Aug 23, 2021

Axios Login

Welcome back. Thanks for giving the staff a much needed break to replenish our creative cup. Speaking of which, I had this idea for an online book club for procrastinators. We could call it "Haven'tReddit."

Today's newsletter is 1,360 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: YouTube says content policing is good for business

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch, Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

While critics allege YouTube puts profits over public safety, product head Neal Mohan insists that the Google-owned video site is working to be a better content moderator, in part because it is good for business.

Why it matters: Users spend billions of hours watching videos on YouTube, and the site's content recommendations shape how that time is spent. Facebook and Twitter tend to get more attention on content moderation, but YouTube remains an equally important information battleground.

Driving the news: YouTube is announcing today that it now has two million people in its programs that enable creators to get paid. Mohan said a huge part of his focus is trying to find ways to make sure those who play by the rules are rewarded.

"99.9% of creators are looking to do the right thing," Mohan said in an interview, noting that YouTube has paid out $30 billion over the last three years.

Between the lines: YouTube still faces challenges in making sure it is the creators "doing the right thing" who are benefiting the most, rather than spreaders of viral misinformation.

  • It's not just those getting paid by Google who can benefit from gaming the system. Creators with a large enough following can make money indirectly even if they've been "demonetized" — removed from YouTube's own payment programs.
  • In the "vast, vast majority of cases that's a good thing," Mohan said, though he acknowledges that it does create opportunities for some creators to profit from borderline content that doesn't meet YouTube's bar.

The big picture: On one of the biggest topics at the moment, COVID-19 misinformation, Mohan pointed to both the work that the company has done to enforce its policies and collaborations between creators and health authorities, as well as the dedicated spots YouTube has set aside for authoritative information.

  • "I hope that we are perceived as ultimately a positive voice here," Mohan said.
  • Critics, though, point to a vast array of videos that have promoted hesitancy around masks and vaccines. Some were eventually taken down, others have been allowed to remain on the site.
  • Mohan noted that the landscape is ever-changing and the company's work around COVID-19 misinformation is ongoing.
  • "The work is never done," Mohan said. "I have learned that there is always a new vector of misinformation that will pop up."

By the numbers: YouTube has recently started sharing the rate of policy-violating content that is being shown to visitors. Tech companies and critics agree that this is a more important metric than the total amount of content being removed.

  • As of the fourth quarter, YouTube said that rate was 0.16–0.18%, meaning that out of every 10,000 views on YouTube, only 16–18 come from rule-violating content.

Meanwhile: Mohan said he continues to put a lot of effort into YouTube Shorts, which he says is more than just a TikTok competitor.

  • Mohan notes that he is trying to add features that take advantage of YouTube's existing strengths, including making it easy for creators to create short remixes of existing YouTube videos.
  • "You should look for more of those," Mohan said.
2. Facebook defends its misinfo metrics

Facebook says its release of quarterly data about the most popular content on its platform shows it's being more transparent, while critics complained that the information is selective and incomplete.

Driving the news: The White House blasted Facebook, with spokesman Michael Gwin telling Axios, "Facebook still refuses to be straightforward about how much misinformation is circulating — and being actively promoted — on their platform."

What's happening:

  • Facebook on Wednesday released a new report on the most-widely viewed content.
  • However, critics said the report focused narrowly on publicly shared posts and was cherry-picked to hide the prominence of misinformation and hyper-partisan content on the site.

The big picture: Facebook is gigantic, everyone sees a different News Feed, and only the company has all the data on what posts users are seeing.

Between the lines: The debate grew more heated after the New York Times reported that Facebook held back a version of the report last quarter. That report showed a potentially misleading mainstream article on COVID-19 vaccination was among the most viewed items.

  • Over the weekend, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone acknowledged the criticism, defended the company's move and also posted the report online.
  • "We're guilty of cleaning up our house a bit before we invited company," Stone wrote on Twitter. "We've been criticized for that; and again, that's not unfair."

Go deeper: Facebook's "see no evil" strategy

3. OnlyFans sends adult creators scrambling

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The move by OnlyFans to ban sexually explicit content raises plenty of questions for the future of the fast-growing site. But it also threatens a way of life for all the creators who have found OnlyFans to be a safe and profitable way to pursue sex work.

Why it matters: While legal and business crackdowns on pornography typically state their aim as reducing exploitation, critics say that such moves often force sex workers into more dangerous and financially insecure options.

Driving the news: OnlyFans said Friday that it will prohibit creators from posting "sexually explicit" content starting in October.

  • The move comes as the company has struggled to find investors, as Axios' Dan Primack reported last week, and as payment processors, including Mastercard, tighten their rules amid outside pressure.
  • OnlyFans said it will continue to allow nudity, but will ban overtly sexual photos and videos "to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers."

The big picture: If the arguments for and against OnlyFans' current business sound familiar, they are: A similar discussion surrounded the debate, passage and implementation of a federal law known as FOSTA/SESTA.

What they're saying:

  • OnlyFans, in a statement Saturday, acknowledged the role sex workers have played in its success. "The OnlyFans community would not be what it is today without you," it said on Twitter. "The policy change was necessary to secure banking and payment services to support you. We are working around the clock to come up with solutions."
  • Sex workers who use the site, meanwhile, charge that this is the first time the site has acknowledged their contributions and criticized the company for prioritizing the needs of its payment providers over those of its platform contributors.
4. Judge overrules Uber- and Lyft-backed Prop. 22

A judge on Friday ruled that a voter-approved California initiative backed by Uber and Lyft was unconstitutional because it limited the state legislature's right to craft future labor laws.

Why it matters: Lyft and Uber spent a fortune to ensure passage of the measure and will surely spend more on lawyers to appeal Friday's ruling.

Driving the news: Per the Sacramento Bee, an Alameda Court judge found several problems with Prop. 22, as the 2020 initiative is known. Broadly, the bill exempts ride-share and food delivery workers from being classified as employees, instead imposing a separate set of rights and responsibilities.

  • But it also limits the right of workers to unionize and sets a higher-than-usual threshold for future legislatures to change any elements of the law — both of which Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch said were unconstitutional, per the Bee.
  • Under the initiative, granting additional rights to drivers would require approval from seven-eighths of the state legislature.
  • Roesch said the proposition's limit on collective bargaining "appears only to protect the economic interests of the network companies in having a divided, ununionized workforce."
5. Take note

On Tap

  • It's mostly the calm before the fall product launches begin next month, but a handful of companies report quarterly earnings, including Salesforce and Snowflake on Wednesday and HP Inc. and VMWare on Thursday.

ICYMI

  • China passed a strict new data privacy law on Friday. Per Xinhua, businesses will only be able to collect the "minimum scope necessary" of data starting Nov. 1. (Reuters)
  • British competition authorities are taking a closer look at Nvidia's planned purchase of ARM, potentially complicating that deal. (Reuters)
  • The chip shortage is making it harder to build the new equipment that could end the chip shortage. (Axios)
6. After you Login

In case you were wondering, this is how QR codes are made and I refuse to believe anything else.