Annie Gilbertson and Alex Reisner, Proof:

AI companies are generally secretive about their sources of training data, but an investigation by Proof News found some of the wealthiest AI companies in the world have used material from thousands of YouTube videos to train AI. Companies did so despite YouTube’s rules against harvesting materials from the platform without permission.

Our investigation found that subtitles from 173,536 YouTube videos, siphoned from more than 48,000 channels, were used by Silicon Valley heavyweights, including Anthropic, Nvidia, Apple, and Salesforce.

According to Gilbertson and Reisner, this is a data set called — appropriately enough — “YouTube Subtitles”, which is part of a larger set called the “Pile”, which is distributed by EleutherAI. The “Pile” was used by Apple to train OpenELM.

Chance Miller, 9to5Mac:

Apple has now confirmed to 9to5Mac, however, that OpenELM doesn’t power any of its AI or machine learning features – including Apple Intelligence.

Lance Ulanoff, TechRadar:

While not speaking directly to the issue of YouTube data, Apple reiterated its commitment to the rights of creators and publishers and added that it does offer websites the ability to opt out of their data being used to train Apple Intelligence, which Apple unveiled during WWDC 2024 and is expected to arrive in iOS 18.

The company also confirmed that it trains its models, including those for its upcoming Apple Intelligence, using high-quality data that includes licensed data from publishers, stock images, and some publicly available data from the web. YouTube’s transcription data is not intended to be a public resource but it’s not clear if it’s fully hidden from view.

Even if you set aside the timing of allowing people to opt out, it scarcely matters in this case. If YouTube captions were part of the data set used to train any part of Apple Intelligence, it would be impossible for channel operators to opt out because they cannot set individualized robots.txt instructions.

Five New York Times reporters wrote in April about the tension OpenAI created after it began transcribing YouTube videos:

Some Google employees were aware that OpenAI had harvested YouTube videos for data, two people with knowledge of the companies said. But they didn’t stop OpenAI because Google had also used transcripts of YouTube videos to train its A.I. models, the people said. That practice may have violated the copyrights of YouTube creators. So if Google made a fuss about OpenAI, there might be a public outcry against its own methods, the people said.

I could not find any mechanism to opt one’s own YouTube videos out of A.I. training. This is one of the problems of YouTube being a singular destination for general-purpose online video: it has all the power and, by extension, so does Google.

By the way, I am still waiting for someone in Cupertino to check the Applebot inbox.

Dhruv Mehrotra, Tim Marchman, and Andrew Couts, Wired:

US senator J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican and former US president Donald Trump’s pick for vice president, has a public Venmo account that gives an unfiltered glimpse into his extensive network of connections with establishment GOP heavyweights, wealthy financiers, technology executives, the prestige press, and fellow graduates of Yale Law School—precisely the elites he rails against. A WIRED analysis of the account, the people listed as Vance’s friends, and, in turn, the people listed as their friends highlights sometimes bizarre and surprising connections. Experts, meanwhile, worry that the information revealed by the peer-to-peer payment app raises the potential for stalking, trolling, and impersonation.

In May 2021, reporters for Buzzfeed News easily found Joe Biden’s Venmo account.

It remains completely baffling to me for a payment app, of all things, to have an option for publicly exposing transactions like it is a social network. Shortly after Biden’s account was found, Venmo removed a feature which showed public transactions from complete strangers — this is among the most ridiculous series of words I have ever typed. Despite Venmo’s explanations, I will likely never understand why it is like this.

To promote the launch of a new Beats Pill model, Apple’s Oliver Schusser was interviewed by Craig McLean of Wallpaper — where by “interviewed” I mostly mean “guided through talking points”. There is not much here unless you appreciate people discussing brands in the abstract.

However, McLean wanted to follow up on a question asked of Schusser in a 2019 issue of Music Week (PDF): “where do you want to see, or want Apple Music to be, in five years?” Schusser replied:

We want to be the best in what we do. And that means, obviously, we’ll continue to invest in the product and make sure we’re innovative and provide our customers with the best experience. We want to invest in our editorial and content, in our relationships with the industry, whether that’s the songwriters, music publishers, the labels, artists or anyone in the creative process. But that’s really what we’re trying to do. We just want to be the best at what we do.

With McLean given the opportunity for a response at the end of that timeframe, where does Apple Music now find itself? Schusser answered:

We are very clearly positioned as the quality service. We don’t have a free offer [unlike Spotify’s advertising-supported tier]. We don’t give anything away. Everything is made by music fans and curated by experts. We are focused on music while other people are running away from music into podcasts and audiobooks. Our service is clearly dedicated to music.

