YouTube demonetizes anti-vaccination videos


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YouTube will demonetize channels that promote anti-vaccination views, after a report by BuzzFeed News found ads, including from health companies, running before anti-vax videos. The platform will also place a new information panel that links to the Wikipedia entry on “vaccine hesitancy” before anti-vax videos. Information panels (part of YouTube’s efforts to combat misinformation) about the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine had already appeared in front of anti-vaccination videos that mentioned it.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a YouTube spokesperson said “we have strict policies that govern what videos we allow ads to appear on, and videos that promote anti-vaccination content are a violation of those policies. We enforce these policies vigorously, and if we find a video that violates them, we immediately take action and remove ads.”

This is the second issue this week that has prompted YouTube advertisers to suspend their ads BuzzFeed News’

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Image recognition startup ViSenze raises $20M Series C


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ViSenze, a startup that provides visual search tools for online retailers like Rakuten and ASOS, announced today that it has raised a $20 million Series C. The round was co-led by Gobi Ventures and Sonae IM, with participation from other backers including returning investors Rakuten and WI Harper.

Founded in 2012, ViSenze has now raised a total of $34.5 million (its last round was a Series B announced in September 2016). The Singapore-based company, whose clients also include Urban Outfitters, Zalora, and Uniqlo, bills its software portfolio as a “personal shopping concierge” that allows shoppers to find or discover new products based on visual search, automatic photo tagging, and recommendations based on their browsing history. ViSenze’s verticals include fashion, jewelry, furniture, and intellectual property.

ViSenze’s latest funding will be used to develop its software through partnerships with smartphone makers including Samsung, LG, and Huawei. The company has

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Netflix says new episodes of “Arrested Development” will debut on March 15


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It’s time for another hit off the juice box. Netflix announced today that it will release the remaining eight episodes of “Arrested Development’s” fifth season on March 5, ten months after the first half premiered. In the intervening time, however, the show has dealt with several controversies revolving around accusations of abusive behavior from star Jeffrey Tambor, who plays family patriarch George Bluth.

The Netflix installments of the show, which began in 2013 with season 4 and marked the show’s return after running from 2003 to 2006 on Fox, have received mixed reviews and failed to achieve the iconic status of the original episodes. The controversies surrounding the show’s cast has also dampened some fans’ enthusiasm, at least for the new seasons.

Tambor will appear in the upcoming episodes despite

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Netflix cancels “Friends From College” after two seasons


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Netflix comedy series “Friends From College” will not return for a third season. The show’s co-creator Nicholas Stoller announced the news earlier today on Twitter.

Despite a very poorly-reviewed first season (the Guardian referred to it as TV’s “most hateable show”),”Friends From College’s” second season was better received. But apparently that wasn’t enough to save the show, which followed a group of Harvard graduates.

In a statement to Hollywood Reporter, Netflix said “We’re grateful to creators Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco for creating a wise, funny and supremely relatable show. We also want to thank the hard-working crew, and we raise a glass to the amazingly talented cast including Keegan-Michael Key, Fred Savage, Cobie Smulders, Nat Faxon, Annie Parisse, Jae Suh

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Etsy error resulted in large amounts being withdrawn from some sellers’ bank accounts and credit cards


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An Etsy bill payment error resulted in large amounts of money being withdrawn from several sellers’ bank accounts and credit cards on Friday morning. While the company says the issue has been resolved and was not the result of fraud, the headache isn’t over for affected sellers because Monday is a federal holiday in the United States, and many financial institutions are closed.

Etsy sellers are required to have a valid credit or debit card on file with Etsy in order to have a payment account. Boing Boing reports that complaints first began emerging in Etsy’s Community Forums and Twitter on Friday morning, when sellers began noticing amounts ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars had ben withdrawn or charged to those accounts.

An Etsy representative posted with a brief message in its forum stating that the company was “aware of a bill payment error affecting a small group

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Instagram confirms that a bug is causing follower counts to change


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Instagram confirmed today that an issue has been causing some accounts’ follower numbers to change. Users began noticing the bug about 10 hours ago and the drastic drop in followers caused some to wonder if Instagram was culling inactive and fake accounts, as part of its fight against spam.

“We’re aware of an issue that is causing a change in account follower numbers for some people right now. We’re working to resolve this as quickly as possible,” the company said in a Twitter.

JibJab, one of the first silly selfie video makers, acquired by private equity firm Catapult Capital


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JibJab, one of the first companies that let people insert selfies into videos, gifs, and e-cards, has been acquired by Catapult Capital. The Los Angeles-based private equity firm announced the deal today, but did not disclose financial terms. A portion of financing was provided by investment firm Cloud Capital.

According to Catapult Capital’s site, it focuses on middle-market transactions, targeting internet, consumer, and tech companies that are profitable, or nearing profitability, and past the venture stage. The firm’s investment size is usually $10 million to $100 million and it works with portfolio companies to “develop a China angle,” including new revenue channels. JibJab COO Paul Hanges was promoted to CEO after the acquisition.

