👍 Antitrust Thrust
Paying for Twitter | How Microsoft is ruining gaming | The SBF arrest
Note: there will be no newsletter next week, but on the 30th I will send out a Horrific/Terrific Year in Review featuring interviews from experts in various fields including NLP, content moderation, data privacy, and cyber security.
Hello, how are you? Me? I’m freezing, thanks a lot, winter.
This week was good! Finally 👍. My reasoning is muddled. Maybe you should just decide yourself:
Elon Musk’s next idea for Twitter Blue is another hole in the hull of an already sinking ship
The Microsoft Activision acquisition is less about gaming and more about taking data from people, a Big Tech firm’s most favourite thing to do
Sam Bankman-Fried has been arrested, your bitcoin is safe now
💙 The Twitter Blue subscription model is as old as web2 itself
This week, Casey Newton wrote about how Elon Musk’s next big idea for Twitter is to reintroduce the Twitter Blue subscription thing, but those who choose not to pay will be forced to be subject to personalised ad targeting if they want to keep using the platform for free. (I managed to find the full Casey Newton piece for free on GameFAQs of all places, in case you’re not a paid subscriber to Platformer and want to just read this one thing).
First of all, I know this is a really obvious point, but my least favourite thing about the current internet landscape is the weaponisation of ads. Online ads are unappealing in every single way: they’re loud, distracting, ugly, and sometimes get mistaken for actual content. The web has evolved in a way that has made us think you’re just supposed to get content for free, and luckily for advertisers and publishers, they figured out that tracking online behaviours and advertising to people without their knowledge or consent was a great way to make money — much easier than creating content and asking people to pay for it.
So now we find ourselves wanting to pay for services not because the services are good, but because we are sick to death of online ads. It’s literally lose-lose for the user. Your online experiences are either ruined by adverts, or you find yourself saddled with yet another subscription for something that you’re not even sure is that valuable.
I actually think that we should pay for something like Twitter — but not under these conditions. What you get with a big centralised platform like Twitter is the ability to broadcast information and amplify it. Maybe I’m just an idiot who should look at more traditional news sources, but there are some really big things that I learned about just from looking at Twitter: the murder of George Floyd, and the protest movement that followed; the protests in Hong Kong; people’s personal experiences with Covid-19 — this stuff is not the same as traditional reporting and is extremely valuable.
Of course I do understand that algorithmic amplification doesn’t seem to discriminate, and harmful content often goes viral. I don’t know what the answer is, but extracting more data from users in the name of personalised ads is definitely not it. Is this really the best thing all of those ‘innovators’ in Silicon Valley can think of?
🤝 *Laughs in market dominance*
Okay LOOK let me just explain something to you: I don’t care that we are living under capitalism, big companies need to stop getting bought out by even BIGGER ones. This week I refer specifically to Microsoft’s upcoming acquisition of Activision-Blizzard (a game publisher), and how everyone is getting up in arms over the FTC’s decision to try and block it.
🔍 Let’s examine some facts:
Activision are a huge publisher. They publish games like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Candy Crush
If Microsoft owned all this, they could quite easily limit publication of these games to the Xbox — the worst console ever made
However, Microsoft insist that they would never do this, and they are even trying to make a 10-year deal with Sony, which says that (if the acquisition goes through) Microsoft would allow all new Call of Duty games be available on the Playstation too.
That last point really is the antitrust cherry on top of an ice-cream sundae of LIES. Microsoft offer this ten-year deal to Sony like it’s a righteous illustration of their commitment to fostering healthy gaming communities. But, before this acquisition was on the table, Call of Duty was just, you know, available to play pretty much everywhere and wasn’t subject to a limited-time deal. There’s nothing stopping Microsoft from making COD exclusive to the Xbox once the deal is over, and yet they wonder why Sony are reticent to take this deal.
I also want to point out that games like Call of Duty and Overwatch are free to play — and so is Candy Crush. When a game is free to play, it makes money in two other ways:
By collecting personal data and selling it on to advertisers and data brokers — this is easier and more lucrative than charging people once to buy the game
Via in-game purchases, such as buying turns if you run out, or buying skins for your character, which is something that has contributed massively to crunch-culture and horrendous game engineer burnout.
So what Microsoft stand to gain here is a constant stream of money, and a constant stream of data (which is also a constant stream of money, I guess). They are so sure that this acquisition will go through, that they aren’t even trying to come up with arguments about how this is not anti-competitive. Their current line is “The allegation that this deal is anti-competitive doesn’t align with the facts”. It doesn’t?? It will literally give them the power to decide where huge, popular games do or do not get published — but sure.
💸 Sam Bankman-Fucked
Sam Bankman-Fried, previous CEO of FTX, has finally been arrested for all of his wrong doings. And what are those again? Ah yes, he ‘defrauded investors’. Investors — i.e. people who have more money than they need — are the last group of people you’re meant to defraud. Investors make up a key thread in the rich tapestry of free-market capitalism. We must not defraud investors; we must keep them happy all the time or it all falls down.
But anyway, I think that SBF having his liberty taken away (or at least his ability to run a a crypto exchange) is actually good for humanity overall, and the same thing should probably happen to Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of Binance, which seems to also be on the verge of collapse. Actually… every single crypto exchange founder should just disappear into oblivion, along with the exchanges themselves.
I just think it’s really interesting that these people — who thought that running an unregulated bank full of fake currency was a good idea — are now reaping the ‘benefits’ of all the stupid systems they advocated so hard for. What they wanted was a financial ecosystem with no rules, as long that lack of rules meant they got to become rich. What they failed to realise was how ‘no rules’ doesn’t protect them from fucking themselves over.
My hope is they all eject themselves into space when the time to evacuate Earth finally comes, and then for a brief moment, before we all die, we can have some peace.
Sorry that got dark. Try and have a nice weekend despite how depressing I’m being.