Japan will restrict the export of some materials used in smartphones and chips to South Korea

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 08:57 PM PDT

Japan's trade ministry said today that it will restrict the export of some tech materials to South Korea, including polyimides used in flexible displays made by companies like Samsung Electronics. The new rules come as the two countries argue over compensation for South Koreans forced to work in Japanese factories during World War II.

The list of restricted supplies, expected to go into effect on July 4, includes polyimides used in smartphone and flexible organic LED displays, and etching gas and resist used to make semiconductors. That means Japanese suppliers who wish to sell those materials to South Korean tech companies such as Samsung, LG and SK Hynix will need to submit each contract for approval.

Japan's government may also remove South Korea from its list of countries that have fewer restrictions on trading technology that might have national security implications, reports Nikkei Asian Review.

Earlier this year, South Korea's Supreme Court ruled several Japanese companies, including Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, that had used forced labor during World War II must pay compensation and began seizing assets for liquidation. But Japan's government claims the issue was settled in 1965 as part of a treaty that restored basic diplomatic relations between the two countries and is asking South Korea to put the matter before an international arbitration panel instead.

Facebook civil rights audit says white supremacy policy is ‘too narrow’

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 03:00 PM PDT

Facebook’s second progress report pertaining to the civil rights audit conducted by former ACLU Washington Director Laura Murphy is here. Over the last six months, Facebook has made changes around enforcing against hate, fighting discrimination in ads and protecting against misinformation and suppression in the upcoming U.S. presidential election and 2020 Census, according to the progress report.

While Facebook has made changes in some of these areas — Facebook banned white supremacy in March — auditors say Facebook’s policy is still “too narrow.” That’s because it solely prohibits explicit praise, support or representation of the terms “white nationalism” or “white separatism,” but does not technically prohibit references to those terms and ideologies.

“The narrow scope of the policy leaves up content that expressly espouses white nationalist ideology without using the term ‘white nationalist,'” the report states. “As a result, content that would cause the same harm is permitted to remain on the platform.”

Therefore, the audit team recommends Facebook expand its policy to prohibit content that “expressly praises, supports, or represents white nationalist ideology” even if the content does not explicitly use the terms “white nationalism” or “white separatism.”

In Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s note today, she acknowledges the recommendation.

“We’re addressing this by identifying hate slogans and symbols connected to white nationalism and white separatism to better enforce our policy,” she wrote.

Sandberg also noted how Facebook recently updated its policies to ensure people don’t use Facebook to organize events intended to intimidate or harass people.

“Getting our policies right is just one part of the solution,” Sandberg said. “We also need to get better at enforcement — both in taking down and leaving up the right content.”

Sandberg is referring to the fact that Facebook has sometimes wrongfully taken down content meant to draw attention to racism and discrimination.

As Murphy noted in her report, “the definition and policing of hate speech and harassment on the platform has long been an area of concern. The civil rights community also claims that a lack of civil rights expertise informing content decisions leads to vastly different outcomes for users from marginalized communities.”

Facebook now says it’s taking steps to address this. One step, Sandberg says, is to have some content reviewers focus just on hate speech.

“We believe allowing reviewers to specialize only in hate speech could help them further build the expertise that may lead to increased accuracy over time,” Sandberg wrote.

Additionally, Sandberg has formalized a civil rights task force at Facebook. This task force will live on beyond the audit in order to continue building more awareness around civil rights issues on Facebook.

And ahead of the upcoming presidential election, Facebook says it is working on new protections against voter interference and is adding a policy that prohibits “don’t vote” ads. That policy is expected to go into effect before the 2019 gubernatorial election. On the census side, Facebook is working on an interference policy that it expects to launch this fall.

In March of this year, Facebook settled with the ACLU and others pertaining to discriminatory job ads. Just days later,  the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said Facebook was in violation of the Fair Housing Act through its ad-targeting tools. This case is still pending.

In the meantime, Facebook has since begun working on a new system so that advertisers running US housing, employment and credit ads will no longer be able to target by age, gender, race, religion or zip code.

When this system launches, there will be a limited number of options by which to target. Additionally, Facebook won’t make any new terms available without first running it by the ACLU and the other plaintiffs from the March 2019 settlement.