Founded in 1999 by brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis after they saw “an animated dancing doodie streaming over a 56K modem,” JibJab’s big break came during the 2004 presidential campaign, when its satirical “This Land”

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BuzzFeed News employees vote to unionize


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Shortly after BuzzFeed News employees revealed that they had voted to unionize, its editor-in-chief said the company wants to meet with them to discuss voluntarily recognition. Employees announced today that they are organizing as BuzzFeed News Union under the NewsGuild of New York.

“Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity, and more,” says a mission statement posted to BuzzFeed News Union’s site. It adds that employees have been meeting for years and ramped up its efforts last fall when BuzzFeed laid off video staffers and its podcast team. Organizing efforts gained more urgency two weeks ago, when BuzzFeed cut 15 percent of its workforce, or about 250 jobs.

BuzzFeed News’ deputy news director Jason Wells reports that the publication’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, told employees “we look forward to meeting

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No, your tweets aren’t awful. Twitter’s Likes are currently borked.


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If you have been experiencing issues with the Like or Retweet count on Twitter and are desperately seeking validation, here it is: yes, it’s Twitter, not you (probably). The company confirmed today that it is working on a fix for a problem with notifications that’s been messing with Like counts.

Many users around the world have reported seeing the number of Likes on their tweets fluctuate continuously, making them wonder if accounts were being suspended in mass or if Twitter was deleting them.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says bringing Amazon HQ2 to New York City is “mission critical”


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During a state legislature hearing today, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said it is “mission critical” that Amazon build HQ2 in Long Island City. De Blasio’s remarks come a few days after a report that widespread outcry from residents and local politicians alike have prompted Amazon to reconsider the move, which the company says would create at least 25,000 jobs.

According to NY1, De Blasio told the state legislature that New York City needs the jobs and revenue that would be created by Amazon. Other Democrats in city council and state senate, however, have been very outspoken against the deal. Amazon was offered incentives including grants, tax credits and breaks worth up to $2.8 billion.

The Washington Post (owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) reported last Friday that Amazon is reassessing its plans for the New York City branch of HQ2. It has not leased or bought

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Saudi Arabia denies involvement in leak of Jeff Bezos’ private messages


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In his extraordinary Medium post last week accusing American Media Inc of “extortion and blackmail,” Bezos hinted (but did not explicitly state) that there may be a connection between Saudi Arabia and the publication of his personal messages with Lauren Sanchez. Now Saudi Arabia’s minister of foreign affairs has denied it was involved, stating during an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the Saudi government had “nothing to do with it.”

Last month, the National Enquirer published a series of texts between Bezos, who is separated from wife MacKenzie Bezos, and Sanchez. In his post last Thursday, Bezos claimed AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, threatened to release messages that included intimate photos unless he cancelled an investigation into the source of the leaks and stopped claiming AMI was “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” Bezos wrote that “the Saudi angle seems to hit a

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Spotify will now suspend or terminate accounts it finds are using ad blockers


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Spotify will take a harder stance on ad blockers in its updated terms of service. In an email to users today, the streaming music and podcast platform said its new user guidelines “mak[e] it clear that all types of ad blockers, bots and fraudulent streaming activities are not permitted.” Accounts that use ad blockers face immediate suspension or termination under the new terms of service, which go into effect on March 1.

Ad blockers have long been a headache for Spotify . The company disclosed in March 2018 while preparing for its initial public offering that it discovered two million users, or about 1.3 percent of its total user base at the time, had been using ad blockers on the free version of Spotify, enough to force it to restate usage metrics. Around that time, Spotify also began cracking down on unauthorized Android apps that let people access Spotify

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NASA releases the “last light” image taken by Kepler before it retired last year


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NASA Kepler space telescope’s “last light” image

NASA has released the final view taken by Kepler in September, shortly before the space telescope was retired after nearly a decade of unprecedented discoveries about the universe beyond our solar system.

“It bookends the moment of intense excitement nine and a half years earlier when the spacecraft first opened its eye to the skies and captured its ’first light’ image,” wrote NASA Ames Research Center public affairs officer Alison Hawkes. “Kepler went on to discover more than 2,600 worlds beyond our solar system and statistically proved that our galaxy has even more planets than stars.”

The “last light” image was taken on September 25, about a month before Kepler retired. The space telescope was pointed in the direction of the Aquarius constellation and the image encompasses the TRAPPIST-1 system, containing “seven rocky planets, at least three of them believed to

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YouTube’s CEO says it will continue addressing monetization issues, admits Rewind 2018 was “cringey”


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In an open letter to YouTube creators today, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki admitted that even her kids think Rewind 2018 is “cringey.” Meant as a celebratory recap, the video has garnered a record-setting 15 million dislikes so far.

“We hear you that it didn’t accurately show the year’s key moments, nor did it reflect the YouTube you know. We’ll do better to tell our story in 2019,” Wojcicki wrote.

Wojcicki also mentioned important issues like Article 13, proposed legislation in the European Union nicknamed the “meme ban” for its potentially chilling effect on user-generated content and monetization. Many creators saw their revenue hurt during “Adpocalypse” last year after YouTube introduced new policies to placate advertisers.