With spatial audio, we’ve completely revolutionised the listening experience. [Historically] we went from mono to stereo and then, for decades, there was nothing else. Then we completely invented a new standard [where] now 90 per cent of our subscribers are listening to music in spatial audio. Which is great.

And little things, like the lyrics, for example, [which] you find on Apple Music, which are incredibly popular. We have a team of people that are actually transcribing the lyrics because we don’t want them to be crowd-sourced from the internet. We want to make sure they’re as pristine as possible. We’ve got motion artwork and song credits. We really try to make Apple Music a high quality place for music fans.

And while most others in the marketplace have sort of stopped innovating, we’ve been really pushing hard, whether it’s Apple Music Sing, which is a great singalong feature, like karaoke. Or Classical, which is an audience that had completely been neglected. We’re trying to make Apple Music the best place for people to listen to music. I’m super happy with that.

This is quite the answer, and one worth tediously picking apart claim-by-claim.

We are very clearly positioned as the quality service. We don’t have a free offer [unlike Spotify’s advertising-supported tier]. We don’t give anything away.

I am not sure how one would measure whether Apple Music is “positioned as the quality service”, but this is a fair point. Apple Music offers free streaming “Radio” stations, but it is substantially not a free service.

Everything is made by music fans and curated by experts.

This is a common line from Apple and a description which has carried on from the launch of Beats Music. But it seems only partially true. There are, for example, things which must be entirely made by algorithm, like user-personalized playlists and radio stations. Schusser provided more detail to McLean five years ago in that Music Week interview, saying “[o]f course there are algorithms involved [but] the algorithms only pick music that [our] editors and curators would choose”. I do not know what that means, but it is at least an acknowledgement of an automated system instead of the handmade impression Apple gives in the Wallpaper interview.

Other parts of Apple Music suspiciously seem informed by factors beyond what an expert curator might decide. Spellling’s 2021 record “The Turning Wheel”, a masterpiece of orchestral art pop, notably received a perfect score from music reviewer Anthony Fantano. Fantano also gave high scores to artists like Black Midi, JPEGMAFIA, and Lingua Ignota, none of whom make music anything like Spellling. Yet all are listed as “similar artists” to Spellling on Apple Music. If you like Spellling’s work, you may be surprised by those other artists because they sound wildly different. This speaks less of curation than it does automation by audience.

For the parts which are actually curated manually, do I know the people who are making these decisions? What is their taste like? What are their standards? Are they just following Apple’s suggestions? Why is the “Rock Drive” playlist the same as any mediocre FM rock radio station?

We are focused on music while other people are running away from music into podcasts and audiobooks. Our service is clearly dedicated to music.

Music has undeniably shaped Apple from its earliest days and, especially, following the launch of the iPod. Its executives are fond of repeating the line “we love music” in press releases and presentations since 2001. But Apple’s dedication to separating music from other media is a five year old decision. It was previously wholly dedicated to music while shipping an app that also played audiobooks and podcasts and movies and all manner of other things. Plus, have you seen the state of the Music app on MacOS?

This is clearly just a dig at Spotify. It would carry more weight if Apple Music felt particularly good for music playback. It does not. I have filed dozens of bugs against the MacOS, iOS, and tvOS versions reflecting basic functionality: blank screens, poor search results, playback queue ordering issues, inconsistencies in playlist sort order between devices, problems with importing files, sync issues, cloud problems, and so forth. It is not uniformly terrible, but this is not a solid foundation for criticizing Spotify for not focusing on music enough.

Spotify sucks in other ways.

With spatial audio, we’ve completely revolutionised the listening experience. [Historically] we went from mono to stereo and then, for decades, there was nothing else.

This is untrue. People have been experimenting with multichannel audio in music since the 1960s. “Dark Side of the Moon” was released in quadrophonic audio in 1973, one of many albums released that decade in a four-channel mix. In the 1990s, a bunch of albums were released on SACDs mixed in 5.1 surround sound.

What Apple can correctly argue is that few people actually listened to any multichannel music in these formats. They were niche. Now?

Then we completely invented a new standard [where] now 90 per cent of our subscribers are listening to music in spatial audio. Which is great.

A fair point, though with a couple of caveats. Part of the high adoption rate is because Spatial Audio is turned on by default, and Apple is paying a premium to incentivize artists to release multichannel mixes. It is therefore not too surprising that most people have listened to at least one Spatial Audio track.

But this is the first time I can remember Apple claiming it “invented” the format. Spatial Audio was originally framed as supporting music mixed in Dolby Atmos. In its truest guise — played through a set of AirPods or Beats headphones, which can track the movement of the wearer’s head — it forms a three-dimensional bubble of music, something which Apple did create. That is, Apple invented the part which makes Atmos-mixed audio playable on its systems within a more immersive apparent space. But Apple did not invent the “new standard” taking music beyond two channels — that was done long before, and then by Dolby.

