If YouTube’s algorithms radicalize people, it’s hard to tell from the data

But there has been a steady stream of stories about how the process has radicalized people, sending them down an ever-deepening rabbit hole until all their viewing is dominated by fringe ideas and conspiracy theories.

A new study released on Monday looks at whether these stories represent a larger trend or are just a collection of anecdotes. While the data can’t rule out the existence of online radicalization, it definitely suggests that it’s not the most common experience. Instead, it seems like fringe ideas are simply part of a larger self-reinforcing community.

The data used here isn’t ideal but they still go against “conventional wisdom” to be interesting.

In addition, there was no sign of any sort of acceleration. If YouTube’s algorithms keep directing people to more extreme videos, the frequency of far-right videos should go up toward the end of a viewing session. That didn’t happen—in fact, the opposite did.

More importantly, as this implies, I feel we’re too eager to blame tech for the totality of a phenomenon, as if tech is the one and only catalyst, without which there would have been no issue. As always, things are more complicated than that.

The Invisible Tech Behemoth

Microsoft does much more that we’re happy to call “evil” when other companies are involved. It defied its own workers in favor of contracts with the Department of Defense; it’s been quietly doing lots of business with China for decades, including letting Beijing censor results on its Bing search engine and developing AI that critics say can be used for surveillance and repression; it reportedly tried to sell facial-recognition technology to the DEA.

So why does none of it stick? Well, partly because it’s possible that Microsoft isn’t actually doing anything wrong, from a legal perspective.

Yet it’s so big and so dominant and owns so much expensive physical infrastructure that hardly any company can compete with it. Is that illegal? Should it be?

I think it’s only a matter of time for Microsoft to get in the regulation fray. If anything, the company has been asking for regulation itself, though with a mind to essentially squeeze business practices of its competitors and push its own. But Microsoft knows what’s coming, they’re just being more coy and, possibly, more proactive about this.

On a higher level, I like the last two questions. It’s never too early or too late to ask ourselves if something is legal/illegal and whether it should be.

4. Seeking better ways to describe games

Video games might be better served by being classified by how they make you feel, than simply by what you do in them, Shawn Layden, the former head of PlayStation’s development studios, recently told Axios.

Why it matters: He is concerned that the genres commonly used to describe various types of games might be holding the medium back

What he’s saying: “One of the blockers we have in the video game business is that we continue to describe our content by its core mechanic,” he said. “That’s a shooting game. That’s a racing game.”

I’m not sure how he means it. If this amounts to adding the equivalent of tags, then it’s fine. We get extra information that sounds more useful when there’s a narrative to speak of. Otherwise, trying to claim something will feel like “fun” won’t go a long way. If this is about foregoing traditional classification, what Shawn Layden proposes comes with lots of issues. Characterisation based on function has stayed with us for so long because interactivity in games necessitates some kind of function, in contrast with other entertainment media. People are (also) sold on gameplay loops, essential when you think how much of our time we put into a game doing the same things over and over. And there are no guarantees about how that makes anyone feel.

Theatre, cinema, literature may be hyped on how they may make you feel, but they’re always classified based on themes, because these themes usually dictate —to an extent— their form, style etc.

And, frankly, it’s the marketers that have to sell me on what I’ll get out of a game, not the name of a genre.

Uber asked contractor to allow video surveillance in employee homes, bedrooms

Teleperformance, one of the world’s largest call center companies, is reportedly requiring some employees to consent to video monitoring in their homes. Employees in Colombia told NBC News that their new contract granted the company the right to use AI-powered cameras to observe and record their workspaces. The contract also requires employees to share biometric data like fingerprints and photos of themselves, and workers have to agree to share data and images that may include children under 18.

This is preposterous of course but hit the link to check the company’s response, since it pretends they made sure the contracts employees sign allow for whatever the company needs here, as if that’s proof of a good contract when refusal to sign equals loss of employment.

Japan’s entire weekly top 30 is Switch games, the first time a single format has done this in 33 years

Game Data Library, which claims to be the largest collection of Japanese game sales data on the internet, says this is an “unprecedented” achievement that hasn’t been done since at least November 1988, when the Top 30 used to only cover Famicom games.

A single system has never claimed all 30 spots in the charts since they became multi-format, making the Switch the first ever system to accomplish this.

History has been made.