Patreon launches Pro and Premium tiers to compete with Facebook and YouTube


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Patreon is how thousands of artists, vloggers, musicians, podcasters, and other creators make their living. The six-year-old startup currently supports more than 100,000 creators, who receive recurring donations from over 3 million supporters, and it has become the center of a growing ecosystem for supporting creators online. But, facing new competition from YouTube and Facebook, the company is still working toward turning a profit while trying not to alienate its users.

To give Patreon a steadier shot at survival, the company is planning a fundamental change to its platform. In May, the site’s campaign system will be splitting into three tiers: a simple version called “Patreon Lite”; a “Patreon Pro” plan that’s similar to the existing…

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Devin Nunes sues Twitter for letting ‘Devin Nunes’ Mom’ and ‘Devin Nunes’ Cow’ insult him


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US Representative Devin Nunes has sued Twitter and a handful of users for defamation and negligence, accusing Twitter of acting as a “vessel of opposition research” for hosting accounts that insulted Nunes. The suit is the latest of several filed against social media platforms for alleged bias against conservative politicians, none of which have made substantial progress in court.

Nunes’ lawsuit mostly focuses on a cluster of Twitter accounts that Nunes claims were coordinating libelous attacks on him, primarily “Devin Nunes’ Cow”, the now-suspended “Devin Nunes’ Mom”, and the account of Republican political consultant Liz Mair. The complaintpublished by Fox News this afternoon — quotes numerous tweets from those accounts, which it…

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Questions about policing online hate are much bigger than Facebook and YouTube


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In the wake of a hate-fueled mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, major web platforms have scrambled to take down a 17-minute video of the attack. Sites like YouTube have applied imperfect technical solutions, trying to draw a line between newsworthy and unacceptable uses of the footage.

But Facebook, Google, and Twitter aren’t the only places weighing how to handle violent extremism. And traditional moderation doesn’t affect the smaller sites where people are still either promoting the video or praising the shooter. In some ways, these sites pose a tougher problem — and their fate cuts much closer to fundamental questions about how to police the web. After all, for years, people have lauded the internet’s ability to connect…

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Valve lays off 13 employees, reportedly slashing VR hardware division


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Gaming company Valve confirmed today that it has laid off several full-time employees and contractors, possibly from its virtual reality hardware team. “Last month, 13 full time employees were let go and a portion of our contractor agreements were terminated. It’s an unfortunate part of business, but does not represent any major changes at the company. We thank those affected for their contribution and wish them well in future endeavors,” spokesperson Doug Lombardi told The Verge.

Valve didn’t confirm where the former employees worked, but yesterday, Reddit user 2flock posted a message, which is apparently from an anonymous Valve employee. “They fired like half the Valve hardware team recently … Wonder how long it’ll be until the…

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How movie sites are dealing with review-bombing trolls


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Last week, review site Rotten Tomatoes disabled a couple of long-standing features to fight a new kind of internet culture war. In advance of Captain Marvel’s release, it stopped letting users leave comments before a movie launches, and it removed a badge showing the percentage of people who indicated they wanted to see the film. “Unfortunately,” a staff blog post said, “we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling.”

Most online review platforms have encountered some kind of review-bombing — a term that broadly covers a coordinated effort to give a project an influx of negative ratings, based on some contentious issue that’s tangential to the project itself. Review-bombing isn’t universally condemned;…

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Facebook takes a shot at Apple in China, says it won’t store data in certain countries


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In a long manifesto about Facebook’s future, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company is willing to be banned in countries that object to its new focus on privacy, specifically the emphasis on secure data storage. That might sink any chance of Facebook operating in China, a huge market it’s been flirting with entering for years. But it also might let Facebook claim some moral high ground over one of its competitors: Apple.

Zuckerberg described a vision for Facebook that’s based on secure, encrypted, and ephemeral messaging — and one part of that vision is data storage. “I believe one of the most important decisions we’ll make is where we’ll build data centers and store people’s sensitive data,” he wrote. But he acknowledged that this might…

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An Ohio teenager helped school Congress on fighting anti-vax misinformation


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Ethan Lindenberger, an 18-year-old from Ohio who defied his parents’ anti-vaccination beliefs by getting inoculated, appeared today before Congress to promote vaccine education and outreach campaigns. Lindenberger was one of five people who testified in a Senate committee hearing titled “Vaccines Save Lives: What Is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?” According to experts, the answer is complex — but it’s often centered on a communications gap between medical institutions and parents concerned by vivid conspiracy theories on social media.

Lindenberger opened his testimony with a story that’s gotten wide media coverage: after growing up without inoculation against diseases like measles and polio, he questioned his mother’s claims that…

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Facebook sues Chinese companies for selling fake accounts


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Facebook has sued four Chinese companies for selling fake Facebook and Instagram accounts, alleging trademark infringement, breach of contract, and related offenses. The company announced the news on Friday, calling it “one more step in our ongoing efforts to protect people on Facebook and Instagram.” It’s an unusual move for Facebook, which says it already purges “millions” of fake accounts every day.