Also, it is still bizarre to me how many of the most popular multichannel mixes of popular albums are not available in Spatial Audio on Apple Music. These are records the artists deliberately intended for a surround sound mix at the time they were released, yet they cannot be played in what must be the most successful multichannel music venue ever made? Meanwhile, a whole bunch of classic songs and albums have been remixed in Spatial Audio for no good reason.

And little things, like the lyrics, for example, [which] you find on Apple Music, which are incredibly popular. We have a team of people that are actually transcribing the lyrics because we don’t want them to be crowd-sourced from the internet. We want to make sure they’re as pristine as possible.

I really like the way Apple Music displays time-tracked lyrics. That said, I only occasionally see inaccuracies in lyrics on Genius and in Apple Music, so I am not sure how much more “pristine” Apple’s are.

Also, I question the implication of a team of people manually transcribing lyrics. I have nothing to support this, but I would wager heavily this is primarily machine-derived followed by manual cleanup.

We’ve got motion artwork and song credits.

Song credits are good. Motion artwork is a doodad.

We really try to make Apple Music a high quality place for music fans.

I want to believe this is true, but I have a hard time accepting today’s Apple Music is the high quality experience worth raving about. Maybe some music fans are clamouring for animated artwork and bastardized Spatial Audio mixes of classic albums. I am not one of them. What I want is foundation of a reliable and fast jukebox functionality extended to my local library and streaming media, and then all this exciting stuff built on top.

And while most others in the marketplace have sort of stopped innovating, we’ve been really pushing hard, whether it’s Apple Music Sing, which is a great singalong feature, like karaoke. Or Classical, which is an audience that had completely been neglected.

These are good updates. Apple has not said much about Apple Music Sing or its popularity since it launched in December 2022, but it seems fine enough. Also, Spotify began trialling its own karaoke mode in June 2022, so maybe it should be credited with this innovation.

Apple Music Classical, meanwhile, remains a good but occasionally frustrating app. Schusser is right in saying this has been a neglected audience among mainstream streaming services. Apple’s effort is built upon Primephonic, which it acquired in August 2021 before launching it re-skinned as Classical in March 2023. That said, it is better now than it was at launch and it seems Apple is slowly refining it. It is important to me for there to be mainstream attention in this area.

We’re trying to make Apple Music the best place for people to listen to music. I’m super happy with that.

The thing I keep thinking about the four paragraph response above is that Schusser says a lot of the right things. Music is so important to so many people, and I would like to believe Apple cares as much about making the best music service and players as I do about listening to each week’s new releases.

I just wish everything was better than it currently is. There are many bugs I filed years ago which remain open, though I am happy to say the version in the latest Sonoma beta appears to contain a fix for reversing the order of songs when dragging them to the playback queue. If Apple really wants to position Apple Music as “the quality service” that is “the best at what we do”, it should demonstrate that instead of just saying it.

For about seven years, I have been automatically broadcasting new posts to Mastodon using a Zapier workflow. That was followed earlier this year by a Bluesky auto-posting setup powered by Linus Rath’s excellent WordPress to Bluesky plugin.

I can still recommend the latter; the former, though, gave me grief from day one. Zapier automatically posts gross short addresses instead of nicer permalinks, and I could not figure out a way to change this. (It is probably very easy. Please do not make fun of me.) Also, posts containing an ampersand in the title — of which there have recently been a few — have not been parsed correctly.

Happily, enemy of Perplexity Robb Knight launched EchoFeed in April:

It supports reading RSS and Atom and JSON feeds and then posting those items to Mastodon and Micro.blog and Bluesky and GitHub and Discord and LinkAce. Or it can send them as Webmentions and Webhooks.

After the AT&T debacle, I figured I would set up EchoFeed and consolidate everything into one account. It could not have been easier, and my feeds have been working great. Free for one feed to one service, and just $25 U.S. per year to remove limitations.

Anthony Ha, TechCrunch:

Some of those changes [in streaming] would be welcome, but they reinforce the sense that streaming — at least as envisioned by the executives currently running the business — won’t be all that different from the old cable TV ecosystem. Some things will be better (on-demand viewing), some will be worse (compensation for writers, actors, and other talent), and there might be different players at the top. But in many ways, it will feel like the same old TV.

Wendy M. Grossman:

This is the moment when lessons from the past of music, TV, and video piracy could be useful. Critics always said that the only workable answer to piracy is legal, affordable services, and they were right, as shown by Pandora, Spotify, Netflix, which launched its paid streaming service in 2007, and so many others.

