assessed how we could respond,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

“Since that time, our teams have continued to focus their efforts on building the complex infrastructure needed to enable exports of low value goods to Australia and remain compliant with GST laws.”

The decision is great timing for Australians who want to take advantage of Black Friday sales, especially on the U.S. store where they are particularly attractive.  

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Now eight parliaments are demanding Zuckerberg answers for Facebook scandals

Facebook’s founder is facing pressure to accept an invite from eight international parliaments, with lawmakers wanting to question him about negative impacts his social network is having on democratic processes globally.

Last week Facebook declined a invitation from five of these parliaments.

The elected representatives of Facebook users want Mark Zuckerberg to answer questions in the wake of a string of data misuse and security scandals attached to his platform. The international parliaments have joined forces — forming a grand committee — to amp up the pressure on Facebook.

The UK-led grand committee said it would meet later this month, representing the interests of some 170 million Facebook users across Argentina, Australia, Canada, Ireland and the UK. But Facebook snubbed that invite.

Today the request has been reissued with an additional three parliaments on board — Brazil, Latvia and Singapore.

In their latest invite letter they also make it clear that Facebook’s founder does not have to attend the hearing in person — which was the excuse the company used to decline the last request for Zuckerberg. (Which was just the latest in a long string of ‘nos’ Facebook’s founder has given the committee.)

“We note that while your letter states that you are ‘not able to be in London’ on 27th, it does not rule out giving evidence per se. Would you be amenable to giving evidence via video link instead?” the grand committee writes now.

We’ve asked Facebook whether Zuckerberg will be able to make time in his schedule to provide evidence remotely — and will update this report with any response. (A company spokesman suggested to us that it’s unlikely to do so.)

Of course Zuckerberg is very busy these days — given the fresh scandals slamming Facebook’s exec team. His political plate is truly heaped.

Last week a New York Times report painted an ugly and chaotic picture of Facebook’s leaders’ response to the political disinformation crisis — which included engaging an external public relations firm which used smear tactics against opponents. (Facebook has since severed ties with the firm.)

The grand committee references this controversy in its latest invitation letter, writing: “We believe that there are important issues to be discussed, and that you are the appropriate person to answer them. Yesterday’s New York Times article raises further questions about how recent data breaches were allegedly dealt with within Facebook.”

The UK’s DCMS committee, which has been spearheading efforts to hold Zuckerberg to account, has spent the best part of this year asking wide-ranging questions about the impact of online disinformation on democratic processes. But it has become increasingly damning in its criticism of Facebook — accusing the company of evasion, equivocation and worse as the months have gone on.

In a preliminary report this summer it also called on the government to act urgently, recommending a levy on social media and stronger laws to prevent social media tools being used to undermine democratic processes.

Although the UK government chose not to leap into action. But even there Facebook’s platform is implicated because Brexit — which was itself sold to voters via the medium of unregulated social media ads (with the Electoral Commission finding earlier this year that the official Vote Leave campaign used Facebook’s funnel to bypass electoral law) — is rather monopolizing ministerial attention these days…

One of the questions committee members are keen to get an answer to from Facebook is who at the company knew in the earliest incidence about the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal. In short they want to know where the buck stops. Who should be held accountable — for both the massive data breach and Facebook’s internal handling of it.

And it is very close to getting an answer to that after the UK’s data protection watchdog, the ICO, gave evidence earlier this month — saying it had obtained the distribution list for emails Facebook sent internally about the breach, saying it would pass the list on to the committee.

A spokeswoman for the DCMS committee told us it has yet to receive this information from the ICO.

An ICO spokesperson told us it will not be publishing the list — adding: “At this stage I’m not sure when it will be sent to the committee.”

Lime brings electric bike and scooter sharing to Australia

Electric scooter and bike sharing company Lime has rolled into Australia, launching in Sydney on Friday.

The Californian company’s bright green, dockless electric vehicles have been released into the streets, with 300 e-bikes distributed through Sydney to start and e-scooters to come soon.

Melbourne will be next, with preview electric scooter rides offered for locals heading to and from the Melbourne Cup horse race on Tuesday, and a three-month scooter pilot launched at Monash University in Melbourne earlier this week.

Although folks across the U.S. have endured Lime for over a year, Australians might not be familiar with how they work. The vehicles run on a replaceable lithium battery, which can be swapped out by one of 50 operations employees across the city every two days. The bikes can reach up to 23.8km/h, even on hilly terrain.

The service works through the Lime app, which allows you to scan the area for vehicles. As far as pricing goes, it’ll cost you $1 to unlock a vehicle and 30 cents per minute.

Pick your Lime vehicle.

Pick your Lime vehicle.

Image: mashable screenshot

Lime says it’s been working with local authorities in Sydney to make sure they can weave into the existing transport network.

“Lime’s electric bikes have become hugely popular in cities, similar to Sydney, such as Seattle, whose community is looking for cleaner, cheaper and more accessible transportation,” said Mitchell Price, director of government affairs and strategy in Australia and New Zealand, in a press statement.

“The advantage of our electric bikes is they work together with existing public transit by increasing the accessibility of public transport so people can rely less on personal cars.

“Sydney’s need for innovative transport solutions, which cater to the first and last mile, gives us confidence we will see high uptake of Lime electric bikes within the community,” he added.

Lime in New Zealand.

Lime in New Zealand.

