Monday, January 31 2022

Dive In


We originally built our shared storefront contract to make it easy for creators to onboard into the space. However, we've recently seen misuse of this feature increase exponentially. Over 80% of the items created with this tool were plagiarized works, fake collections, and spam.

That’s one of the most popular NFT marketplaces—OpenSea—admitting that its free tool—which allows users to mint new NFTs—is being used mainly for fraud. And it underlines one of the core copyright problems with the brave, new world of virtual art—despite all the hype.


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Big Story

A big Spotify controversy: Is it the new Facebook?

The TLDR: Furious at the controversial podcast hosted by Joe Rogan, music legend Neil Young asked Spotify to remove all his music from its platform. The company did just that—raising a big question: Does your favourite streaming service really give a damn about music? The short answer: no. Also: Is this like the Facebook problem with fake news? The answer: It may be worse in at least one sense.


Researched by: Sara Varghese 


So what happened here?

  • Spotify has an exclusive contract with macho podcast host Joe Rogan to host ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’—which is also the most popular podcast on its platform. 
  • It has been under pressure from health experts and its own employees who have complained about Rogan’s controversial views—on everything from transgender persons to Covid vaccines.
  • The simmering tension came to a head when Neil Young issued an ultimatum to Spotify. He cited a letter signed by 270 doctors warning of “dangerous life-threatening Covid falsehoods”–-saying: “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
  • Spotify picked Rogan, underlining its “great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators.”
  • Young’s pal and fellow music icon Joni Mitchell followed his lead. But there has been dead silence from other musicians—and celebrities like the Obamas who also have Spotify deals. 
  • Harry and Meghan did issue a statement expressing their “concerns” about Covid content on Spotify. 
  • And Apple Music happily trolled Spotify by releasing a playlist titled ‘We Love Neil’.
  • That said. Spotify lost $4 billion in market value as its shares tumbled after Young’s boycott.


The outcome: Spotify now says it will add Covid-19 content advisory labels to its podcasts. These will take listeners to a dedicated page featuring the latest information on the virus and pandemic.


Remind me about Rogan…

The 53-year-old is described by the New York Times as “one of the most consumed media products on the planet—with the power to shape tastes, politics, medical decisions.” His varied resume has included sitcom sidekick, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) commentator and host of ‘Fear Factor’. He’s found unlikely and astonishing success late in his career as a talk show host—first on YouTube and now on Spotify. 


‘The Rogan Experience’: is one of the most successful podcasts in America–-and Spotify’s global #1. It is downloaded nearly 200 million times per month and brings in $30 million a year—making him the world’s highest earning podcaster. Rogan typically hosts a wide range of guests—including Jack Dorsey, Senator Bernie Sanders, Robert Downey Jr…. and rightwing conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones—who called the 2012 Sandy Hooks school shooting a “hoax” on his show. 


Point to note: His following is young, mostly male, very loyal and increasingly global.


Here’s a quick rundown of all the times Rogan’s show has really pissed people off: 


Racism: This was his description of watching ‘Planet of the Apes’: "We walked into 'Planet of the Apes’…We walked into Africa. We walked in the door, and there was no white people. There was no white people." And here’s a handy compilation of all the times he’s used the N-word, albeit in the company of Black guests. 


Transphobia: He has repeatedly disparaged Fallon Fox—the first openly transgender woman in mixed martial arts—saying “she’s not really a she” and calling her "a f**king man." 


Covid misinformation: Rogan delights in inviting anti-vaxxers as guests—many of whom have been banned from other platforms for spreading misinformation. He’s told young people not to bother getting vaccinated—and personally endorsed the use of Ivermectin (an anti-parasite drug) as a Covid treatment. While Rogan insists “I’m not an anti-vax person,” a lot of his conversations on the subject look like this.


Conspiracy theorist: As the Washington Post notes, “Casually questioning generally held beliefs or even outright facts—often while stoned—is part of his brand”—and it can include things like challenging the landing on the moon. This Daily Show spoof (watch here) pretty much sums up Rogan’s signature style. 


Point to note: As of April 2021, Spotify has deleted 42 episodes of ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ due to these kinds of shenanigans.


Why is this any worse than Facebook or Twitter?


Headlines that matter

Get ready for a new digital ID

The IT ministry has proposed that all Indians should have a single unique digital ID. And every person’s multiple IDs—from PAN and Aadhaar to driving licence and passport numbers—will be interlinked, stored, and accessed via this one unique ID. What this sounds like to our paranoid brain: the government has given up on making Aadhaar mandatory, and moved on to creating a new Big Brother version of it. But full disclosure: We have no idea what this means—mainly because the reporting is so piss poor. (Indian Express)

Netflix is in more trouble

Nope, it isn’t about India this time, but the platform’s blockbuster series ‘Queen’s Gambit’—which was supposedly based on the life of Soviet chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili. She sued Netflix for a single line in the final episode where a commentator says during a match in 1968 Moscow:


“The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex, and even that’s not unique in Russia. There’s Nona Gaprindashvili, but she’s the female world champion and has never faced men.” 

The problem: It just wasn’t true that Gaprindashvili had never faced male opponents. Rather, she had competed against at least 59 male chess players at that time—including several world champions. The reason this is in the news: A US court refused to throw out her lawsuit despite Netflix’s best efforts, saying: “The fact that the Series was a fictional work does not insulate Netflix from liability for defamation if all the elements of defamation are otherwise present.” (Deadline)

One thing to see 

iPhone users rejoice! You have even more emojis with which to express what mere words cannot capture. The 15.4 update will include 37 new emojis—including those that salute, bite their lip and wear a mask. Check out the visual list below.  (The Verge)



In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • In memory of Gandhi-ji’s death anniversary yesterday, here is an amazing photo of his funeral procession


A list of good reads

  • A fascinating look at the often ignored dynasties of the South
  • Insider goss on why Netflix is struggling in India
  • A Japanese man who religiously sends hand-written letters to a Dutch hotel he has never visited
  • An ode to our beloved dahi

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