It’s been obvious for at least two years that things are now going backwards. […]

If subscription streaming executives are determined to relive the past so, too, will those competent at searching the web for bootleg copies.

Stephen Rivers, the Autopian:

A recent story from Manager Magazine implies that Apple and Porsche are working on a car that’ll end up being a much greater integration than we’ve seen before. It highlights how the two brands have worked closely in the past, how Apple execs love to drive Porsches, and how they might work together in the future:

Preparations are now underway for an Apple-Porsche. Since Cook abandoned plans for his own Apple Car at the end of February, there have been completely new options for collaboration. A lot is now possible for Porsche; some developments and projects from the world of the Apple Car could now become available. It’s not just about software, they say in Stuttgart; Apple has also pursued exciting approaches to battery systems, for example.

That’s been translated by Google, but it gets the idea across. […]

Apple showed the new version of CarPlay first in mockups with Aston Martin and Porsche branding, and I am tempted to write this article off as a mere misinterpretation of that existing relationship. But if Manager’s sources are right, this could be a somewhat deeper connection. I would not go so far as Rivers’ article claims — that this is some kind of spiritual successor to Apple’s axed car project — yet if any company knows a thing or two about selling $120,000 cars, it is Porsche.

Matthew Connatser, the Register:

Authored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the investigative report [PDF] claimed Amazon’s annual Prime Day sale is “a major cause of injuries for the warehouse workers who make it possible.”

[…]

The study said the data showed that Amazon’s overall injury rate was above 30 percent for nearly every single week of 2019. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when this data was compiled, Amazon’s injury rate hovered between 15 and 25 percent, it added.

On Prime Day 2019 and in the first two weeks of December, injury rates climbed to over forty percent. But that was five years ago, and it is strange to me the HELP Committee report is not built around more recent data.

In May, the Strategic Organizing Center published its own report including data from 2023:

Three years after Amazon pledged to make the company “Earth’s Safest Place to Work” by cutting its total injury rate in half by 2025, a new analysis from the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) shows the retail giant has reduced its overall injury rate by less than two percent. Drawing on newly released data, SOC also finds that injury levels at Amazon warehouses increased by as much as 59 percent during the company’s 2023 peak operational periods, including Prime Day and Cyber Monday.

Like the government report, the SOC says the injury rate at Amazon warehouses is double that of the industry average. It also says the injury rate in 2020 did not contain the Prime Day peak in the summer — as you can also see in the HELP report — because Amazon moved Prime Day to October.

Sara Fischer, Axios:

Ad tech giant Taboola has struck a deal with Apple to power native advertising within the Apple News and Apple Stocks apps, Taboola founder and CEO Adam Singolda told Axios.

[…]

Most people know Taboola as the company responsible for placing chumbox ads at the bottom of many news stories online.

Om Malik:

Apple’s decision to strike a deal with Taboola is shocking and off-brand — so much so that I have started to question the company’s long-term commitment to good customer experience, including its commitment to privacy. As it chases more and more revenue to appease Wall Street, it’s clear Apple will become one of those companies that prioritize shareholders over paying customers and their experience.

Fischer reports the ads which appear in News and Stocks will have a level of scrutiny similar to those in the Taboola Select program. Still, Malik is right — this feels wrong for Apple and wrong for users.

Then again, services revenue seems to have compelled Apple to do lots of things which previously felt wrong. It has a credit card with interest rates currently between 19.24% and 29.49%. It aggressively advertises its services in its operating systems to the detriment of users’ experiences.

These moves may not feel like they fit Apple’s brand if your impression of it was formed more than ten years ago. There is no use protesting that they are out of character, however, when priorities like these feel like they represent today’s Apple.

Miles Klee, Rolling Stone:

Whether the stigma attached to MAGA culture is truly softening in deep-blue California, it’s clear that players large and small in its business culture feel emboldened and energized by the attempt on Trump’s life. Musk and his far-right Twitter friends have meanwhile done everything they can to elevate those voices and convince other people reluctant to share their admiration for Trump that the time to start is now. […]

Some of the richest people in the United States — including Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, the Winklevii, and David Sacks — are firmly behind this Republican nightmare ticket, but this should not surprise anyone. Aside from the odious behaviour of these specific individuals over the years aligning with the Trump ethos, wealthy Americans generally backed the Trump/Pence campaign in 2020 and in 2016.

Whether and how this trend fits in California is murkier, as fully one-third of respondents said they had an income of $100,000 or greater; I could not find a state-level breakdown for higher incomes, let alone one at a county level. But it should not be too surprising for financial elites to back this ticket. Some of them did in 2016; more did in 2020. Trump is an increasingly safe choice for the faux contrarians of Silicon Valley.

