All posts in “Google”

Build the next Sims or Candy Crush by learning animation and design via these online classes

With lifetime access to over 60 courses, you can brush up at any time.
With lifetime access to over 60 courses, you can brush up at any time.

Image: pexels

If you’re looking to get your lucrative design career off the ground, you might consider enrolling in this design and animation bundle, a series of courses which will help you gain a deeper understanding of design and animation.

With 500 hours of content and over 60 courses, this bundle will teach you the nuts and bolts required to design a computer game program or app. For a comprehensive curriculum, the bundle features courses on everything from computer-aided design (a.k.a. CAD), to engineering, to animation. And if you want to brush up on industry-standard programs like Photoshop, InDesign, and Autodesk MAYA, there are courses to help you with that, too.

The Ultimate Design & Animation Bundle is valued at $1,799, but for the next few days, you can buy it only $29 – that’s a 98% discount. 

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube praised for “steady progress” quashing illegal hate speech in Europe

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are likely to be breathing a little easier in Europe after getting a pat on the back from regional lawmakers for making “steady progress” on removing illegal hate speech.

Last week the European Commission warned it could still draw up legislation to try to ensure illegal content is removed from online platforms if tech firms do not step up their efforts.

Germany has already done so for, implementing a regime of fines of up to €50M for social media firms that fail to promptly remove illegal hate speech, though the EC is generally eyeing a wider mix of illegal content when it talks tough on this topic — including terrorist propaganda and even copyrighted material.

Today, on the specific issue of illegal hate speech on social media, it was sounding happy with the current voluntary approach. It also announced that two more social media platforms — Instagram and Google+ — have joined the program.

In 2016 Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft signed up to a regional Code of Conduct on illegal hate speech, committing to review the majority of reported hate speech within 24 hours and — for valid reports — remove posts within that timeframe too.

The Commission has been monitoring their progress on social media hate speech, specifically to see whether they are living up to what they agreed in the Code of Conduct.

Today it gave the findings from its third review — reporting that the companies are removing 70 per cent of notified illegal hate speech on average, up from 59 per cent in the second evaluation, and 28 per cent when their performance was first assessed in 2016.

Last year, Facebook and YouTube announced big boosts to the number of staff dealing with safety and content moderation issues on their platforms, following a series of content scandals and a cranking up of political pressure (which, despite the Commission giving a good report now, has not let up in every EU Member State).

Also under fire over hate speech on its platform last year, Twitter broadened its policies around hateful conduct and abusive behavior — enforcing the more expansive policies from December.

Asked during a press conference whether the EC would now be less likely to propose hate speech legislation for social media platforms, Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality commissioner Věra Jourová replied in the affirmative.

“Yes,” she said. “Now I see this as more probable that we will propose — also to the ministers of justice and all the stakeholders and within the Commission — that we want to continue this [voluntary] approach.”

Though the commissioner also emphasized she was not talking about other types of censured online content, such as terrorist propaganda and fake news. (On the latter, for instance, France’s president said last month he will introduce an anti-fake news election law aimed at combating malicious disinformation campaigns.)

“With the wider aspects of platforms… we are looking at coming forward with more specific steps which could be taken to tighten up the response to all types of illegal content before the Commission reaches a decision on whether legislation will be required,” Jourová added.

She noted that some Member States’ justice ministers are open to a new EU-level law on social media and hate speech — in the event they judge the voluntary approach to have failed — but said other ministers take a ‘hands off’ view on the issue.

“Having these quite positive results of this third assessment I will be stronger in promoting my view that we should continue the way of doing this through the Code of Conduct,” she added.

While she said she was pleased with progress made by the tech firms, Jourová flagged up feedback as an area that still needs work.

“I want to congratulate the four companies for fulfilling their main commitments. On the other hand I urge them to keep improving their feedback to users on how they handle illegal content,” she said, calling again for “more transparency” on that.

“My main idea was to make these platforms more responsible,” she added of the Code. “The experience with the big Internet players was that they were very aware of their powers but did not necessarily grasp their responsibilities.

“The Code of Conduct is a tool to enforce the existing law in Europe against racism and xenophobia. In their everyday business, companies, citizens, everyone has to make sure they respect the law — they do not need a court order to do so.

“Let me make one thing very clear, the time of fast moving, disturbing companies such as Google, Facebook or Amazon growing without any supervision or control comes to an end.”

In all, for the EC’s monitoring exercise, 2,982 notifications of illegal hate speech were submitted to the tech firms in 27 EU Member during a six-week period in November and December last year, split between reporting channels that are available to general users and specific channels available only to trusted flaggers/reporters.