The lawsuit names three people and four companies based in the cities of Longyan and Shenzhen: 9 Xiu Network (Shenzhen) Science and Technology Company, 9 Xiu Feishu Science and Technology Company, 9 Xiufei Book Technology Co., and Home Network (Fujian) Technology Co.

  <figcaption><em>An archived page from myhaoba.com, one of the offending...</em></figcaption></figure>

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‘Don’t get mad, get a web page’: this week in tech, 20 years ago


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<img alt="“Ghostcatching,” Shelley Eshkar and Paul Kaiser" src="https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/NthjQ5l1kCtuuA43VFqDAA8DVf8=/0x0:1350x900/1310x873/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/63100584/Screen_Shot_2019_02_22_at_2.06.55_PM.0.png" />

The year is 1999. Microsoft, accused of using its market power to strangle web browser company Netscape, is still embroiled in an antitrust lawsuit. The first sections of the International Space Station have entered orbit. Companies and governments alike are working to fix the Year 2000 Bug, which threatens to crash computers across the world. And email is maybe ruining the English language. Welcome to a new year of This Week in Tech, 20 Years Ago.

This February, we’ll be following how the internet transformed writing, music, and revenge — plus stories about spy satellites and dances with computers.

It was the 🙂 of times, it was the 🙁 of times

Analyzing internet slang, The New York Times notes, wasn’t a new field of research in…

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YouTube pulls ads from anti-vax conspiracy videos


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YouTube has removed ads from videos that promote anti-vaccination content, citing a ban on “dangerous and harmful” material. BuzzFeed News reported the news this afternoon, saying YouTube had confirmed the decision after the publication contacted seven companies who were unaware that their advertisements were running on anti-vaccination videos. It’s the latest of several ways YouTube has recently restricted conspiracy theories and other objectionable material on its platform.

BuzzFeed reports that the demonetized accounts include anti-vaccination channels LarryCook333 and VAXXED TV, as well as “alternative medicine” channel iHealthTube. The three channels have a total of roughly 473,000 subscribers. “We have strict policies that govern…

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YouTube says it’s not restricting ads based on creators’ comment sections


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YouTube says it’s not asking creators to moderate their comments or face ad restrictions, clarifying a message that has worried some of the site’s members. Yesterday, amid controversy over child predators congregating on YouTube, the Team YouTube Twitter account stated that “inappropriate comments” could result in videos having limited or no advertising. A YouTube spokesperson, however, tells The Verge that the platform isn’t basing these limits on creators’ comment sections. Instead, YouTube moderators are evaluating videos that seem likely to attract predatory comments, then restricting advertising as a short-term fix.

These restrictions are part of a larger effort to address inappropriate videos and comments involving minors — one…

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Fortnite dance lawyer claims someone impersonated him to derail copyright lawsuits


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A law firm claims that someone impersonated one of its attorneys in messages to the US Copyright Office, trying to sabotage lawsuits against Fortnite developer Epic Games. Pierce Bainbridge published a fake email supposedly sent under the name of attorney David Hecht, asking the office to reject all its copyright claims for dance moves — and confessing that “what my clients and I have done towards certain gaming companies were very wreckless [sic] and baseless.”

Hecht is the lead attorney for several people who claim Epic unlawfully copied their dances as Fortnite emotes, including rapper 2 Milly; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Alfonso Ribeiro; and most recently, the rapper BlocBoy JB. As part of the legal process, Hecht’s applied to…

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Varjo’s super high-resolution VR headset promises virtual worlds that actually look real


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Most virtual reality headset screens are still sort of blurry, but Finnish company Varjo has an unusual approach to changing that. Its industrial VR-1 headset, which is shipping today, combines a super high-resolution center panel with an ordinary screen for peripheral vision. It’s supposed to deliver images that look almost real, albeit with some compromises and a price tag that’s for professionals only.

The VR-1 calls its center panel a “Bionic Display.” It’s a 1920 x 1080 “micro-OLED” display with a resolution of 3,000 pixels per inch. (For context, last year’s high-resolution prototype display from Google and LG had 1443 ppi.) Within that central strip, images are supposed to roughly match the resolution of the human eye. As Ars…

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The Litho controller is sci-fi jewelry for your iPhone’s AR apps


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The Litho looks like a set of miniature sci-fi brass knuckles, but it’s actually a motion controller that’s going on sale today for developers, with the goal of launching for everyone by the end of the year. Developed by a three-person team in the UK, the Litho fits around the first two fingers of your hand. It combines motion-control capabilities and haptic feedback with a small underside trackpad, so you can use it with a combination of pointing, swiping, and tapping. Now, developers just have to figure out what it’s good for.

