Category Archives: Google

CreativeFuture, IFTA Urge Lawmakers to Hold Google Hearings

WASHINGTON — CreativeFuture and the Independent Film & Television Alliance are pressing congressional leaders to get Google to testify in the same way that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg went before House and Senate hearings in April. In letters to the Senate and House judiciary and commerce committees, CreativeFuture CEO Ruth Vitale, IFTA CEO Jean Prewitt, and […]

“Stephen King Library” Coming To A Smart Speaker Near You

Picking a new book to read can be a daunting task. Books can eat up hours of your day and in today’s world no one has time to waste thumbing through a boring tale. Starting today, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant users in the U.S. and Canada can receive customized suggestions from the works of bestselling novelist Stephen King directly from their smart speaker. The “Stephen King Library” is available for free from CBS sister company Simon & Schuster and offers recommendations from fifty-six of King’s beloved books. Upon downloading the library, users will be asked a series of questions and a customized reading list will be generated from the gathered responses. Reading lists will be formed from questions such as, “You are on a sinking ship, about to jump onto a life raft and can take only one thing with you. Do you take a telescope, a journal or a sling shot?” “Simon & Schuster intends to be at the forefront of utilizing Voice Interaction technology to connect books and authors to readers and audiobook listeners,” said Liz Perl, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Simon & Schuster, Inc. “Using A.I. through Stephen King Library is a fun and innovative experience for exploring this master storyteller’s work.”
stephenking1 Stephen King Library Coming To A Smart Speaker Near You

Photo Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

The library will feature voice over work from critically-acclaimed audio book narrator Jeremy Bobb as well as bonus Stephen King content including audio excerpts, fun facts and more. You can watch a demonstration of the “Stephen King Library” for Amazon Alexa users here and Google Assistant users here.

Employee Confronts Google Executives Over Diversity At Shareholders’ Meeting

(CNN Money) — Google employees are speaking up about their concerns with how the company is handling diversity.

In an unusual move, Google employees partnered with investors to push a proposal at its parent company’s shareholder meeting Wednesday to link executive pay to diversity and inclusion metrics.

“It is our belief as investors, as engineers and as technical professionals that a lack of executive leadership around sustainability, diversity and inclusion fundamentally hurts the quality of products Alphabet can deliver to users,” Irene Knapp, a software engineer at Google, said at the shareholder meeting in Mountain View, California.

The proposal, put forth by investment firm Zevin Asset Management and backed by some current employees, was predictably voted down along with all other shareholder proposals. Google’s two founders have majority voting control.

But Knapp’s remarks offered a window into lingering concerns among some Google staffers about the culture and leadership of a company that is frequently ranked as one of the top places in the world to work.

In addition to highlighting the need for clear metrics to “incentivize long-term progress” on the diversity issue, Knapp also called out a more immediate need to boost the safety and well-being of minority employees.

“The lack of clear, communicated policies and actions to advance diversity and inclusion with concrete accountability and leadership from senior executives has left many of us feeling unsafe and unable to do our work,” Knapp said.

“The chilling effect of harassment and doxing has impaired productivity and company culture. Responses from HR have been inadequate leaving minority communities unprotected,” Knapp added.

The issue came to the foreground after a former Google employee, James Damore, published a controversial essay internally about diversity that set off an uproar among employees and later the general public. Damore was fired after his memo went viral.

Some Google employees who asked questions about the memo internally later had their comments and identities leaked elsewhere online, exposing them to harassment and threats.

Related: Google says it will not renew controversial Pentagon contract

“Now we are forced to weigh the risks to ourselves before giving each other support. This backwards response is tied to immediate retention issues,” Knapp said.

Knapp called for the company to crack down on “malicious leaks” and to publish a manual “formalizing the procedures for HR investigations.”

Other Google employees supported the shareholder proposal in person at the meeting and online.

It’s just the latest example of Google employees openly clashing with the company. Last week, Google said it would not renew a controversial contract with the Defense Department after facing pushback from employees.

“Technology can be a tremendously positive force, but it also raises important questions about how we should apply it in the world,” Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, said at the shareholder meeting. “We are asking ourselves all those questions.”

While Google’s executives did not directly address Knapp’s remarks on Wednesday, they did restate their commitment to diversity.

“We have a stated objective in the company to have representation of blacks and Hispanics in the US and an improvement of representation of women reach market supply by 2020,” Eileen Naughton, Google’s VP of People Operations, said in response to a different shareholder question.

John L. Hennessy, the recently appointed chairman of Alphabet’s board, said the company is committed to considering minority candidates for every new board position. Facebook and Amazon made similar public commitments last month.

All but two of Alphabet’s 11 board members are men. Google’s most recent diversity report, from June of last year, showed the tech giant overwhelmingly employs white men, with 69% of its workforce being male and 56% of its workforce being white.

The shareholder meeting takes place at a sensitive time for Google. Like other tech companies, it has faced greater consumer and regulatory scrutiny over privacy and its perceived market dominance.

“Facebook’s recent data scandals should be a warning to all Alphabet shareholders as well,” Abigail Shaw, with NorthStar Asset Management, said at the meeting introducing a proposal to about Alphabet’s corporate governance.

