The Download: April 24

This is The Download, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Alphabet Q1 earnings: Revenue of $31.1B, net income of $9.4B, capital expenditures hit $7.3B

Alphabet

Google’s parent company Alphabet reported revenue that grew 26 percent year-over-year to $31.16 billion in the first quarter of 2018. In the first quarter of last year, Alphabet reported revenue was up 22 percent year-over-year to $24.75 billion.

The company’s other bets, including autonomous vehicles and balloons, showed growing revenue and shrinking losses.

Here’s a quick glance at the numbers:

  • Earnings: $9.93/share
  • Other Revenues: $4.35 billion, up from $3.27 billion in Q1 last year
  • Other Bets: $150 million, up from $132 million in Q1 2017
  • Other Bets losses: $571 million, down from $703 million last year
  • Traffic acquisition cost as a percentage of revenue: 24 percent
  • Effective tax rate: 11%, down from 20% in 2017

Alphabet’s been making significant investments into tools like Google Cloud, and it shows with the company’s “purchases of property and equipment” more than doubling year-over-year to around $7.3 billion, up from $2.5 billion in the first quarter this year.

Because of an one-time accounting change, we learned that Nest generated $726 million in revenue last year and a $621 million operating loss.

Facebook publishes internal guidelines used to enforce public Community Standards, lets users appeal when posts are taken down

facebook-logo

Facebook has published an expanded set of its internal content moderation guidelines to the public, and is introducing a new appeals process that lets users request a review if they believe their post has been unfairly removed.

The 27-page document covers topics including bullying, violent threats, self-harm, and nudity, among other topics.

“These are issues in the real world. The community we have using Facebook and other large social media mirrors the community we have in the real world. So we’re realistic about that. The vast majority of people who come to Facebook come for very good reasons. But we know there will always be people who will try to post abusive content or engage in abusive behavior. This is our way of saying these things are not tolerated. Report them to us, and we’ll remove them.”

Monika Bickert, Facebook head of global policy management

Users can also now request that the company review takedowns of content they posted personally. If your post is taken down, you’ll be notified on Facebook with an option to “request review.” The company will review the request within 24 hours, and if it decides that a mistake was made, it’ll restore the post and notify you. By the end of the year, if you reported a post but got told that it doesn’t violate the community standards, you’ll be able to request a review for that as well.

More terrorist content removed

In related news, Facebook was able to remove a larger amount of Islamic State and al-Qaeda content in the first quarter of 2018 by actively looking for it.

The company has trained its review systems – both humans and computer algorithms – to seek out posts from terrorist groups. Facebook took action on 1.9 million pieces of content from those groups in the first three months of the year, about as many as in the previous quarter. 99 percent of that content wasn’t reported by users, according to Facebook, but flagged by the company’s internal systems.

YouTube releases first community guidelines enforcement report: Over 8M videos removed in Q4 2017, 6.7M first flagged by machines

YouTube-Logo

YouTube removed 8.3 million videos between October and December 2017, according to the platform’s first community guidelines enforcement report. The platform has committed to releasing a quarterly enforcement report to “show the progress [it’s] making in removing violative content from [its] platform.”

The report revealed that 6.7 million of the videos were first flagged for review by machines and were never viewed. According to YouTube, its use of machine learning to police content isn’t a bad thing and leads to “more people reviewing content, not fewer.” While its algorithms do delete some content on their own like spam videos, it mostly forwards anything it suspects to be in violation of YouTube’s policies to human reviewers. Those reviewers are then in charge of deciding whether to pull the video or restrict it to logged-in users over the age of 18.

Apple’s Shazam acquisition faces extended EU probe

Apple’s acquisition of music-identification service Shazam is facing an extended probe from the European Union as antitrust regulators raised concerns that the company could use Shazam’s data to lure customers to Apple Music.

The EU set a Sept. 4 deadline to investigate whether Apple might get unfair access to commercially sensitive information about users of rival music streaming services. It will also check if Apple Music competitors would be harmed if Apple were to stop referring customers to them from Shazam.

“Access to such data could allow Apple to directly target its competitors’ customers and encourage them to switch to Apple Music. As a result, competing music streaming services could be put at a competitive disadvantage.”

The European Union, in a press release

According to the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), the takeover is the latest in a string of popular services “being swallowed by a few online giants.”

“If these new services then become part of this established company’s ecosystem there is a risk that it will lead to less choice for consumers.”

Agustin Reyna, European Consumer Organization chief competition advisor, in a statement to Bloomberg

Uber plans to stop giving drivers log of riders’ exact pickup, drop-off locations

Uber Trip history

 

A soon-to-launch pilot program will begin obscuring Uber riders’ exact pickup and drop-off locations in the trip history displayed to drivers, replacing it with a broader location area.

The change is intended to enhance rider privacy and safety.

Currently, Uber drivers are given a record of the precise drop-off and pickup addresses in their trip history. The addresses are stored indefinitely in a driver’s trip history, which lets them go back at any time and look at a rider’s address. That data’s maintained even if a rider deletes their account and data from Uber.

“Location data is our most sensitive information, and we are doing everything we can do to protect privacy around it. The new design provides enough information for drivers to identify past trips for customer support issues or earning disputes without granting them ongoing access to rider addresses.

“Obviously with this being a new feature focused on privacy, we want to make sure it successfully meets that goal before pushing it out broadly. However, regardless of design/UX tweaks needed, we fully intend on making this a default setting in the coming months.”

An Uber spokesperson

In other news…

 

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