In order to implement this new system, Facebook will ask advertisers to explicitly note if the ad involves housing, employment or credit opportunities. If it does, advertisers will be directed to the new system. Facebook is also putting tools in place to identify ads that advertisers failed to flag.

Additionally, Facebook is working on a tool that will let users search active housing ads by the advertiser and by location, whether or not they are in the target audience. This is expected to be available by the end of this year. Down the road, Facebook plans to make similar tools available for employment and credit opportunities.

“Given how critical access to housing, employment and credit opportunities are, this could have a significant impact on people’s lives,” Murphy wrote in her progress report.

This audit began in May 2018 following one scandal after the other pertaining to misinformation, and Facebook’s policies and people of color on its platform. The first six months entailed Murphy conducting interviews with civil rights organizations to determine their concerns. This last six months largely focused on content moderation and enforcement. The civil rights audit is far from over, and Facebook says we can expect to see the next update early next year.

Adopting a ratings system for social media like the ones used for film and TV won’t work

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 06:30 AM PDT

Internet platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are under incredible pressure to reduce the proliferation of illegal and abhorrent content on their services.

Interestingly, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg recently called for the establishment of "third-party bodies to set standards governing the distribution of harmful content and to measure companies against those standards." In a follow-up conversation with Axios, Kevin Martin of Facebook "compared the proposed standard-setting body to the Motion Picture Association of America's system for rating movies."

The ratings group, whose official name is the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), was established in 1968 to stave off government censorship by educating parents about the contents of films. It has been in place ever since – and as longtime filmmakers, we've interacted with the MPAA's ratings system hundreds of times – working closely with them to maintain our filmmakers' creative vision, while, at the same time, keeping parents informed so that they can decide if those movies are appropriate for their children.  

CARA is not a perfect system. Filmmakers do not always agree with the ratings given to their films, but the board strives to be transparent as to why each film receives the rating it does. The system allows filmmakers to determine if they want to make certain cuts in order to attract a wider audience. Additionally, there are occasions where parents may not agree with the ratings given to certain films based on their content. CARA strives to consistently strike the delicate balance between protecting a creative vision and informing people and families about the contents of a film.

 CARA's effectiveness is reflected in the fact that other creative industries including televisionvideo games, and music have also adopted their own voluntary ratings systems. 

While the MPAA's ratings system works very well for pre-release review of content from a professionally- produced and curated industry, including the MPAA member companies and independent distributors, we do not believe that the MPAA model can work for dominant internet platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter that rely primarily on post hoc review of user-generated content (UGC).

Image: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

 Here's why: CARA is staffed by parents whose judgment is informed by their experiences raising families – and, most importantly, they rate most movies before they appear in theaters. Once rated by CARA, a movie's rating will carry over to subsequent formats, such as DVD, cable, broadcast, or online streaming, assuming no other edits are made.

By contrast, large internet platforms like Facebook and Google's YouTube primarily rely on user-generated content (UGC), which becomes available almost instantaneously to each platform's billions of users with no prior review. UGC platforms generally do not pre-screen content – instead they typically rely on users and content moderators, sometimes complemented by AI tools, to flag potentially problematic content after it is posted online.

The numbers are also revealing. CARA rates about 600-900 feature films each year, which translates to approximately 1,500 hours of content annually. That's the equivalent of the amount of new content made available on YouTube every three minutes. Each day, uploads to YouTube total about 720,000 hours – that is equivalent to the amount of content CARA would review in 480 years!

 Another key distinction: premium video companies are legally accountable for all the content they make available, and it is not uncommon for them to have to defend themselves against claims based on the content of material they disseminate.

By contrast, as CreativeFuture said in an April 2018 letter to Congress: "the failure of Facebook and others to take responsibility [for their content] is rooted in decades-old policies, including legal immunities and safe harbors, that actually absolve internet platforms of accountability [for the content they host.]"

In short, internet platforms whose offerings consist mostly of unscreened user-generated content are very different businesses from media outlets that deliver professionally-produced, heavily-vetted, and curated content for which they are legally accountable.

Given these realities, the creative content industries' approach to self-regulation does not provide a useful model for UGC-reliant platforms, and it would be a mistake to describe any post hoc review process as being "like MPAA's ratings system." It can never play that role.

