@ArjunKharpal: Chinese tech giant [and Spotify partner] Tencent reportedly surveilled foreign users of WeChat to help censorship at home

[Editor Charlie sez, what data does Tencent scrape for listeners to the Tibetan Freedom Concert...oh, right, that’s not available.]

Chinese internet giant Tencent has reportedly been surveilling content posted by foreign users on its wildly popular messaging service WeChat in order to help it refine censorship on its platform at home.

WeChat has over 1 billion users globally. It is the most popular messaging app in China and ingrained in daily life, allowing people to do everything from making payments to hailing taxis.

Surveillance and censorship of social media and messaging platforms in China is commonplace. Companies that run such services often remove or block content that is likely to offend Beijing.

But Citizen Lab, a research center that is part of the University of Toronto, said in a report published Thursday, that “documents and images shared among non-China-registered accounts are subject to content surveillance and are used to build up the database WeChat uses to censor China-registered accounts.”

Read the post on CNBC

@TheJusticeDept: California Man Pleads Guilty to Using TikTok/Bytedance for Production of Child Pornography

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, the defendant’s activities initially came to light in or about March of 2017, when the parents of a then six-year-old discovered that the minor had communicated with and created sexually explicit images at the request of another user on the social media application Musical.ly (now TikTok). Law enforcement investigators subsequently identified this user as Jacob Blanco…. In his interview with law enforcement, Blanco admitted that he communicated with at least 50 minors, an admission confirmed by the communications and images stored on his digital media.

Read the press release on Justice.gov

@columlynch & @RobbieGramer: U.N. Backs Down on Partnership With Chinese Firm [Tencent] for 75th Anniversary

The United Nations has backtracked on a pact with the Chinese telecommunications giant Tencent Holdings to provide videoconferencing and text services for the international organization’s 75th anniversary, following backlash from U.S. officials and lawmakers as well as human rights groups. Critics claim the arrangement rewards a company that has enabled Beijing’s digital surveillance efforts and stifled free speech on the internet in China.

Late last month, the U.N. sparked a political firestorm when it announced plans to enlist the help of the Chinese social media and video game giant to serve as a platform for an online discussion with millions of netizens around the world on the future of the U.N. in the run-up to its 75th anniversary observance. Over the following weeks, U.S. lawmakers and human rights advocates pressed the U.N. to ditch the deal, saying it would tarnish the international organization’s reputation as a champion of free expression and human rights.

Read the post on Foreign Policy

Pandemic: @Music_Canada COVID Study Sets the Gold Standard for Reopening Data-Driven Policy

MusicCanada commissioned an outstanding survey by Abacus Data using serious data-driven methodology to credibly measure the Canadian public’s experience with the COVID shut down of live music and expectation for reopening.  Instead of glorified “Who’s Hot”-level casual polls you see cropping up here and there, The Locked-Down Blues: Canadians, Live Music and the Pandemic sets the gold standard for the kind of data-driven serious national opinion study that policy makers can actually use to plan how to get out of this corner.

The study measures many different factors, including the more intangible questions of what trust level fans will require before they come back to live music.  Regardless of what distancing or contamination standards are imposed, none of that matters much if the fans don’t trust it enough to come out to hear live music in cities like Toronto and Austin.

For example, the study found this reaction:

DESPITE WANTING TO GO, CANADIANS, EVEN THOSE WHO LOVE LIVE MUSIC, SAY THEY WILL BE RELUCTANT TO GO BACK TO LIVE MUSIC EVENTS BEFORE A VACCINE FOR COVID IS FOUND.

Even if they are permitted to go to live music events, many Canadians, including those who love live music the most, will be reluctant to return for some time.

We asked respondents how soon they will feel comfortable enough doing several activities, once physical distancing restrictions are lifted. In almost all cases, fewer than 40% said they would feel comfortable in a few months or less. For most, the time horizon was much longer with many saying they may never feel comfortable again.

For example, 43% said it would take six months or more before they would feel comfortable going to a music festival or a concert in a large venue. Another quarter said they may never feel comfortable going to those types of events again.

I find it hard to believe that there’s going to be an appreciable geographical distinction between Canada and any other country on these issues.  But this study provides a gold standard for other studies in other countries, all of which should be done and done using a robust and defendable methodology.

So let’s be clear–this study is giving you the hard truth.  It is not some Chamber of Commerce hoorah or conclusion-driven clap trap.  It also tells us that the idea that you can just turn the lights back on and people will flock to the clubs may be looking at the wrong ball.  It has serious implications for the entire music industry across all genres.

But–it especially has serious implications for cities like Austin.  Given that the City of Austin commissioned the Austin Music Census in 2015, another robust data-driven study that produced  unwelcome dire conclusions,  it is astonishing that the blinking red light in the Census was completely ignored.  Not only were Austin musicians poorer than the City seemed to think they were, the entire local ecosystem was essentially dependent on live music.  For example, streaming was a negligible source of revenue for Austin musicians–think maybe someone would have wanted to look into that issue as a matter of industrial strategy?  And is there anything about the “Live Music Capitol of the World” that gives you a clue that maybe you might want to start thinking about why all the eggs were in that basket?  As Mark Twain said, if you’re going put all your eggs in one basket, watch that basket.  Or at least don’t ignore it.

Since the City did such a thorough job of ignoring the Census for so long, I wonder if they’re going to be able to figure out how to solve the current crisis.  Or if maybe somebody actually would like Austin to turn into just another college town with a Google campus, self-driving cars busily scraping rider data while stacked up on I-35 and Uber Eats Your Soul.

We can be grateful to Music Canada for commissioning this study and getting it out at the perfect time for policy makers to have some meaningful data driven reality conducted in a manner that could stand up to peer review.  And show the world the gold standard for how to develop policies that actually solve a problem because you better know what the problem is you want to solve.

Here’s the survey:

Click to access Music-Canada-National-Survey-Interview-Schedule_Release.pdf

Chad Swiatecki: Red River district pushes city to commit $35M to purchase venue properties

Leaders from the cluster of live music venues along Red River Street have asked the city to dedicate $35 million to purchase venue properties in the area, as part of a larger menu of programs and spending to preserve those businesses in the face of prolonged closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday the Red River Cultural District delivered a six-page policy proposal to members of City Council asking for music venues to be considered for possible immediate relief using money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Other recommendations included streamlined permitting for music venues, completion of long-planned streetscape improvements and improved services for the large homeless population located near the district.

The proposal comes as city staffers are assembling an initial framework for how best to use the $170.8 million the city has available from the CARES Act, which directs recipient governments to use the funds for a combination of emergency response, public health and economic recovery needs.

Read the post on the Austin Monitor

Artist Rights Symposium II: The Internet Archive’s “National Emergency Library” and the Truth About Google Astroturfing Libraries!

[Editor Charlie sez:  In more news from the Goolag, another awesome panel from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business Artist Rights Symposium, this time on the Internet Archive’s “National Emergency Library” with the Anonymous Librarian, John Degen, Jonathan Taplin, Robert Levine, and moderated by Terrica Carrington.]