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Unbanning porn | the FTC refile their silly lawsuit | MUM's the word!
Hello best friends. While you were all arguing about whether or not Twitter’s new font is any good, I was updating the website for Mutual Dislike: a quarterly zine of gruesome dystopian fiction that fizzes in your jugular like addictive poison. It's basically like this newsletter, but the stories are made up (so less depressing?) — you'll love it!
Anyway, this week was a pallid pile of something I could have done without 👎. Why? Scroll down and cringe at:
The awful, just absolutely terrible job that FTC are doing at taking Facebook to court
Google are transforming Search into something I hate, and now you can hate it too
OnlyFans are banning sexual conte- oh wait no they've changed their minds
🗯️ Trying to improve your dull little life? Just ask MUM!
Yes, MUM — the new NLP flex from Google. A few weeks ago I touched on the beginnings of this: Google essentially want to transform Search from a list of ranked results, to a curated multimedia experience (🙄).
Google now seem to be doubling down on this as a good idea. MUM stands for Multitask Unified Model, and is built on BERT — which is Google's other 'groundbreaking' engine that Search currently uses. BERT was different because it was trained on A LOT of unannotated text, and eventually was able to fill in the gaps when researchers randomly redacted bits. So in this sense, BERT 'learned' some basic things about the world.
Well now MUM is swooping in and taking all of BERT's learnings to be rid of standard search results altogether. The future of Search is a set of sanitised, machine-determined answers to complex questions. And by 'complex questions' I mean the kinds of things consumers ask, like "do I need a ski suit for my ski trip or will a regular coat do the trick?"
I cannot speak for how useful this will be in our every-day lives, but I think it's a really good way of Google getting an even more granulated picture of the general wants and desires of consumers.
Furthermore, in the same way that I do not need more robots to chat to in my waking hours, the world does not need more large language models. Firing Timnit Gebru was such a great move for Google, because now they can ignore her four key risks of the continued use of technologies like BERT and MUM.
👩⚖️ It's lawshit bullsuit time (lawsuit bullshit time)
I wonder what it's like being an employee at the FTC and having to go to work in a — I assume — stuffy, boring office everyday, with little or no knowledge about how social networks and ad exchanges work. Must be NICE.
So, what have the FTC done now? Well they've
surpassed disappointingly met all expectations and have re-filed that silly antitrust lawsuit of theirs from earlier this year. A federal judge threw the case out, because the FTC failed to prove that Facebook have a monopoly over the 'personal social networking' market.
But look, it's fine: now that they've had more time to think about it, the FTC have been able to explain what they mean by 'personal social networking', and perhaps even define some metrics around what a monopoly is in this context. Here's a quote from their new complaint:
Personal social networking is distinct from, and not reasonably interchangeable with, online services focused on video or audio consumption [...] TikTok is a prominent example of a content broadcasting and consumption service that is not an acceptable substitute for personal social networking services. TikTok users primarily view, create, and share video content to an audience that the poster does not personally know, rather than connect and personally engage with friends and family.
Taken from the new complaint
Oh... oh right. Actually, instead of explaining how Facebook hold a monopoly over social networking, they've just somehow made a claim that TikTok 'doesn't count' as social networking, so shouldn't be seen as part of the problem. I understand that the FTC's current mission is to obliterate Facebook, but stuffing TikTok into this weird 'not really social networking' category isn't how you do that.
☝️ That is because: in this new complaint, the FTC say that a key part of Facebook's monopolistic behaviour is that they destroy competition by keeping their ads cheap. Extremely important fact that the FTC have somehow overlooked: Facebook does not control the price of Facebook ads... that is done via auction. Ad space is sold for however much an advertiser is willing to pay for it, you fools.
In fact, real-time fast-paced auctions is basically how all behavioural adverts are served to us — are the FTC mad at how online advertising works, or are they mad at Facebook's grasp on whatever they deem 'personal social networking' to be? Pick a lane, regulate, and stop fucking around.
🍌 OnlyFans reverses a policy that they didn't even have time to implement
Before we delve into what I think, let's look at some cold hard FACTS.
Fact One: if your creator platform has no rules against adult content, it will become a porn site (and that's fine).
Fact Two: banks consider porn to be a high-risk industry because payments are often disputed and asked to be refunded by embarrassed and proud men who don't want to admit that they paid to see bare naked tiddies.
So, OnlyFans embraced Fact One, but then had to unembrace it because of Fact Two.
Okay but, Fact Three: OnlyFans was the go-to safe place to make money for sex workers. It was also another way for more casual porn creators to make extra money during lockdowns over the pandemic. Users of OnlyFans were either making or consuming adult content — let's not kid ourselves that there were also cat videos.
As you can imagine, there was huge push-back on this absolutely bizarre policy decision, so they've put it on hold for now. This is a classic tale of a platform with power telling it's users what's good for them. The official line coming from OnlyFans is that banks have unfair restrictions, and they were doing this to protect their content creators — the fact that this move would push their precious content creators onto the streets doesn't seem to have been part of their decision making, so that's interesting.
Thank you for reaching the alluring nether-region of this newsletter — I hope you have a sunny weekend.