Jun 6, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Situational awareness: Google is buying analytics firm Looker for $2.6 billion in cash. This is the first big deal under new Google Cloud boss Thomas Kurian and Google's biggest acquisition since Nest in 2014.

Today's Login has 1,354 words, only one of which is "wowsers."

1 big thing: YouTube's hate speech minefield

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

YouTube found itself the center of discussion around hate speech Wednesday, but not in the way it had hoped.

Driving the news: The company had long ago picked the date to announce a range of new policies aimed at limiting the presence and spread of hate speech on its platform.

  • Instead, the announcement came in the midst of another uproar over the platform's enforcement of its policies, this one centering around conservative host Steven Crowder and the many homophobic and ethnic insults he has made over the years against Vox's Carlos Maza.

The timeline: On Tuesday, YouTube said that, after a days-long investigation, it decided not to take action against Crowder, who has 3.8 million subscribers.

  • While YouTube said his comments were "hurtful," it suggested they were made as part of a broader argument and thus did not violate its rules.
  • On Wednesday morning, YouTube made its policy announcement. The changes addressed less-targeted forms of hate than were at issue in the Crowder controversy, such as attacks on entire groups of people. These policy revisions had been months in the works and were not a reaction to Maza's complaint.
  • Less than 3 hours later — and amid significant outcry and rumblings of a boycott — YouTube announced it was suspending Crowder from the program that allows creators to run ads and share in revenue from the videos, saying "a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community."

Between the lines: Criticism of YouTube was widespread, coming from within Google and YouTube, plus from outside on both the left and the right.

  • Those on the left accused Google of doing too little, too slowly, while at the same time portraying itself as a friend of the LGBTQ community by changing its Twitter icon to a rainbow version of its logo for Pride Month.
  • On the right, Crowder and his supporters accused YouTube of caving to pressure since it had earlier said his content didn't violate its policies.

Our thought bubble: Although they are making opposing arguments, both sides are actually pointing at the same problem: YouTube's rules for taking down videos and "demonetizing" creators still appear to be vague and unevenly enforced.

  • This leads many observers to conclude that the decisions have more to do with how loud a fuss is raised and by whom.

What they're saying:

"Not everyone will agree with the calls we make — some will say we haven’t done enough; others will say we’ve gone too far."
"And, sometimes, a decision to leave an offensive video on the site will look like us defending people who have used their platforms and audiences to bully, demean, marginalize or ignore others."
— YouTube's Chris Dale
2. Facebook and Kik: A tale of two tokens

The lawsuit that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed Tuesday against chat app Kik over its sale of digital tokens also has potential implications for the cryptocurrency Facebook is said to be quietly developing, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

The big picture: Facebook and Kik are social media companies that want to develop their own digital tokens for user transactions — but they have seemingly contrasting approaches to implementing the new tech that could put them in very different positions with regulators.

Driving the news: New details about Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans emerged on Wednesday in a report from The Information. Some noticeable differences...

  • Facebook is working to set up a number of partnership with merchants that would accept its digital token as payment for good and services. Kik, by contrast, didn’t have an operational marketplace when it debuted its Kin token, raising questions about its claims to being a functional digital currency.
  • Facebook plans to back its token with currencies and low-risk securities from various countries to ensure a stable price. Kik, meanwhile, heavily advertised its token’s ability to appreciate in value as more people buy it and find new uses for it. That made Kin look more like an investment than a currency.
  • Facebook will charge license fees to other companies who want to help develop its network and will use that revenue to back the token. Instead, Kik raised funds from the sales of its tokens, and used the proceeds to build the technology itself (closer to the startup fundraising model).

Similarly to Kik, Facebook is setting up a separate foundation to oversee the digital token and contribute capital and has reportedly been courting dozens of organizations to join.