Kim Zetter, Wired:

US telecom giant AT&T, which disclosed Friday that hackers had stolen the call records for tens of millions of its customers, paid a member of the hacking team more than $300,000 to delete the data and provide a video demonstrating proof of deletion.

[…]

The hacker who received the payment from AT&T alleges that Binns was responsible for the breach and shared samples of the data with him and others after downloading it. He says he believes Binns allegedly stole “several billions” of records from AT&T, though WIRED was unable to confirm this. Reddington [a security researcher] understands that the data that was deleted was the only complete dataset taken by the hackers. Reddington says he does not believe the hackers posted the data publicly, though he’s not sure how many people received excerpts of the data Binns allegedly provided or what they did with it.

Also currently unknown: how big the sample data sets are, what is in them, and whether the full set has actually been deleted.

The AltStore (italicized note mine):

After 3 months in review — including 30+ days for appeal — UTM SE was approved for PAL 🎉 [The E.U.-only Apple-blessed version of AltStore.]

Apple also called us to say they decided to allow it in the App Store too, what a coincidence!

Our first set of 3rd party apps is now notarized, and will be available for PAL users soon 🙂

Finally. This was the emulator rejected just before WWDC from appearing in the App Store because Apple only wanted to allow emulators for gaming consoles, not retro personal computers.1 Apple also prevented it from being notarized for alternative distribution, which is something it should not be doing unless its executives really like skeptical phone calls from regulators.

One caveat, though: UTM SE is a JIT-less build. Its developers were originally resigned to its permanent rejection but I think their perseverance paid off, even if its performance is below developers’ and users’ expectations.

Riley Testut:

Thanks Apple for once again proving the best way to change the App Store rules is to submit an app to AltStore :)

Craig Grannell:

As a fan of emulation and safeguarding gaming’s history, I find myself increasingly frustrated with Apple in this space. It has – either by intent or incompetence – created the circumstances in which iOS has a confused, messy, inconsistent emulator ecosystem.

The word Grannell uses in the headline of this article — “incoherent” — is apt. At least there is now the tiniest bit of competition in the market for iPhone software distribution.


  1. Someday, someone will submit a vintage smartphone game emulator to the App Store and really test the iPhone-as-a-console theory. ↥︎

A GLAAD report published in March paints a bleak picture of the moderation of LGBTQ-targeting posts on Meta’s platforms:

As this new report documents, nine months later, such extreme anti-trans hate content remains widespread across Instagram, Facebook, and Threads. All of the posts below were reported by GLAAD via Meta’s standard reporting systems; Meta either replied that posts were not violative or simply did not take action on them.

Some of the posts in question are from the high-profile accounts of media personalities and politicians. At least a couple of the accounts have since been suspended, but not necessarily because of the posts in this report.

Niléane, MacStories:

Without hard data, it is difficult to investigate this feeling, to understand if it is truly widespread or specific to some online bubbles. But one thing is certain: Threads hasn’t felt like a breath of fresh air for all who tried to use it. In my experience as a trans woman, at its best, it has felt like Jack Dorsey’s old Twitter: a social platform overrun by an opaque moderation system, free-roaming hate speech, and a frustrating algorithm that too often promotes harmful content.

As John Voorhees wrote on Mastodon, social media feeds based primarily around suggested posts mean “the experiences of any two people can be very different”. Perhaps your own feed lacks these discriminatory and hateful posts. Sadly, it does not surprise me to learn they are commonplace.

The thing that always frustrates me is that Meta gets to choose what kind of experience and expectations it wants to build for its community. Nobody is demanding perfection. But is the company proud of creating such a hostile environment for so many people? If Meta were to take seriously the fair criticisms levelled by GLAAD and Niléane — and plenty of others — it would be standing up for its professed values.

Sergiu Gatlan, Bleeping Computer:

Apple has removed 25 virtual private network (VPN) apps from the Russian App Store at the request of Roskomnadzor, Russia’s telecommunications watchdog.

Roskomnadzor confirmed to Interfax that the order targets multiple apps (including NordVPN, Proton VPN, Red Shield VPN, Planet VPN, Hidemy.Name VPN, Le VPN, and PIA VPN) used to gain access to content tagged as illegal in Russia.

This is part of an ongoing purge in Russia of the availability of VPN services.

Apple is, of course, required to comply with the laws of the regions in which it operates — something which it is happy to point out any time it is questioned — and it is barely maintaining a presence within Russia today. Its Russian-language website only provides documentation, and it has officially curtailed its other operations. But there are people in the country who have owned iPhones for years and those phones remain dependent on the App Store.