In 81.7% of the cases the exercise found that the social media firms assessed notifications in less than 24 hours; in 10% in less than 48 hours; in 4.8% in less than a week; and in 3.5% it took more than a week.

Performance varied across the companies with Facebook achieving the best results — assessing the notifications in less than 24 hours in 89.3% of the cases and 9.7% in less
than 48 hours — followed by Twitter (80.2% and 10.4% respectively), and lastly YouTube (62.7% and 10.6%).

Twitter was found to have made the biggest improvement on notification review, having only achieved 39% of cases reviewed within a day as of May 2017.

In terms of removals, Facebook removed 79.8% of the content, YouTube 75% and Twitter 45.7%. Facebook also received the largest amount of notifications (1 408), followed by Twitter (794) and YouTube (780). Microsoft did not receive any.

According to the EC’s assessment, the most frequently reported grounds for hate speech are ethnic origin, anti-Muslim hatred and xenophobia.

Acknowledging the challenges that are inherent in judging whether something constitutes illegal hate speech or not, Jourová said the Commission does not have a target of 100% removals on illegal hate speech reports — given the “difficult work” that tech firms have to do in evaluating certain reports.

Illegal hate speech in Europe is defined as hate speech that has the potential to incite violence.

“They have to take into consideration the nature of the message and its potential impact on the behavior of the society,” she noted. “We do not have the goal of 100% because there are those edge cases. And… in case of doubt we should have the messages remain online because the basic position is that we protect the freedom of expression. That’s the baseline.”

YouTube is pulling Tide Pod Challenge videos

People doing stupid stuff on the Internet is hardly news. To wit: The Tide Pod Challenge, in which YouTubers have been filming themselves eating — or, we really hope, pretending to eat — laundry detergent pods.

Why? Uh, because they’re brightly colored?? We guess???????

Obviously this is Darwin Awards’ levels of idiocy — given that detergent is, y’know, not at all edible, toxic to biological life and a potent skin irritant. It would also literally taste of soap. Truly, one wonders what social historians will make of the 21st century.

But while eating Tide Pods appears to have started as a silly meme — which now has its own long and rich history — once YouTubers got hold of it, well, things started to turn from funny fantasy to toxic reality.

Funny that.

So now YouTube appears to be trying to get ahead of any wider societal outcry over (yet more) algorithmically accelerated idiocy on its platform — i.e. when sane people realize kids have been filming themselves eating detergent just to try to go viral on YouTube — and is removing Tide Pod Challenge videos.

At least when they have been reported.

A YouTube spokesperson sent us the following statement on this: “YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit content that’s intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm. We work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies.”

Under YouTube’s policy channels that have a video removed on such grounds will get a strike — and if they get too many strikes could face having their channel suspended.

At the time of writing it’s still possible to find Tide Pod Challenge videos on YouTube, though most of the videos being surfaced seem to be denouncing the stupidity of the ‘challenge’ (even if they have clickbait-y titles that claim they’re going to eat the pods — hey, savvy YouTubers know a good viral backlash bandwagon to jump on when they see one!).

Other videos that we found — still critical of the challenge but which include actual footage of people biting into Tide Pods — require sign in for age verification and are also gated behind a warning message that the content “may be inappropriate for some users”.

As we understand it, videos that discuss the Tide Pod challenge in a news setting or educational/documentary fashion are still allowed — although it’s not clear where exactly YouTube moderators are drawing the tonal line.

Fast Company reports that YouTube clamping down on Tide Pod Challenge videos is in response to pressure from the detergent brand’s parent company, Procter & Gamble — which has said it is working with “leading social media sites” to encourage the removal of videos that violate their polices.

Because, strangely enough, Procter & Gamble is not ecstatic that people have been trying to eat its laundry pods…

And while removal of videos that encourage dangerous activities is not a new policy on YouTube’s part, YouTube taking a more pro-active approach to enforcement of its own policies is clearly the name of the game for the platform these days.

That’s because a series of YouTube content scandals blew up last year — triggering advertisers to start pulling their dollars off of the platform, including after marketing messages were shown being displayed alongside hateful and/or obscene content.

YouTube responded to the ad boycott by saying it would given brands more control over where their ads appeared. It also started demonitizing certain types of videos.

There was also a spike in concern last year about the kinds of videos children were being exposed to on YouTube — and indeed the kinds of activities YouTubers were exposing their children to in their efforts to catch the algorithm’s eye — which also led the company to tighten its rules and enforcement.

YouTube is also increasingly in politicians’ crosshairs for algorithmically accelerating extremism — and it made a policy shift last year to also remove non-violent content made by listed terrorists.