  • That could make it more independent than the foundation Kik set up, which has only 2 board seats, one occupied by Kik’s CEO and the other by a longtime Kik consultant (whose seat was initially occupied by Kik’s financial chief).
  • Still, even Facebook's approach is much more centralized than other cryptocurrency networks like Bitcoin.

The bottom line: After the SEC's Kik lawsuit, Facebook will move with even more caution to make sure its token is compliant with regulations.

3. The tech of the NBA Finals

NBA is testing alternate video feeds, such as this "coach's view" in the international version of League Pass. Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

Thanks to the success of the Golden State Warriors, I've been able to attend the NBA Finals the past several years to check out the latest and greatest tech trend or gimmick.

Background: Over the years I've seen everything from 360-degree replays to Facebook Messenger bots. Virtual reality has been a frequent area of interest, but it was less so this year. (There's no live broadcast, but NextVR is doing next-day highlights.)

What's new: Instead, most of the league's tech experiments were focused on online and social media.

  • NBA League Pass: For the international version of its subscription service, the NBA is offering several alternate feeds for the finals. Using data from basketball tech firm Second Spectrum, viewers can get enhanced stats for players, see the Xs and Os in coach view, or get the mascot version with augmented reality digital cheers. The downside is that those feeds are all delayed 2.5 minutes or so, but the company and league are trying to get it as close to real-time as possible.
  • Google Lens: Using the Google app and pointing the camera at a Warriors, Raptors or NBA Finals logo will pull up information about the league.
  • Snapchat: The Snapchat augmented reality experiment is limited to a single banner at each stadium which, when in view of the app's camera, transforms into a highlight reel of the hometown team.

Between the lines: These are all admittedly experiments to see what sticks, NBA VP of emerging technologies Scott Stanchak tells Axios. The goal is to keep fans engaged and not moving on to the next app or notification.

  • "Fans have so many choices," Stanchak said. "Not just from basketball perspective, but also from an entertainment perspective."

Meanwhile, Twitter tried its own experiment, inviting several of its most prolific local hoops commenters to watch the game from a suite and tweet their thoughts with the hashtag #NBATwitter.

  • Along with Axios Sports editor Kendall Baker, I had the chance to witness the passion, enthusiasm (and eventual disappointment) of the half dozen or so influencers, as well as a number of Twitter employees who saw their hometown team go down to a 123-109 defeat.
  • Check out Kendall's coverage in Axios Sports (and sign up too).

Tech execs were well represented as well. I bumped into Salesforce founder Marc Benioff courtside before the game, while also said to be in attendance were Rakuten CEO Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani, Hewlett Packard Enterprise President Keerti Melkote and Uber CMO Rebecca Messina.

4. FCC gets billions from 5G spectrum auction

AT&T and T-Mobile committed to spend a combined $1.8 billion in an auction for the high-frequency spectrum needed to deliver some of the fastest 5G speeds, per Ars Technica.

  • Also agreeing to plunk down significant cash were US Cellular, Verizon and upstart Starry.

Why it matters: Spectrum is the foundation of any cellular network and delivering 5G requires higher frequency bandwidth than many carriers have in their possession.

  • Verizon already has a significant amount of high-bandwidth spectrum, while Sprint plans to tap its nationwide mid-band spectrum as the center of its 5G strategy.
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference continues in San Jose.
  • Amazon's re:Mars continues in Las Vegas.

Trading Places

  • Cloudera said CEO Tom Reilly is retiring and leaving its board, sending shares down 30%. Reilly will be temporarily replaced by board member Martin Cole, while a search is on for a permanent successor.


  • Shares of Pivotal Software fell by nearly half after the company issued an earnings report CNBC described as a "train wreck," including a significantly lower than expected revenue outlook for 2019. (CNBC)
  • Bird is said to be in talks to acquire rival Scoot. (TechCrunch)
  • Apple's revamped "Find My" feature allows customers to find lost Macs without Apple or others knowing what is missing or where it is. (Wired)
6. After you Login

The Queen of England really is playing three dimensional chess.

Ina Fried