Image: lime

Although it currently operates in more than 100 cities around the world, in Canada, Mexico, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, and more, Lime’s Australian endeavor marks a further foray for the company into the Southern Hemisphere. Lime launched its e-scooters into the New Zealand cities of Auckland and Christchurch in October, as New Zealand’s first ever scooter program. Lime saw the cities cap scooter numbers in Auckland and Christchurch are 1,000 and 700 respectively.

Like other cities across the globe, including Sydney, Lime worked closely with the New Zealand Transport Agency, Christchurch City Council, and Auckland Transport to integrate the scooters into the existing transport system.

“It’s [the scooter program] exactly the kind of thing we want. Zero emissions, and a lot of fun.” Christchurch Councilwoman Vicki Buck said in a press statement.

The introduction of a new ride-share program may trigger some negative feelings for Australians

The introduction of a new ride-share program may trigger some negative feelings for Australians, who have watched cities around the country struggling to deal with mass dumpings of bike-share vehicles over the past 12 months — a terrible trend observed globally, but most notoriously in cities in China. Implementing scooter caps like New Zealand’s may alleviate some of these fears, and the fact that Lime is working with local authorities from the get-go is positive — local councils around the world, including those in Australia, had to clean up the bike-sharing mess after the fact. 

Lime itself has seen decent legislation implemented in some U.S. cities attempting to control scooter dumping. Some cities have identified geo-fenced areas as no-parking zones, and Lime is rolling out new screens on its Generation 3 e-scooters that will make it clearer to riders where these zones are. 

Australia seems to have implemented these no-parking zones, as the app shows areas in red where you can’t park the bikes and scooters.

Red means a no parking zone.

Red means a no parking zone.

Image: mashable screenshot

Aside from the well-worn bike-share path, there’s also the question of whether Australians will pick up the electric scooter trend, which has had a year to settle into the U.S with Lime, alongside competitors like San Francisco-based scooter-share startups Spin and Scoot, the Uber-owned Jump, Lyft-owned Motivate, and Santa Monica-based main player Bird.

Singaporean bike service oBike withdrew from the Australian market in June, with Chinese company Ofo following suit in July.

Whether they’re ready or not, however, Lime has landed.

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Where’s the accountability Facebook?

Facebook has yet again declined an invitation for its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to answer international politicians’ questions about how disinformation spreads on his platform and undermines democratic processes.

But policymakers aren’t giving up — and have upped the ante by issuing a fresh invitation signed by representatives from another three national parliaments. So the call for global accountability is getting louder.

Now representatives from a full five parliaments have signed up to an international grand committee calling for answers from Zuckerberg, with Argentina, Australia and Ireland joining the UK and Canada to try to pile political pressure on Facebook.

The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee has been asking for Facebook’s CEO to attend its multi-month enquiry for the best part of this year, without success…

In its last request the twist was it came not just from the DCMS inquiry into online disinformation but also the Canadian Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

This year policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic have been digging down the rabbit hole of online disinformation — before and since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted into a major global scandal — announcing last week they will form an ‘international grand committee’ to further their enquiries.

The two committees will convene for a joint hearing in the UK parliament on November 27 — and they want Zuckerberg to join them to answer questions related to the “platform’s malign use in world affairs and democratic process”, as they put it in their invitation letter.

Facebook has previously despatched a number of less senior representatives to talk to policymakers probing damages caused by disinformation — including its CTO, Mike Schroepfer, who went before the DCMS committee in April.

But both Schroepfer and Zuckerberg have admitted the accountability buck stops with Facebook’s CEO.

The company’s nine-month-old ‘Privacy Principles‘ also makes the following claim:

We are accountable

In addition to comprehensive privacy reviews, we put products through rigorous data security testing. We also meet with regulators, legislators and privacy experts around the world to get input on our data practices and policies.

The increasingly pressing question, though, is to whom is Facebook actually accountable?

Zuckerberg went personally to the US House and Senate to face policymakers’ questions in April. He also attended a meeting of the EU parliament’s Conference of Presidents in May.

But the rest of the world continues being palmed off with minions. Despite some major, major harms.

Facebook’s 2BN+ user platform does not stop at the US border. And Zuckerberg himself has conceded the company probably wouldn’t be profitable without its international business.

Yet so far only the supranational EU parliament has managed to secure a public meeting with Facebook’s CEO.

“Facebook say that they remain “committed to working with our committees to provide any additional relevant information” that we require. Yet they offer no means of doing this,” tweeted DCMS chair Damian Collins reissuing the invitation for Zuckerberg. “The call for accountability is growing, with representatives from 5 parliaments now meeting on the 27th.”

The letter to Facebook’s CEO notes that the five nations represent 170 million Facebook users.

“We call on you once again to take up your responsibility to Facebook users, and speak in person to their elected representatives,” it adds.

The UK’s information commissioner said yesterday that Facebook needs to overhaul its business model, giving evidence to parliament on the “unprecedented” data investigation her office has been running which was triggered by the Cambridge Analytica scandal. She also urged policymakers to strengthen the rules on the use of people’s data for digital campaigning.

Last month the European parliament also called for Facebook to let in external auditors in the wake of Cambridge Analytica, to ensure users’ data is being properly protected — yet another invitation Facebook has declined.

Meanwhile an independent report assessing the company’s human rights impact in Myanmar — which Facebook commissioned but chose to release yesterday on the eve of the US midterms when most domestic eyeballs would be elsewhere — agreed with the UN’s damning assessment that Facebook did not do enough to prevent its platform from being used to incite ethical violence.

The report also said Facebook is still not doing enough in Myanmar.