Archive for June 2016

Ads Shown Before Youtube’s ISIS Videos

While advertisers are generally happy to have as many people as possible see the promotions for their products, there are certain groups that even the most mainstreams brands don’t want to be affiliated with. Take ISIS for example.

feel bern2It recently caught media attention that some major American companies were unaware that their ads were playing in open spots before some of ISIS’s YouTube videos. Proctor & Gamble, Toyota and Anheuser-Busch were among a list of companies with pre-roll ads running before videos associated with the militant Islamic group known as ISIS or ISIL, which has taken over large tracts of land in Iraq and Syria.

Google-owned YouTube has been quick to remove the ads from the videos as well as the videos themselves as a result of policy violations, but some of the ads were playing in pre-roll slots for days after the news stories rolled and likely weeks before.

A spokesperson for YouTube recently released the following statement: “YouTube has clear policies prohibiting content intended to incite violence, and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users. We also have stringent advertising guidelines, and work to prevent ads appearing against any video once we determine that the content is not appropriate for our advertising partners.”

According to Google, the ads that precede YouTube videos are often picked at random my an algorithm, meaning that neither YouTube nor the advertiser can predict which ads are playing which videos.

“Our ads should not have appeared and we’re working with YouTube to understand how it happened and to avoid it happening again,” Proctor & Gamble said in a statement to a major news source. Other companies that found their ads before ISIS videos didn’t immediately release statements but were satisfied by the removal of their ads by Google.

isis3YouTube stated that over 300 hours of footage are uploaded to its site every minute and that ISIS-related videos tend to be posted from a variety of accounts. It has stated that it relies heavily on its users to flag content that violates the community guidelines put out by the site. It also has put forward a “promotes terrorism” flag as an option underneath every video and reviews all flagged content. Finally, YouTube terminates accounts that it believes are created by agents of foreign terrorist organizations, including but not limited to those potentially created by ISIS.

YouTube’s policy states that is does not serve ads before videos that don’t fall into the category of “advertiser-friendly” content, but whether that assertion holds true in the light of day remains in question.

In light of the recent and horrifying attack in Orlando, many are calling for tech companies to do more in the fight against terror, especially tech firms like Facebook, Twitter and Google that provide services often used by terrorists for recruitment and the dispersing of radical ideals. Whether Google will actually employ more people to aid in removing terrorist content from YouTube remains to be seen, but volunteer flagging work is clearly insufficient in terms of stopping terrorist content from being published online.

Are Self-Flying Cars on the Horizon?

Bloomberg Businessweek reported on Thursday that Google cofounder Larry Page is currently working with two startups based in the Silicon Valley to develop a flying car. One of the startups, a Mountain View neighbor to Google called Zee.Aero, has been personally funded by Page since its launch in 2010. The firm has allegedly filed a patent application for a small-sized, all-electric vehicle that could take off from the ground and then land.

flying car2Page has reportedly invested over $100 million in Zee.Aero to date, enabling the company to hire almost 150 employees and expand its operations into an airport hangar in Hollister, California. Prototypes are being developed and tested currently and a manufacturing facility has been built at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View.

And Zee.Aero is only one piece of the puzzle. Page also personally backed a flying car startup called Kitty Hawk last year. Kitty Hawk is operating just down the street from Zee.Aero, though allegedly the companies are not collaborating on efforts to develop a flying car and are instead competing to create better designs.

Kitty Hawk’s leader is Sebastian Thrun, head of the self-driving car program at Google and founder of the research division of Google called Google X.

While flying cars may seem like a setting-creating accessory in futuristic shows like the Jetsons or novels like A Brave New World, Kevin Krewell of Tirias Research may have put it best when he said, “We live in an era of science fiction.”

“We have universal translators, private rockets to space, cars that can drive themselves, drones,” he continued. “We’re just missing that darn flying car we were promised- but I’d prefer a jet pack over a flying car.”

Krewell makes a good point; in our rapidly developing technological era, it seems there’s no way of overreaching what’s possible, especially when experienced tech company founders set their minds to it.

“Page would like to extend the ability to fly beyond traditional airfields to streets and parking lots,” said Krewell. “The traffic in the Bay Area has gotten really bad in recent years with the explosive growth of local companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple, and I fully understand his wish to rise up above the crowded freeways.”

flying car3However, much like the creation of EVs and autonomous cars, the switch from ground-based and flying cars would involve more than making it possible to launch a car into the air; entirely new infrastructure would need to be built through collaboration of both the public and private sectors.

“The automobile was, of course, a horseless carriage,” observed one futurist. “It was a big change, but really a change in degree, not kind- and you could use the same roads,” he continued. “The flying car, on the other hand, will require new infrastructure. Even if it is vertical takeoff and landing, that’s going to mean new landing pads everywhere.”

The cars will also be self-driving, apparently, which seems like a good idea. As Paul Teich of Tirias Research pointed out, “People have enough difficulty driving on a fixed road infrastructure in 2.5 dimensions- counting landspace topography as half of a dimensions- so that is why we need insurance, and far too often police, fire, and EMS response teams.”