This week’s digital news covers the serious, the sublime and the stupid.
Google is under attack yet again and Amazon keeps on keeping on.
Holocaust Google search row
A Jewish heritage museum in Atlanta, Georgia has accused Google of profiting from Holocaust denial.
The marketing director of the Breman Museum claims they are having to pay Google up to $2 a click to prevent a neo-Nazi website from appearing as the top result for ‘did the Holocaust happen’.
Google has stated that it does not allow regular advertising on such terms, but the Observer newspaper managed to purchase such ad placements through AdWords.
Fake news and contested facts have probably been the story of the year, as far as search and social goes, and this latest row again highlights the scale of the task that Google and Facebook face.
Zuckerberg creates Iron Man’s Jarvis
Probably the biggest story this week came from Mark Zuckerberg’s long Facebook note detailing his attempts at creating his own version of Iron Man’s Jarvis (an AI butler).
The post makes for interesting reading. It’s a genuine account of Mark’s passion project, even if there are several Facebook products plugged throughout, and includes some reasoned thought on where we are with AI and the connected home.
The PR team picked up on the post’s success and got Zuckerberg to create a particularly wooden video to maximise publicity. At least, I presume it was the PR team’s idea, though it could have simply been a bit of hubris from the creator himself.
Either way, it worked a treat (over 20m views at time of writing).
Falling in love with Alexa
A further half a million people have professed their love and more than 250,000 have proposed. Apparently, the most popular interaction is ‘thank you’.
Gatebox takes the concept of a relationship with an IA to its logical conclusion, with its $2,500 device featuring character Azuma Hikari. What it does for gender stereotyping is up for debate.
Ireland appeals against EU’s demand for Apple taxes
Ireland has published a response to the EU’s August demand that it collect $13.6bn in taxes from Apple (because its low rates amount to state aid).
The nation argues that low taxes to attract investors is legal, and that the EU has no right to intervene.
Amazon charters its own Christmas post jets
Amazon will deliver an estimated 220m packages in the US alone over Christmas.
This year, a cargo jet dubbed “Amazon One” will be a major part of Amazon’s logistics network. In the past six months, Amazon’s use of cargo jets (it has leased 40 of them) has doubled, according to the FT.
Amazon spent $4.2bn on shipping in the fourth quarter of 2015. 2016 will likely see that figure eclipsed.
In the run up to Christmas, Amazon is chartering up to 19 flights per day.
@Jack takes a shellacking
— Anna Mazzola (@Anna_Mazz) December 21, 2016
Vice removes comments
Vice’s redesign has sacrificed the comments section.
In an entertaining post, Jonathan Smith explained the decision. Here’s a highlight:
Unfortunately, website comments sections are rarely at their best. Without moderators or fancy algorithms, they are prone to anarchy.
Too often they devolve into racist, misogynistic maelstroms where the loudest, most offensive, and stupidest opinions get pushed to the top and the more reasoned responses drowned out in the noise.
While we always welcomed your thoughts on how we are actually a right-wing mouthpiece for the CIA, or how much better we were before we sold our dickless souls to Rupert Murdoch, or just how shitty we are in general, we had to ban countless commenters over the years for threatening our writers and subjects, doxxing private citizens, and engaging in hate speech against pretty much every group imaginable.
Former Google employee sues
A former Google employee has brought a suit claiming illegal confidentiality rules at the company.
Internal policies allegedly prohibit employees from speaking about illegal conduct or dangerous product defects.
It is alleged a program called Stopleaks suggests that employees need to report on ‘strange things’ they see or hear around them and that employees are to be banned from writing ‘a novel about someone working at a tech company in Silicon Valley,’ without Google’s approval of a final draft.
The suit claims that the policies amount to Google restricting employees’ rights to speak or whistle blow.
Uber pulls semi-autonomous vehicles from San Francisco
Uber is moving one of its semi-autonomous vehicle trial from San Francisco to Arizona.
The move comes after Uber has been arguing with the DMV and state attorney general about the definition of an autonomous vehicle.
California defines one as having the capability to drive ‘without the active physical control or monitoring of a natural person.’
Uber has argued that because a driver and an engineer sit in the front and often take control of the wheel its cars escape the definition.
However, threats of legal action seem to have warded off Uber, which had never obtained a permit for the testing.
Instagram apes Snapchat…again
Instagram has introduced a new feature akin to Snapchat geofilters.
Stickers can be added to Stories and display location names, time, weather, and emoji. Seasonal graphics are also available.