Nat Martin, head of the Litho’s design team, says the controller was conceived with augmented reality glasses like Microsoft’s HoloLens in mind. It offers basic support for the HoloLens, but for now, it’s largely…

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Niantic is tweaking Pokémon Go to settle a lawsuit with angry homeowners


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Pokémon Go developer Niantic has agreed to settle a lawsuit with people who had PokéStops placed near their houses, and it’s making some minor game changes as part of the deal. The settlement appeared in court filings yesterday, and it’s still awaiting a judge’s approval. It won’t resolve some big legal questions about how augmented reality mixes with physical property laws — but it should make life easier for people who find unwanted Pokémon Go players around their homes.

Niantic agreed to implement several new features and policies under the settlement, which will be binding for the next three years. Homeowners can already have pokémon gyms or PokéStops removed from private property, but Niantic now promises to resolve complaints…

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The ‘Carlton dance’ couldn’t be copyrighted for a Fortnite lawsuit


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The US Copyright Office refused to register The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Alfonso Ribeiro’s “Carlton dance” routine, likely weakening lawsuits against two game studios that copied the dance. In new legal filings, Take-Two Interactive produced letters and emails from the Copyright Office, showing serious concern over whether the dance qualified for copyright protection and, if it could, whether Ribeiro even owned the rights.

Ribeiro sued Take-Two for copying the Carlton dance, which he created while playing Fresh Prince character Carlton Banks, for a celebratory dance gesture in NBA 2K. He’s also filed a lawsuit against Epic Games, which used a version of the Carlton dance in Fortnite. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, Take-Two filed a…

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Harmonix’s new game Audica looks like Beat Saber with guns


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Harmonix has announced a new virtual reality “rhythm shooter” game called Audica, which is launching as an Early Access game for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive on March 7th. Based on the first trailer, it’s a musical shooting gallery reminiscent of AudioShield or Beat Saber, another VR title that turns highly physical combat into a rhythm mechanic.

Audica is the latest of several Harmonix VR music games, including its 2017 game Rock Band VR. Its initial version will come with 10 songs and one weapon set. By late 2019, it’s supposed to have 25 or more songs that you can play with several different weapons and environments. According to Game Informer, which previewed the game, Audica focuses on electronic music. Its launch songs include “I Want…

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Wrestler Booker T is suing Activision for allegedly putting his alter ego in Black Ops 4


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<img alt="David “Prophet” Wilkes" src="https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/U8R4DOWAQyf2hqtEj3B0d3efXac=/0x0:849x566/1310x873/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/63044011/Screen_Shot_2019_02_12_at_6.05.19_PM.0.png" />

Professional wrestler Booker T. Huffman is suing games publisher Activision for allegedly putting his comic book character “G.I. Bro” in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Huffman filed a copyright complaint today based on similarities between G.I. Bro and the Black Ops character David “Prophet” Wilkes. “They could have drawn him any way they wanted. But they chose to steal Booker T’s ‘G. I. Bro,’” the complaint reads.

Huffman’s lawsuit seems based essentially on visual similarities between G.I. Bro and Prophet. (That’s G.I. Bro as depicted in Huffman’s comic book G.I. Bro and the Dragon of Death, as opposed to his 1990s “G.I. Bro” wrestling persona, and Prophet as depicted in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, as opposed to an older version of the…

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Epic claims it’s not really copying rapper 2 Milly’s dance in Fortnite


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Epic Games urged a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by rapper Terrence “2 Milly” Ferguson, who accused Epic of copying his “Milly Rock” dance moves in a Fortnite player emote. Epic responded to Ferguson’s complaint with a long list of legal defenses — including the claim that its dance emote, known as “Swipe It,” isn’t even using the same moves.

In its defense, Epic’s lawyers wrote that Ferguson’s dance — as seen in the music video below — was too simple to be protected by copyright. “No one can own a dance step,” the motion reads, because “individual dance steps and simple dance routines are not protected by copyright, but rather are building blocks of free expression.” It also argued that the context is vitally different: while Ferguson used…

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If you bought Guitar Hero Live, Activision might refund your money


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If you bought Guitar Hero Live in the US between December 1st, 2017 and January 1st, 2019, publisher Activision is offering to refund your money. The company launched a “voluntary refund program” earlier in February, around two months after it cut off access to the vast majority of Guitar Hero Live’s song library. Buyers have until May 1st to submit a claim, preferably with either a sales receipt or a credit card statement confirming the purchase.

As Polygon notes, Activision launched this program soon after a lawsuit over false Guitar Hero Live advertising was dismissed. It doesn’t give an official reason for the refunds, but they’re almost certainly related to Activision shutting down Guitar Hero TV: Guitar Hero Live’s unique…

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