LINEAR TV STRIKES BACK THE INFORMATION WAR MEDIA MANAGEMENT FEED:SHOW
DIGITAL PLATFORMS AND THE WAR ON TRUTH
THE SILICON BATTLEFIELD
It ’s a war out there. Or – if you’re reading our magazine online – in here. In the 20th century, the big powers clashed with nuclear-armed bluster and proxy wars in developing countries. Today, the face-off takes place online, with battalions of trolls and bots trying to directly influence the populations of their rivals. Social media platforms are a major front in this war, with Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp being employed to deliver messaging to targeted groups, often with the purpose of exploiting pre-existing fault lines in an enemy ’s society. Highly visible examples of this have been seen in the West, where combinations of bots, sock puppets and ads have helped hijack political conversation and fuelled extremism on all sides. Anti-democratic ideas that were politically unthinkable in an age before social media are spreading internationally. And while disinformation can be aimed at obscuring the truth – take science denialism or recent examples of coronavirus misinformation – its purpose is more often to flood the information sphere with so many conflicting stories that citizens lose interest in the truth altogether. In this issue, we converse with information war expert Nina Jankowicz about how Soviet practices from the Cold War are being supercharged in the digital age. We also talk to renowned film producer and British peer Lord David Puttnam about the UK government ’s Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee as the country scrambles for a solution. In the meantime, stay safe. Support your local newspaper. And don’t feed the trolls.
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NEWSFEED Dispatches from the world of online video 6 FEED:SHOW product announcements! 10 TECH FEED More complex audience orchestration tools 38 linear television 47 out of lockdown 56 BRAINFEED could win a FEED t-shirt! 58
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24 SOCIAL MEDIA Governments are beginning to take notice of harmful online content. But is it too little, too late?
28 GENIUS INTERVIEW We talk with information warfare expert Nina Jankowicz about fighting troll armies
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BREAKING NEWS FROM THE STREAMING SECTOR PIRACY CRACKDOWN
There has been a recent crackdown on piracy, with the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL), the Spanish Football League (La Liga), NAGRA and Nordic Content Protection announcing the shutdown of an illegal IPTV streaming network based in Spain, which served over two million paying subscribers worldwide. The shutdown results from criminal complaints by some of the above- mentioned organisations to the Spanish police force. The operation was led by the Spanish National Police with the support of Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union. Both operation and shutdown were notable due to the sheer scale of the piracy network. Offering over 40,000 video channels and video-on-demand content, it had 50 servers located in multiple countries across Europe. Though it was based in Spain, the network operated worldwide and generated profits of up to €15m, causing huge damages. Its IPTV service was offered to resellers, allowing them to produce their own brands and illegal service as a franchise. Arrests have been made in multiple countries, with charges of crimes against intellectual property, communications fraud, money laundering and criminal organisation. “Piracy is a global problem and it’s critical for the industry as a whole to come together to fight it, share knowledge and leverage key partnerships and anti-piracy technologies to preserve high-quality content for our fans – whether it’s in sports or other types of entertainment. Together we can make a difference and alter the piracy landscape,” stated Melcior Soler, audiovisual director at La Liga.
This comes as the reins of piracy seem to be getting tightened globally, including steps taken in the Middle East. This was made evident by the Middle East’s largest media company MBC, which “extended its gratitude and appreciation” to Saudi Arabia for shutting down illegally- run websites. The Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP) said it had shut down 231 of these websites. Although this suggests a positive move for change, the country has been hit by heavy criticism in recent years for its involvement in piracy – and in particular its involvement with the service beoutQ. BeoutQ is a piracy platform that broadcast on the Arabsat satellite operator, after a dispute prompted Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to impose a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar in 2017. After this, all of the Qatar-based beIN Sports channels were banned and its equipment confiscated in Saudi Arabia. This coincided with Saudi authorities promoting the launch of the new sports media group.
An Al Jazeera investigation has revealed that two Saudi service providers were involved in operations carried out by beoutQ, and also discovered that beoutQ is based out of the headquarters of a media company in the al-Qirawan district of Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Saudi Arabia has denied claims that beoutQ is based in the kingdom. The investigation obtained documents that proved financial transactions between Saudi companies and the management of Arabsat took place; Saudi Arabia was placed on a Priority Watch List for two years. The report identified Saudi Arabia as one of only ten countries that failed to protect and enforce intellectual property (IP) around the world. Saudi Arabia is seeking Premier League approval for a £300m buyout of Newcastle United. About 80% of the takeover is funded by their government’s Public Investment Fund. If the WTO were to find that the Saudi government had been the backers of beoutQ, it could have serious ramifications for the Newcastle United takeover bid.
7 NEWSFEED Updates & Upgrades
DAZN’S BUNDESLIGA DEAL
MEN MAKE 44X MORE FROM ESPORTS THAN WOMEN As the popularity of esports has ballooned in recent years, so has attention to the politics behind the industry – and unfortunately it seems equal pay has been called into question once again. A recent survey conducted by compare.bet looked at the ten highest earning male and female esports players to uncover the disparity in prize money between them. The top results uncovered a vast pay gap between male and female players. Johan Sundstein came through as the highest earning male player, having accumulated £5,512,339 throughout his career. This in turn means he has made 19 times more from prize money than the top-earning female sports player, Sasha Hostyn – whose £288,912 pales in comparison. The survey’s key findings comprised: • On average, male esports players are taking 44 times more in prize money from tournaments than female esports players • The highest-earning male esport player has made 19 times more than the highest-earning female player • Jesse Vainikka has generated £5,162,010 from esports tournaments, compared to Li Xiao Meng (£180,562) in the same position in the female rankings • The biggest contrast is between players in eighth position. Ivan Ivanov has taken £3,619,721 from esports, 83 times more than Marjorie Bartell (£43,793). There is a glaring issue of equal pay among players. As esports’ popularity grows, will this disparity improve or worsen?