I understand why Apple would be outspoken about its objections to, say, new E.U. laws but not those from authoritarian states, because the objectives of the governments are entirely different. At least regulators in the E.U. might listen. Yet it sure does not feel right that it is dutifully and quietly complying with Russian policies despite withdrawing its presence otherwise.

Zack Whittaker, TechCrunch:

U.S. phone giant AT&T confirmed Friday it will begin notifying millions of consumers about a fresh data breach that allowed cybercriminals to steal the phone records of “nearly all” of its customers, a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.

In a statement, AT&T said that the stolen data contains phone numbers of both cellular and landline customers, as well as AT&T records of calls and text messages — such as who contacted who by phone or text — during a six-month period between May 1, 2022 and October 31, 2022.

AT&T said some of the stolen data includes more recent records from January 2, 2023 for a smaller but unspecified number of customers.

AT&T discovered this breach in April but waited until today to announce it. But if you believed this wholesale theft of metadata would shake confidence in the value of AT&T as a business, think again: the market is not punishing the company.

From AT&T’s SEC filing:

On May 9, 2024, and again on June 5, 2024, the U.S. Department of Justice determined that, under Item 1.05(c) of Form 8-K, a delay in providing public disclosure was warranted. AT&T is now timely filing this report. AT&T is working with law enforcement in its efforts to arrest those involved in the incident. Based on information available to AT&T, it understands that at least one person has been apprehended. As of the date of this filing, AT&T does not believe that the data is publicly available.

Joseph Cox, 404 Media:

John Binns, a U.S. citizen who has been incarcerated in Turkey, is linked to the massive data breach of metadata belonging to nearly all of AT&T’s customers that the telecommunications giant announced on Friday, three sources independently told 404 Media.

The breach, in which hackers stole call and text records from a third-party cloud service provider used by AT&T, is one of the most significant in recent history, with the data showing what numbers AT&T customers interacted with across a several month period in 2022. 404 Media has also seen a subset of the data, giving greater insight into the highly sensitive nature of the stolen information.

Binns also took responsibility for breaching T-Mobile in 2021, for which he was recently arrested after being charged in 2022. It seems likely to me Binns is the Turkish-residing member alluded to by Google’s Mandiant in its report on UNC5537, the threat actor associated with breaching possibly 165 customers of the Snowflake platform.

AT&T and other giant corporations will continue to retain massive amounts of data with poor security because it is valuable for them to do so and they are barely punished when it all goes wrong. T-Mobile paid a $350 million penalty in 2022 while continuing to say it did nothing wrong. The same year, it made $61.3 billion. In 2022, U.S. median household income was $74,580. Proportionally, T-Mobile got a $425 ticket.

Update: The 404 Media post was not paywalled at the time of posting, but it was later restricted.

Ryan Broderick:

You’ve probably seen the phrase AI slop already, the term most people have settled on for the confusing and oftentimes disturbing pictures of Jesus and flight attendants and veterans that are filling up Facebook right now. But the current universe of slop is much more vast than that. There’s Google Slop, YouTube slop, TikTok slop, Marvel slop, Taylor Swift slop, Netflix slop. One could argue that slop has become the defining “genre” of the 2020s. But even though we’ve all come around to this idea, I haven’t seen anyone actually define it. So today I’m going to try.

This piece does actually settle somewhere very good in its attempt to address the vibe of the entertainment and media world in which we swim, but it is a slog to get there. This is the first paragraph and trying to pull it apart will take a minute. For a start, Broderick says the definition of “slop” has evaded him. That is plausible, but it does require him to have avoided Googling “ai slop definition” upon which point he would have surely seen Simon Willison’s post defining and popularizing the term:

Not all promotional content is spam, and not all AI-generated content is slop. But if it’s mindlessly generated and thrust upon someone who didn’t ask for it, slop is the perfect term for it.

This is a good definition, though Willison intentionally restricts it to describe A.I.-generated products. However, it seems like people are broadening the word’s use to cover things not made using A.I., and it appears Broderick wishes to reflect that.

Next paragraph:

Content slop has three important characteristics. The first being that, to the user, the viewer, the customer, it feels worthless. This might be because it was clearly generated in bulk by a machine or because of how much of that particular content is being created. The next important feature of slop is that feels forced upon us, whether by a corporation or an algorithm. It’s in the name. We’re the little piggies and it’s the gruel in the trough. But the last feature is the most crucial. It not only feels worthless and ubiquitous, it also feels optimized to be so. […]

I have trimmed a few examples from this long paragraph — in part because I do not want emails about Taylor Swift. I will come back to this definition, but I want to touch on something in the next paragraph:

Speaking of Ryan Reynolds, the film essayist Patrick Willems has been attacking this idea from a different direction in a string of videos over the last year. In one essay titled, “When Movie Stars Become Brands,” Willems argues that in the mid-2000s, after a string of bombs, Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds adapted a strategy lifted from George Clooney, where an actor builds brands and side businesses to fund creatively riskier movie projects. Except Reynolds and Johnson never made the creatively riskier movie projects and, instead, locked themselves into streaming conglomerates and allowed their brands to eat their movies. The zenith of this being their 2021 Netflix movie Red Notice, which literally opens with competing scenes advertising their respective liquor brands. A movie that, according to Netflix, is their most popular movie ever.