Intended to keep ads from running in front of videos with objectionable content, creators said the policies also resulted in the demonetization of many videos without a clear reason. But the letter is

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Nintendo to open its first official store located in Japan


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Fourteen years after unveiling its first location in New York, Nintendo is finally opening an official store in Japan, too. Nintendo Tokyo will be located in Shibuya Parco, the new flagship of the Parco department store chain. Nintendo Tokyo is scheduled to open at the same time as the shopping center in fall.

In an announcement, Nintendo said “we are preparing to make this store, which will be a new base for communicating Nintendo information in Japan, an enjoyable place for a wide range of consumers.” In addition to games, consoles, accessories like amiibo, and branded merchandise, Nintendo Tokyo will also host gaming kiosks and events (if the New York store, in Rockefeller Center, is anything to go by, these might include tournaments, demos, and launches).

Nintendo recently posted strong third-quarter revenue growth, but also cut its Switch forecast for the year. Sales may pick up again, however,

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Samsung posts fourth-quarter profit drop, warns of weak demand until the second half of 2019


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Samsung Electronics reported its largest quarterly profit decline in two years during its earnings report today. As the Galaxy maker warned in its earnings guidance earlier this month, its results were hurt by slower-than-expected demand for semiconductors, which had bolstered its earnings in previous quarters even when smartphone sales were slow.

Samsung’s forecast was also dour, at least for the first half of the year. It said annual earnings will decline thanks to continuing weak demand for chips, but expects demand for memory products and OLED panels to improve during the second half.

The company’s fourth-quarter operating profit was 10.8 trillion won (about $9.7 billion), a 28.7 percent decrease from the 15.15 trillion won it recorded in the same period one year ago. Revenue was 59.27 trillion won, a 10.2 percent drop year over year.

Broken out by business, Samsung’s semiconductor unit recorded

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Several top Pandora executives, including CEO Roger Lynch, will leave after its acquisition by SiriusXM


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Pandora announced today that shareholders have approved its $3.5 billion acquisition by SiriusXM. After the transaction closes, several key Pandora executives will leave, including CEO Roger Lynch, general counsel Steve Bene, CFO Naveen Chopra, and chief human resources officer Kristen Robinson. SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer will lead the combined company.

Pandora and SiriusXM announced the proposed acquisition last September, with SiriusXM offering to pay $3.5 billion in stock, or $10.14 per share, for Pandora.

Sirius and Pandora services will continue as before the acquisition. The deal is meant to “capitalize on cross-promotion opportunities,” as the companies put it, so this means customers can expect to see new offerings like subscription packages with both SiriusXM radios and Pandora streaming music included or Pandora’s content made available through SiriusXM’s car radio distribution channels.

SiriusXM says it has about 36 million subscribers in North America and 23 million annual

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Fortnite’s login and game are down


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Fortnite is currently down for many players. The Twitter account for the Epic Games’ title, now the most popular video game in the world, confirmed the problem, tweeting “We’re aware that players are experiencing issues when attempting to use Epic Games services. We’re currently working on a resolution and will keep you updated.

Further details on Epic Games’ status page said it had identified an issue with logins and as of 01:53 UTC was still working on a fix. While the game, login, and store are experiencing major outages, Fortnite’s website, forums, and messaging services are still operational.

Fortnite’s issues comes half a day after Instagram was briefly offline.

Netflix is still up, if you need something to

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BuzzFeed employees demand it pay out earned PTO to all laid-off U.S. staffers


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A group of current and former BuzzFeed employees are asking the company to pay out paid time off to all recently laid-off staff. In response, Lenke Taylor, BuzzFeed’s human resources lead, said it wants to meet with staff and is “open to re-evaluating” its decision on PTO.

In an open letter to Smith, BuzzFeed’s CEO Jonah Peretti, and editor in chief Ben Smith, and signed by more than 400 employees so far, the BuzzFeed News Staff Council wrote “BuzzFeed is refusing to pay out earned, accrued, and vested paid time off for almost all U.S. employees who have been laid off.” The BuzzFeed News Council, which describes itself as “a group of employees appointed to open up the lines of communication between News employees and company management,” added that BuzzFeed is only paying out PTO to employees in California, where it is required by law.

BuzzFeed announced last

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Netflix’s ‘Roma’ nominated for 10 Oscars, including best picture and director


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Netflix and Hulu will both have films in the running at the Academy Awards this year. Netflix changed its rules for theatrical releases to give “Roma” a better chance during awards season and it paid off today when the Alfonso Cuarón film was nominated for 10 Oscars, including best picture and best director. Netflix’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, received three nominations.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced nominees this morning for the ceremony, which will take place on Feb. 24. “Roma,” Netflix’s first best picture nominee, is also in the running for best leading actress (Yalitza Aparcio), original screenplay (by Cuarón), cinematography, production design, foreign language film, sound editing, sound mixing, and best supporting actress (Marina De Tavira).

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” was nominated for best adapted screenplay (by the Coen brothers), original song, and costuming.

Hulu’s “Minding the

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