The NYT bought fake YouTube views for an investigation (and it was super easy)

ICYMI: The New York Times has taken another look at fake online popularity, this time with an expos that landed on the front page of Sunday's paper with the headline "The Business of Pumping Up YouTube Views." The piece by Michael H. Keller, retitled "The Flourishing Business of Fake YouTube Views" for the web, follows a January story by the Times, "The Follower Factory," which looked at fake popularity on Twitter. The new investigation opens by telling the story of a fake-view purveyor from Canada who runs a site called Martin Vassilev makes a good living selling fake views on YouTube videos. Working from home in Ottawa, he has sold about 15 million views so far this year, putting him on track to bring in more than $200,000, records show. Mr. Vassilev, 32, does not provide the views himself. His website,, connects customers with services Continue reading "The NYT bought fake YouTube views for an investigation (and it was super easy)"

The Dodo in the coal mine

This is a story of a boy and his dog, inseparable friends, the kind of human-animal bond the internet can't resist, and it will likely be The Dodo's next hit show. Joanna Zelman, Executive Editor at The Dodo, is reviewing the footage, which she filmed recently on assignment in Indiana for a digital video series called "Kid's Best Friend." In one scene, Carter (the kid) and Toby (the dog) are drinking out of the same outdoor toy sprinkler. They lean into what looks like a Fisher-Price plastic fountain, both wagging their tongues at droplets of hose water. It's just what The Dodo looks for when it's producing these shows, made for consumption on social media, and it's sure to make the final cut. Continue reading at

Alex Jones pops up on Facebook again, thwarting a ban on InfoWars

Alex Jones is back on Facebook, just days after the social network purged several of his pages for violating its policies on violence and hate speech. All week, starting Monday, a new page on Facebook called InfoWars Stream was livestreaming Jones' show. The page accumulated 3,500 followers since opening on Monday, the same day that Facebook removed four other pages affiliated with Jones. InfoWars Stream appears to be the new main page for Jones' Facebook presence, and has been able to livestream his daily show this week. Facebook and Jones did not respond to requests for comment. Continue reading at

Spotify tests letting listeners skip any ads they want, as much as they want

Spotify is hoping to deliver another blow at rival Pandora, all in an effort to dominate the fast growing, $1.6 billion market that is digital audio advertising. The company says it's running a test in Australia that will allow listeners to skip audio and video ads any time they want, as often as they want, allowing them to quickly get back to music. Listeners who don't pay for a subscription currently can't skip ads at all. Danielle Lee, global head of partner solutions at Spotify, says she compares the move to Spotify's "Discover Weekly" feature, which tailors a playlist to users' established listening habits. Unlimited ad skipping means Spotify users will be able to hear or watch just the ads they actually like, informing Spotify about their preferences in the process, she says. Continue reading at

Shopify battles the scammers behind fake web stores

Every day, startups all over the world set up websites in the hopes of becoming a runaway success like Casper or Warby Parker. Many of them turn to Shopify, a Canadian company that makes it a snap to open a web store. Shopify charges a mere $30 a month to maintain the site and can help with shipping, payments and even inventory. More than 600,000 merchants have signed on, and most have no complaints. Then there are people like Mike Lindell. He runs My Pillow, which makes pillows, sheets and mattresses. Earlier this year, Lindell noticed that an unidentified scammer had used Shopify tools to set up a near-facsimile of called, which claimed to sell My Pillow products. In April, My Pillow sued Shopify, alleging it supported trademark infringement. Shopify took down the site, but My Pillow is demanding damages plus any money Shopify made running Continue reading "Shopify battles the scammers behind fake web stores"

This app lets consumers sell their data directly to brands

Although it's early days, brands such as McDonald's, Staples and GM are paying cash and purchasing data direct from consumer, giving literal meaning toward the notion that "data is the new currency." Between regulation such as GDPR and scandals like those plaguing Facebook, consumers are aware more than ever of the so-called value exchange when using online services. At the same time, they're also tuning in on how companies such as Cambridge Analytica are plundering their data without their consent. To that end, Freckle IoT recently launched Killi, an app that makes explicit value of data by actually paying consumers with cash for sharing their data, location, or providing insight about what ads they'd like to see. Even more money is on the table if users scan the back of their driver's license with their phones, for example. Continue reading at

If Alex Jones screams on Google+, will anyone hear him?

If Alex Jones is screaming on Google+, will anyone hear him? Major distribution and markting platforms such as Apple, Facebook, Google's YouTube, LinkedIn and Spotify this week removed content and pages by Jones, long known for claiming that the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre was staged and more recently for accusing Robert Mueller of pedophilia. They cited violations of their terms of service. He remains active on Twitter, however, because that platform says it hasn't detected a violation of its terms. And he has remained busy on other channels as well. His message might not capture the same audience as it did on YouTube and Facebook, but he retains avenues to generate revenue from the tech platforms, ones that that aren't necessarily as visible to the public eye. Continue reading at