This doesn't mean there are not areas where we can collaborate. Facebook and Google could work with us to address rampant piracy. Interestingly, the challenge of controlling illegal and abhorrent content on internet platforms is very similar to the challenge of controlling piracy on those platforms. In both cases, bad things happen – the platforms' current review systems are too slow to stop them, and harm occurs before mitigation efforts are triggered. 

Also, as CreativeFuture has previously said, "unlike the complicated work of actually moderating people's 'harmful' [content], this is cut and dried – it's against the law. These companies could work with creatives like never before, fostering a new, global community of advocates who could speak to their good will."

Be that as it may, as Congress and the current Administration continue to consider ways to address online harms, it is important that those discussions be informed by an understanding of the dramatic differences between UGC-reliant internet platforms and creative content industries. A content-reviewing body like the MPAA's CARA is likely a non-starter for the reasons mentioned above – and policymakers should not be distracted from getting to work on meaningful solutions.

It’s the end of movies as we know them (and I feel fine)

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 06:00 AM PDT

“How Will The Movies Survive The Next Ten Years?” demands the New York Times, in a series of interviews with 24 major Hollywood figures. Good question! I’ve been asking it myself, here, for six years now. Very unlike music, television, books, and home video, the theatrical movie experience has proved remarkably resistant to online disruption…

…so far.

I’ve argued before that Hollywood and Silicon Valley have many parallels: VCs are like studios, angel investors are like individual producers, founders are like directors, etcetera. However, they also have some striking differences. For most of the last 25 years, the cost to launch a groundbreaking, potentially world-shaking startup has decreased — though that may well be changing — whereas the total cost to make, market, and distribute a theatrical release has decidedly not.

Furthermore, movie theaters, built around repeat screening of 90-to-180-minute self-contained films, face new direct-to-streaming-services competition with far more range, from bingewatching 22-episode series to short clips on YouTube. Even in the arena of “movies” as we know them, this competition seems exponentially more intense every year — there’s no way “Bright” and “Bird Box” would have been direct-to-Netflix as little as five years ago — and will hit a whole new fervor with the launch of the Disney Plus launch date later this year.

We can analogize that, maybe, to some extent, to downloadable software vs. software-as-a-service. There can be only one winner, right? Right? And note that, despite the runaway successes of Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel, 2019’s US box office is still tracking a full 10% behind last year‘s. There may be a trend here.

It seems that Hollywood is finally aware of the change. Some striking quotes from that NYT piece: "This is the biggest shift in the content business in the history of Hollywood" — Jason Blum. "For a long time, people have been saying the business is changing, but that's undeniable now" — JJ Abrams. "I don't feel particularly optimistic about the traditional theatrical experience" — Jordan Horowitz, producer of La La Land. "There's a lot more work, but it's a lot harder to make money on anything." — Elizabeth Banks.

…But with risk comes opportunity, especially for people who haven’t had much before.
"I've seen a lot of female filmmakers get opportunities at Netflix and Amazon that they haven't gotten through the studio system. So I'm very, very happy about the new shape our industry is taking" — Jessica Chastain. ‘A really huge studio told us, "Hey, a woman of color should be the lead of this movie." And we went, "Great!" I don't think we would have heard that five years ago from a major studio’ — Kumail Nanjiani

Perhaps “Hollywood,” as the maker and purveyor of huge-budget, huge-footprint, in-theaters-everywhere entertainment, is indeed a dinosaur finally starting to diminish … but if streaming services are allowing more and more people to create scripted entertainment of every kind, on every budget, then their success is no bad thing. I don’t think movies are going to die. I think there will long be people like me, who so prefer the immersive experience of a theater to the in-passing one of streaming at home that we’re willing to pay for it.

But I can envision a future in which a Hollywood Movie is no longer the alpha king of cultural experiences — where, instead, shared worlds spread across many entertainment form-factors, including lower-cost ones, made by a diverse crowd of contributors, take prime position in our collective mindshare. In that future, theatrical releases become a relatively niche market compared to streaming.