This is a notable phenomenon, but I think Broderick would do to cite another Willems video essay as well. This one, which seems just as relevant, is all about the word “content”. Willems’ obvious disdain for the word — one which I share — is rooted in its everythingness and, therefore, nothingness. In it, he points to a specific distinction:

[…] In a video on the PBS “Ideas” channel, Mike Rugnetta addressed this topic, coming at it from a similar place as me. And he put forth the idea that the “content” label also has to do with how we experience something.

He separates it into “consumption” versus “mere consumption”. In other words, yes, we technically are consuming everything, but there’s the stuff that we fully focus on and engage with, and then the stuff we look at more passively, like tweets we scroll past or a gaming stream we half-watch in the background.

So the idea Mike proposes is that maybe the stuff that we merely consume is content. And if we consume it and actually focus on it, then it’s something else.

What Broderick is getting at — and so too, I think, are the hoards of people posting about “slop” on X to which he links in the first paragraph — is a combination of this phenomenon and the marketing-driven vehicles for Johnson and Reynolds. Willems correctly points out that actors and other public figures have long been spokespeople for products, including their own. Also, there have always been movies and shows which lack any artistic value. Those things have not changed.

What has changed, however, is the sheer volume of media released now. Nearly six hundred English-language scripted shows were released in 2022 alone, though that declined in 2023 to below five hundred in part because of striking writers and actors. According to IMDB data, 4,100 movies were released in 1993, 6,125 in 2003, 15,451 in 2013, and 19,626 in 2023.

As I have previously argued, volume is not inherently bad. The self-serve approach of streaming services means shows do not need to fit into an available airtime slot on a particular broadcast channel. It means niche programming is just as available as blockbusters. The only scheduling which needs to be done is on the viewer’s side, fitting a new show or movie in between combing through the 500 hours of YouTube videos uploaded every minute, some of which have the production quality of mid-grade television or movies, not to mention a world of streaming music.

As Willems says, all of this media gets flattened in description — “content” — and in delivery. If you want art, you can find it, but if you just want something for, as Rugnetta says, “mere consumption”, you can find that — or, more likely, it will be served to you. This is true of all forms of media.

There are two things which help older media’s reputation for quality, with the benefit of hindsight: a bunch of bad stuff has been forgotten, and there was less of it to begin with. It was a lot harder to make a movie when it had to be shot to tape or film, and more difficult to make it look great. A movie with a jet-setting hero was escapist in the 1960s, but lower-cost airfare means those locations no longer seem so exotic. If you wanted to give it a professional sheen, you had to rent expensive lenses, build detailed sets, shoot at specific times of day, and light it carefully. If you wanted a convincing large-scale catastrophe on-screen, it had to be built in real life. These are things which can now be done in post-production, albeit not easily or necessarily cheaply. I am not a hater of digital effects. But it is worth mentioning the ability of effects artists to turn a crappy shot into something cinematic, and to craft apocalyptic scenery without constructing a single physical element.

We are experiencing the separating of wheat and chaff in real time, and with far more of each than ever before. Unfortunately, soulless and artless vehicles for big stars sell well. Explosions sell. Familiar sells.

“Content” sells.

Here is where Broderick lands:

And six years later, it’s not just music that feels forgettable and disposable. Most popular forms of entertainment and even basic information have degraded into slop simply meant to fill our various feeders. It doesn’t matter that Google’s AI is telling you to put glue on pizza. They needed more data for their language model, so they ingested every Reddit comment ever. This makes sense because from their perspective what your search results are doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you’re searching and getting a response. And now everything has meet these two contradictory requirements. It must fill the void and also be the most popular thing ever. It must reach the scale of MrBeast or it can’t exist. Ironically enough, though, when something does reach that scale now, it’s so watered down and forgettable it doesn’t actually feel like it exists.

One may quibble with the precise wording that “what your search results are doesn’t matter” to Google. The company appears to have lost market share as trust in search has declined, though there is conflicting data and the results may not be due to user preference. But the gist of this is, I think, correct.

People seem to understand they are being treated as mere consumers in increasingly financialized expressive media. I have heard normal people in my life — people without MBAs, and who do not work in marketing, and who are not influencers — throw around words like “monetize” and “engagement” in a media context. It is downright weird.

