YouTube's Creepy Minecraft Problem [Content Made Simple]

Issue #215: Also, Amazon fights back on Twitter and a new Facebook tool.

TOP OF THE WEEK

Blood, Poop, and Violence: YouTube Has a Creepy Minecraft Proble

A WIRED investigation has found dozens of kid-focused videos with disturbing thumbnails that the platform serves up on the Topic pages of popular games.

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Quote:

On YouTube Friday morning, several hundred viewers watched a live, animated video of a female Minecraft avatar with bare breasts opening a present full of the poop emoji. In the video’s thumbnail, two inflated breasts held up a poop Minecraft brick.

It’s one of several disturbing and grotesque animated Minecraft videos identified by WIRED featured under YouTube’s Minecraft Topic page, a content-sorting feature introduced in 2019. Similar Minecraft-style thumbnails found there include an avatar with heart eyes and a bloody knife smiling at a chained-up woman in a bikini, a mother and father holding sticks up to a crying toddler, and a woman pregnant with feces about to sit on a man. The live videos loop for hours on end, some racking up tens of thousands of total views. Some of these channels receive tens of thousands of views a day.

Commentary:

This is the latest iteration of a common problem YouTube has faced over the years. Malicious users are creating content that looks like it is for kids, often passing the AI “guards” YouTube puts around kids content, that is actually disturbing, disgusting, and vulgar. Now that I have a child myself and we have watched our fair share of Baby Shark and other children’s sing-a-long videos, this problem has become a lot more practical and real to me. YouTube needs to figure this out.


ON THE POD

Selling Books on TikTok and Instagram

A recent article from the NY Times on how creators are selling books on TikTok and Instagram is our main topic this week. Also, we decide whether March Madness is overrated or underrated.


HITTING THE LINKS

Link #1: Amazon started a Twitter war because Jeff Bezos was pissed

It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for him.

Amazon has long been at odds with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) over their criticisms of the company’s labor and business practices. But the discord reached new heights last week when Amazon aggressively went after both senators on Twitter in an unusual attack for a large corporation. With each new snarky tweet from an Amazon executive or the company’s official Twitter account, insiders and observers alike asked a version of the same question: “What the hell is going on?”

It turns out that Amazon leaders were following a broad mandate from the very top of the company: Fight back.

Recode has learned that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos expressed dissatisfaction in recent weeks that company officials weren’t more aggressive in how they pushed back against criticisms of the company that he and other leaders deem inaccurate or misleading. What followed was a series of snarky and aggressive tweets that ended up fueling their own media cycles.

Link #2: Twitter’s ‘unofficial mayor’ Chrissy Teigen quits platform after years of harassment

Twitter has an entire team of employees dedicated to keeping celebrities active on the platform. This is a major blow to them from a morale perspective.

Chrissy Teigen, a prolific tweeter the company once called the mayor of Twitter, quit the social media platform Wednesday night. In a series of now-deleted tweets, Teigen said Twitter “no longer serves me as positively as it serves me negatively, and I think that’s the right time to call something.”

The model and media personality who is married to singer John Legend was a witty presence on Twitter, and she had 13.7 million followers on the platform, which she joined more than a decade ago. Teigen tweeted about everything from her kids to her cooking projects to personal challenges in her life, including a miscarriage she suffered last October. She was famously blocked on Twitter by former President Trump (who was himself banned from the platform in January) and was one of a handful of accounts followed by the official POTUS account when President Biden took office.

Link #3: New Analytics API for researchers studying Facebook Page data

I am hard on Facebook often, and for good reason in my opinion. But any time the Wizard of Oz is willing to pull back the curtain a little bit, it is helpful to take a peek. Let’s just not assume they’re always giving us the full picture.

Today we are launching the Facebook Open Research & Transparency (FORT) Analytics API for researchers. This release includes a collection of API endpoints that helps academics identify trends on Facebook Pages and how they’ve evolved over time. You can leverage these insights to focus on specific Pages that are of interest.

We designed this API specifically for the academic community to conduct longitudinal analyses with time series data. With the launch of FORT Pages API in 2020 and now the Analytics API, we will continue to develop a product roadmap focused on sharing new types of Facebook and Instagram data with the academic research community, as well as additional analytics endpoints.


THE FUNNY PART

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