In such future the theatrical business model will change, too, and rightly so. I’m still baffled why I couldn’t see the last season of Game of Thrones in any nearby theater, for instance. But there will be far more kinds of entertainment to choose from, undercutting the century-long dominance of “three acts in two hours,” from far more kinds of people. Even to a hardcore cinemaphile like me, the more I think about such a future, the more it seems better to me than the status quo.

Cozycozy is an accommodation search service that works with hotels and Airbnb

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 04:36 AM PDT

French startup Cozycozy.com wants to make it easier to search for accommodation across a wide range of services. This isn't the first aggregator in the space and probably not the last one. But this time, it isn't just about hotels.

When you plan a trip with multiple stops, chances are you end up with a dozen tabs of different services — on Airbnb to look at listings, on a hotel review platform and on a hotel booking platform. Each service displays different prices and has a different inventory.

While there are a ton of services out there, most of them belong to just three companies: Booking Holdings (Booking.com, Priceline, Kayak, Agoda…), Expedia Group (Expedia, Hotels.com, HomeAway, Trivago…) and TripAdvisor (TripAdvisor, HouseTrip, Oyster…). They all operate many different services in order to address as many markets and as many segments as possible.

Cozycozy.com wants to simplify that process by aggregating a ton of services in a single interface — you can find hotels, Airbnb listings, campsites, hostels, boats, home-exchanging apartments… You can filter your results by price or you can exclude some accommodation styles.

The company doesn't work with hotels and doesn't handle bookings directly. Instead, the service searches across all the usual suspects. When you want to book, you get redirected to the original listing on Airbnb, Booking.com, Hostelworld, etc.

The startup recently raised a $4.5 million funding round (€4 million) from Daphni, CapDecisif, Raise and many different business angels, such as Xavier Niel, Thibaud Elzière and Eduardo Ronzano.

Cozycozy.com co-founder and chairman Pierre Bonelli also previously founded Liligo.com. It is one of the most popular flight comparison website in France. It was acquired by SNCF in 2010 and then eDreams ODIGEO in 2013.

cozycozy com page de resultats

Week-in-Review: Auditing a dark age in Apple design

Posted: 30 Jun 2019 04:00 AM PDT

Hello, weekend readers. This is Week-in-Review where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about how YouTube was letting its commenting system turn from a festering wasted opportunity into a liability.

Screen Shot 2019 06 28 at 8.37.42 PM

The big story

Plenty happened this week, though most of the news signified something larger looming on the horizon, more on that in a bit.

One undoubtedly meaty news item was that Jony Ive, Apple’s most iconic executive persona, announced that he was leaving the company this year.

Ive has undoubtedly been a powerhouse of industrial design who has helped craft some of the most iconic products from one of the most influential tech companies. The issue is perhaps what Apple’s vision of industrial design transformed into in his final years at the helm.

Jony Ive is leaving Apple to launch a new firm

Ive shifted away from managerial roles in 2015, but the Chief Design Officer’s influence has been evident it the past several years of very beautiful devices designed around the occasional flawed hypothesis.

Poor design is more than the oft-memed Apple Pencil jutting out of an iPad lightning port or the Mighty Mouse with a charger piercing its underbelly. The company’s aesthetic choices in how they curve their screens or shape their aluminum have stayed true but you don’t have to look too far to find a pattern of carelessness in a number of Apple’s devices which occasionally have prioritized svelte profiles over actually even working.

Ive is design genius, but like all people we elevate with that title, he and his design ethos grew further disassociated with the public over time. All designers miss the mark occasionally, but an obsession with minimalism pushed the company in some troublesome directions that the company is only now coming to reckon with.

Apple’s design degradation is perhaps nowhere more visible than in the ill-fated AirPower. The device, which designed to charge your iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch simultaneously, was beautiful, but Apple’s aggressive design left physics in the rearview mirror. Ambition is one thing but letting function drive form to the point that you publicly announce a product that wasn’t physically possible showcases where Apple’s marketing showmanship butt heads with actual device capabilities. Apple abruptly cancelled AirPower this year, more than a year after its expected release.

If AirPower was a pithy signifier, the degradation of the company’s Mac line has been Apple’s abasement opus.