The word “slop” seems like a good catch-all term finding purchase in the online vocabulary, but I think the popularization of “content” — in the way it is most commonly used — foreshadowed this shift. Describing artistic works as though they are filler for a container is a level of disrespect not even a harsh review could achieve. Not all “content” is “slop”, but all “slop” is “content”. One thing “slop” has going for it is its inherent ugliness. People excitedly talk about all the “content” they create. Nobody will be proud of their “slop”.

Chris Riley, of the Data Transfer Initiative:

Beginning today, Apple and Google are expanding on their direct data transfer offerings to allow users of Google Photos to transfer their collections directly to iCloud Photos. This complements and completes the existing transfers that were first made possible from iCloud Photos to Google Photos and fulfills a core Data Transfer Initiative (DTI) principle of reciprocity. The offering from Apple and Google will be rolling out over the next week and is the newest tool powered by the open source Data Transfer Project (DTP) technology stack, joining existing direct portability tools available to billions of people today offered by DTI and its founding partners Apple, Google, and Meta.

The Data Transfer Initiative’s story originates with Google’s Data Liberation Front, spurred by E.U. legislation. While Google has long permitted users’ retrieval of data it holds, it has not been the most enthusiastic supporter of direct transfers away from its services. This distinction becomes increasingly important as users store more data with cloud-based services instead of keeping local copies — they may not have space to download all their pictures if they trust the cloud provider’s hosting.

Since 2021, iCloud users have been able to migrate images directly to Google Photos. At long last, the same is possible in reverse.

Ivan Penn and Eli Tan, New York Times:

Amazon announced on Wednesday that effectively all of the electricity its operations used last year came from sources that did not produce greenhouse gas emissions. But some experts have criticized the method the company uses to make that determination as being too lenient.

[…]

As a result, to achieve 100 percent clean energy — at least on paper — companies often buy what are known as renewable energy certificates, or RECs, from a solar or wind farm owner. By buying enough credits to match or exceed the energy its operations use, a company could make the claim that its business is powered entirely by clean energy.

“That’s what we do, buy RECs for projects that are not yet operational,” Ms. Hurst [Amazon’s vice president of worldwide sustainability] said.

Regardless of how legitimate these certificates are — and there are plenty of reasonable questions to be asked — it is dishonest for Amazon or anyone else to apply them to power consumed in a year in which it was not generated. This is greenwashing.

Victoria Song, the Verge:

I’m not exaggerating or being a hater, either. It’s in the name! Apple Watch Ultra, Galaxy Watch Ultra. Everything about this watch is reminiscent of Apple’s. Samsung says this is its most durable watch yet, with 10ATM of water resistance, an IP68 rating, a titanium case, and a sapphire crystal lens. There’s a new orange Quick Button that launches shortcuts to the workout app, flashlight, water lock, and a few other options. (There is a lot of orange styling.) It’s got a new lug system for attaching straps that looks an awful lot like Apple’s, too.

It is extremely funny to me how shameless Samsung is in duplicating the specific differences of the Apple Watch Ultra relative to a standard Apple Watch. You can imagine Samsung’s product team going through the list: Titanium? Check. More durable? Check. Chunkier? Check. Assignable button? Check. Extended typeface? Check. Orange accents? In for a dime, in for a dollar.

Christina Warren:

So someone bought the old TUAW domain name. TUAW was a site that I worked at in college, that has been dead for a decade and that I stopped working for 15 years ago. But now my name is bylined on 1500+ articles alongside an AI-generated photo. Revive the old brand. Fine. But leave my name off of it! H/t @gruber

Karissa Bell, Engadget:

Originally started in 2004, TUAW was shut down by AOL in 2015. Much of the site’s original archive can still be found on Engadget. Yahoo, which owns Engadget, sold the TUAW domain in 2024 to an entity called “Web Orange Limited” in 2024, according to a statement on TUAW’s website.

The sale, notably, did not include the TUAW archive. But, it seems that Web Orange Limited found a convenient (if legally dubious) way around that. “With a commitment to revitalize its legacy, the new team at Web Orange Limited meticulously rewrote the content from archived versions available on archive.org, ensuring the preservation of TUAW’s rich history while updating it to meet modern standards and relevance,” the site’s about page states.

Ernie Smith:

OK found the connection. The people who own The Hack Post bought the TUAW site. They use the same Google ad tag.

[…]

Notably, same dude owns iLounge.

The same advertising identifier has been used with a handful of other previously defunct publications like Metapress and Tapscape, as well as a vanity URL generator for Google Plus. Not a surprising use for domains with plenty of history and incoming links, but truly a scumbag result. Shameful.