“Alphabet shareholders need to heed the warning that poor governance can, and likely will, result in an eventual downturn in shareholder value,” she said.

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Waymo’s Self-Driving Car Service To Include 62,000 Minivans

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A self-driving car service that Google spinoff Waymo plans to launch later this year in Arizona will include up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.

The deal announced Thursday is the latest sign of Waymo’s confidence in its self-driving car technology, which sprung from a secret Google project started nine years ago. The technology will be deployed in a ride-hailing service in the Phoenix area before the end of this year and then expand into other U.S. markets.

waymo chrysler pacifica hybrid Waymos Self Driving Car Service To Include 62,000 Minivans

Waymo Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (Getty Images)

Waymo plans to pick up people in cars that won’t have a human in the driver’s seat, making it the first ride-hailing service with a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles.

The company already had bought 600 Pacifica Hybrid minivans from Fiat Chrysler with a commitment to add “thousands” more.

Waymo and Fiat also are discussing other ways to expand their partnership, including possibly striking a deal to sell Chrysler vehicles with self-driving technology to consumers.

Chrysler is the largest vehicle supplier for Waymo’s ride-hailing service so far. Waymo agreed to buy up to 20,000 electric vehicles from Jaguar Land Rover, but none of them will be ready before 2020.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says he is trying to persuade Waymo to put its self-driving cars to work in his company’s pacesetting ride-hailing service, but there is no indication yet whether that will happen.

Waymo accused Uber of stealing its self-driving car technology in a lawsuit that was settled for $245 million after several days of testimony during a February trial.

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Researchers: YouTube’s Efforts Combating Extremist Videos Falling Short

CHICAGO (CBS) — An initiative by YouTube to minimize the exposure of videos advocating extremism is falling short, according to a new report from researchers with the Counter Extremism Project (CEP). The report criticizes the effectiveness of YouTube’s efforts to suppress extremist videos and promote content that could dissuade potential recruits from joining terror groups.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, incorporated aspects of the “Redirect Method” last year. The program uses advertising to steer users away from extremist content in search results and toward a playlist of pre-existing videos that debunk the ideology of violent extremists. The Redirect Program was developed in part by Jigsaw, Google’s innovation arm. But the researchers with CEP say they were three times more likely to encounter videos with extremist content in search results than videos that combat the propaganda. Between April 3 and April 4, 2018, they searched YouTube using four keywords that the Redirect Method says indicate “positive sentiments” toward the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The terms included the Arabic translations of “Islamic State” and “remaining and expanding,” along with the English transliteration of each phrase. (“Remaining and expanding” is a commonly used ISIS rallying cry.) They reviewed 710 YouTube videos that appeared in the search results and evaluated whether they contained extremist messaging or “counter-narrative” messages. They found 53 videos — more than 7.4 percent — included violent extremism or extremist propaganda. Twenty-five of the videos showed explicit violence or gore. ISIS propaganda was limited in the results, but 18 videos were official propaganda videos from other extremist groups and 31 others were unofficial videos containing combat footage or montages. They said only 15 videos, about 2.1 percent, displayed content that counters or debunks extremism and that 14 of those were aimed solely at ISIS. The term “Al Dawla Al Islameyah” — the Arabic term referring to ISIS — produced no counter-narrative results while searches for the Arabic translation of “remaining and expanding” had more extremist videos than counter-narratives in the results. The report highlights how social media giants in Silicon Valley have struggled to tamp down hate speech and terrorist propaganda on their platforms. Lara Pham, deputy director at CEP, said the goal of the report was to “test the efficacy of whether or not when we searched for pro-ISIS content we were being fed counter-narrative material.” Pham said the report brings into question if Google and YouTube are doing enough to fight extremist content. “Our findings actually question the intentions of why Google pursued this program in the first place because, according to our findings, we really did not find that many counter-narrative programs and that was really troubling to us.” Researchers also identified two search terms that produced terroristic content that were not specified by the Redirect Method — the Arabic translation of “mujahideen” and “martyrdom.” They said the terms had the most extremist videos in the results and lacked the counter-messaging content almost entirely. The authors of the report called Google’s efforts to promote counter-narrative content “inconsistent and insufficient.” “The only thing that is clear is YouTube and others still have significant problems with online extremism and current measures are not nearly enough,” David Ibsen, executive director for the Counter Extremism Project, said in a statement. YouTube and Google did not respond to requests for comment.

YouTube Music’s Subscription Service to Relaunch Tuesday

UPDATED: After several months of delays, YouTube Music is relaunching its subscription service on Tuesday, which will be available as an ad-supported (i.e. free) model and as a Premium model for $9.99 per month, with various bundle options for other Google services. YouTube Music will have its own “reimagined” mobile app and desktop player and will […]

YouTube Adds Songwriter, Label, Publisher Credits to Millions of Songs

YouTube today made a positive move with the creator community by dramatically expanding music credits on the platform. According to an announcement, “Music in this video” credits the artist, songwriter, label and publishers behind than half a billion music videos. The feature will provide credits and music discovery information on both music videos as well as […]