The problematic keyboards, the useless TouchBar and the shrinking number of ports on its laptops have defined the past five years of the company’s laptop line. There isn’t much that needs to be said about the anti-consumer design decisions that took Apple’s best generation of the MacBook Pro in the 2011/2012 era and cursed it with an unneeded rethinking.

The about-face that the company took on its Mac Pro line shows just how misguided its thinking was and how Ive and company let innovative design poison the good will it had built up with customers. The company’s 2019 line is a total rejection of the 2013 trash can which showcased some major design hubris.

These missteps don’t fundamentally complicate the legacy of Ive or Apple. The past decade has also seen thoughtful designs take shape from the Apple Watch to the iPhone X to the iPad Pro, but industrial design is a means to an end and the manner in which Apple has determined where the customer fits into its design ethos could perhaps use some rethinking as the company enters a new design era.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email

On to the rest of the week's news.

space starship 4

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context.

  • SpaceX preps for a Starship payday
    Elon Musk is still trying to get SpaceX’s Starship off the ground, but the company’s leadership is already planning for the reusable rocket’s commercial heyday. Read more about the aggressive timeline here.
  • SF throws Juul the bird
    San Francisco doesn’t always operate on the right side of interacting with new technologies and startups, but the city government took final steps to be the first city to ban sales of electronic cigarettes, taking aim at Juul, which seems to be one of the more morally bankrupt SF startups out there. Read more on the ban here.
  • Reddit takes steps to isolate r/The_Donald
    Reddit has had a tough time growing up over the past several years, part of that has been a handful of problem communities on the site. This week, Reddit took the unique step of quarantining r/The_Donald after threats against public officials and members of the police. Read more about the quarantine here.
  • Tesla’s cell jealousy
    Tesla electric vehicles are awfully reliant on Panasonic’s battery cells and the company is investigating how it can reduce that dependency, though the company’s significant demands suggest that even if they succeed in the aggressive move, it would take an awful long time to scale to meet their needs. Read more on the report here.

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. Facebook’s head of spin makes a push:
    [Facebook makes another push to shape and define its own oversight]
  2. FB isn’t sure what to do:
    [Facebook’s content oversight board plan is raising more questions than it answers]

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. We had a story that should be interesting to a lot of younger founders that are scaling their entrepreneurial ambitions while they’re still in classes.

How to scale a startup in school

"…Once you have a job in an industry you want to be in, network like your life depends on it. Get to know the talented people around you and try to help them as much as you can…"

Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week, we talked a bit about the future of marketplaces and you should think about naming your startup.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.

Equity transcribed: SoftBank-backed startup cracks under pressure to scale

Posted: 29 Jun 2019 03:50 PM PDT

Welcome back to the transcribed edition of the popular podcast Equity. This week, TechCrunch writers Kate Clark and Connie Loizos were joined in the studio by Canvas Ventures’ general partner Rebecca Lynn.

This week, the crew talked about the big rounds raised by shoe resale marketplace StockX, which raised  $110 million at a $1 billion valuation. And Cameo, which provides personally recorded messages by celebrities and influencers to whomever will pay for them, raised $50 million at a reported $300 million valuation.

The group then discussed Brandless and the amount of money that SoftBank poured into it. Being the recipient of such large sums at an early age adds a lot of pressure to produce.

Kate Clark: …Brandless raised this $240 million round, only one year after launching. So they’re a very young company. And now fast forward another year, SoftBank is pressuring them to be profitable. But right now they’re only two years old. So I mean, what two year old startup is even at that point?

Rebecca Lynn: Well and what other SoftBank company is profitable?

Clark: Yeah.

Connie Loizos: Right.

Lynn: So I think when you look at this, I think for me as an investor, I don’t know the ins and outs of what’s happening here exactly. But for me this just really underscores the importance of having a very aligned set of goals and missions and values and everything else, when you sign up to work with an investor, right? I mean the company and the investor have to be sort of in lockstep. And when you have an investor that hasn’t been around for a really long time and you don’t know how they’re going to behave really in a downturn or when the company runs into bumps.

And I think that kind of behavior sort of through the highs and the lows is a really important thing that founders and other investors need to take a very close look at.

And finally they talked about WeWork’s latest acquisition, Waltz, a smartphone app and reader that allows users to enter different properties with a single credential.

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