It remains under rising political pressure to come up with technical solutions for limiting the spread of hate speech and other illegal content — with European Union lawmakers warning platforms last month they could look to legislate if tech giants don’t get better at moderating content themselves.

At the end of last year YouTube said it would be increasing its content moderation and other enforcement staff to 10,000 in 2018, as it sought to get on top of all the content criticism.

The long and short of all this is that user generated content is increasing under the spotlight and some of the things YouTubers have been showing and doing to gain views by ‘pleasing the algorithm’ have turned out to be rather less pleasing for YouTube the company.

As one YouTuber abruptly facing demonitization of his channel — which included videos of his children doing things like being terrified at flu jabs or crying over dead pets — told Buzzfeed last year: “The [YouTube] algorithm is the thing we had a relationship with since the beginning. That’s what got us out there and popular. We learned to fuel it and do whatever it took to please the algorithm.”

Another truly terrible example of the YouTuber quest for viral views occurred at the start of this year, when YouTube ‘star’, Logan Paul — whose influencer status had earned him a position in Google’s Preferred ad program — filmed himself laughing beside the dead body of a suicide victim in Japan.

It gets worse: This video had actually been manually approved by YouTube moderators, going on to rack up millions of views and appearing in the top trending section on the platform — before Paul himself took it down in the face of widespread outrage.

In response to that, earlier this week YouTube announced yet another tightening of its rules, around creator monetization and partnerships — saying content on its Preferred Program would be “the most vetted”.

Last month it also dropped Paul from the partner program.

Compared to that YouTube-specific scandal, the Tide Pod Challenge looks like a mere irritant.

Featured Image: nevodka/iStock Editorial

A Google bus was attacked outside of San Fransisco, just like buses from Apple

A tech shuttle in San Francisco.
A tech shuttle in San Francisco.

Image: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Apple shuttles aren’t the only tech buses under attack

Google buses, which carry employees of the tech giant to and from its Mountain View headquarters, are in the spotlight today following an attack on one of the company’s chartered shuttles. 

California Highway Patrol officer Art Montiel confirmed to Mashable that, in addition to four Apple buses, a shuttle bus chartered by Google was hit in some sort of attack that took place on Highway 280 outside of San Francisco. Thankfully, no injuries have been reported. 

The incident went down on Tuesday. Much like with the attack on the Apple buses, which suffered broken windows, it is not clear what exactly was used by the perpetrator. Regardless, whether it was rocks, “rubber rounds” (as speculated by one Apple employee), or something else entirely, there is clearly real danger involved in breaking the windows of a bus while it’s full of passengers and driving on the highway. 

Doug Bloch, the political director of the Teamsters Joint Council 7, told the San Francisco Examiner that he thinks a pellet gun is responsible. 

“It was pellet guns,” Bloch explained to the paper. “A couple [of the buses] were driven by Teamsters who were understandably scared, but no one got hurt.”

A broken window on an Apple shuttle, which may have been attacked by the same perpetrator who attacked the Google shuttle.

A broken window on an Apple shuttle, which may have been attacked by the same perpetrator who attacked the Google shuttle.

Image: Mashable

Mashable has been unable to verify that claim, and CHP says it is investigating the matter. 

Meanwhile, Google alerted its shuttle-riding employees in an email sent out Wednesday. 

“[We’re] taking the precaution of re-routing shuttles as we hear of any incidents,” reads the message in part. 

We reached out to Google for comment, and will update this if we hear back.

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How Google’s ‘speed update’ will affect mobile search

Google is trying to speed up mobile searches.
Google is trying to speed up mobile searches.

Image: Adam Berry/Getty Images

Google searches on your phone are about to get an important upgrade.

The company announced an upcoming “speed update” to search, which will put some slower loading pages lower down in search results on mobile devices.

Google says it expects the speed update, set to take effect in July, will only affect “a small percentage of queries,” but given the number of Google searches that happen on a daily basis, it could have a significant impact on search.

Under the change, Google will take page speeds into account in determining its rankings for mobile searches. The company has previously used speed as a factor on desktop, but this will mark the first time Google has done so on mobile.

While not a surprising move considering that the bulk of Google searches come from mobile devices, the change has some interesting implications in the long run.

Though Google says the change will only affect a small number of searches, it could incentivize more sites to adopt the company’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), stripped-down versions of web pages that load very quickly.  

That’s not to say that AMP pages will automatically be given priority. Google notes that the change only looks at the speed of a particular page, “regardless of the technology used to build the page,” and the company told Search Engine Land that AMP pages could still be ranked lower if they load slowly. 

But considering that AMP tends to be significantly faster than the traditional mobile web, the speed update would certainly seem to give an edge to sites that use the technology.

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