DAZN has become the new home for German football, after being given extensive rights both live and exclusive to the Bundesliga for four seasons. Beginning in 2021 and finishing in 2025, DAZN will show 106 Friday and Sunday matches in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as exclusive broadcaster of games two out of three days per week. “This is a watershed moment in the growth and maturity of sport streaming services and the logical next step as we continue to invest in our most mature market and the future of sport,“ said Simon Denyer, DAZN Group CEO. “The partnership with the DFL is transformational, and underlines our long-term commitment to supporting our partners while bringing the best possible sport to fans in an affordable, accessible and flexible way.“
The agreement is the largest package of major domestic football rights ever awarded to a streaming service in Europe. Highlights of every live Bundesliga game will also be available on the platform. Key rights include Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Nations League, La Liga, Serie A, Serie B, Ligue 1, Ligue 2, EFL Championship, FA Cup, Coppa Italia, Copa Libertadores, MLS and more.
MICROSOFT’S MIXER CLOSES
Microsoft has announced the closure of its Mixer live gaming platform. Major gamers signed by Mixer, including Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins and Michael ‘Shroud’ Grzesiek have been released from their contracts. Mixer will now redirect its users over to Facebook Gaming. As part of this deal, Microsoft will work to bring its xCloud games-streaming service directly to Facebook. “This seems quite ruthless, but Microsoft’s strategy to reach more
gamers is underpinned by its cloud business, not Mixer. Clearly Facebook has significant reach globally, to expose users to xCloud,” explained Piers Harding-Rolls from the consultancy Ampere Analysis. All game-streamers in Mixer’s partner programme will be granted partner status on Facebook Gaming if they wish to move to the platform. Since its launch in 2017, Mixer has been in a constant battle to attract users from game-streaming site Twitch.
8 NEWSFEED Updates & Upgrades
stop advertising on Facebook and Instagram globally for the month of July and would also develop guidelines for holding “ourselves and every one of our partners accountable for creating and maintain safe environments”. It is reported that Adidas and Reebok alone spent $12.4m on advertising with Facebook. Given that nearly 100 big names such as these are taking part, the boycott could cause a serious dent in Facebook’s financial intake – unless change is evident in their approach.
Facebook’s inability to prevent hate speech and misinformation on its platforms continues to come under criticism, as multiple brands including Adidas, Coca Cola and Ford pull their ads in an effort to bring change to the platform’s approach. The boycott gained traction in early June, due to pressure from civil rights
organisations – who say nearly 100 advertisers have joined. The boycott was energised further by Facebook’s lax attitude towards recent posts from President Trump, in stark contrast to Twitter ’s approach of deleting tweets and marking them as inappropriate and ‘glorifying violence’. A statement from Adidas said it would
YouTube have announced the axing of its Cobra Kai series, in a move that sees the end of scripted, higher-budget series on the platform. YouTube’s departure from its scripted output began in May, when it cut dance series Step Up: High Water , which moved to Starz. The dance-themed series inspired by the film franchise starred Ne-Yo and the late Naya Rivera. This means that YouTube’s moving of Cobra Kai to Netflix pushes it completely away from being a scripted space, as
the third of its scripted series has now been cut. Cobra Kai started on YouTube with a strong start – its pilot episode surpassed 20 million views less than a week after its launch, which prompted its renewal for a second season. This also signifies Netflix’s ability to snap up early successful series and blast them onto their platform – to greater success. Examples include Lucifer , Longmire , Designated Survivor and The Killing , among others.
10 FEED:SHOW Business News
There’s no business like show business. Here’s the latest video vendor news
NEW COLLABORATIONS A collaboration has been announced between Dalet and Bitmovin, aiming to improve and accelerate the delivery of OTT content for broadcasters, sports leagues and teams, brands and other media-rich companies. The first to make use of this collaboration will be Australia’s National Rugby League (the NRL). The workflow integration, which includes Dalet’s Ooyala Flex Media Platform along with Bitmovin’s encoder technology, will provide the NRL with the ability to optimise its OTT strategy and approaches. “Dalet’s Ooyala Flex Media Platform, deeply integrated with Bitmovin’s encoding, player and analytics offerings, redefines the economics and the experience of OTT video distribution for brands like the National Rugby League,” states Stefan Lederer, CEO, Bitmovin. An integration of the Dalet and Bitmovin APIs enables them to expand existing
offerings into new markets, engage fans through services like VOD, and many more benefits. “This approach empowers our joint customers like the NRL to build integrated solutions and remain in total control of their asset life cycles,” comments Lee McMullan, market director of multiplatform distribution at Dalet.
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TRANSCRIBING HISTORY CJP has been working hard on a huge video transcription project for Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation, Gibraltar ’s national television and radio service. Currently there are over 15,000 tapes in different formats going through a thorough process of being checked, repaired and transferred to digital media for long-term archiving. “We are honoured to have been selected by GBC to digitise its entire tape library, which spans nearly half a century from the 1970s through to 2014,” says CJP broadcast MD Chris Phillips. “This very exciting project is now well into the second phase of a three-phase contract. We have completed phase one, which included 4000 U-Matic video tapes originally recorded during the 1970s and 1980s. Phase two is now in
progress with half of GBC’s 8000 Betacam tapes processed. We will then advance to phase three with the ingest of 3000 DVCAM and DVCPRO video cassettes.” GBC recently repurposed several of the newly digitised historic clips to great effect, including its coverage of the 2019 Island Games.
DISTRIBUTING GEN Z CONTENT Amagi has announced that it has enabled digital media network Brat TV to distribute its content to leading streaming TV platforms – The Roku Channel, Samsung TV
Plus and VIZIO. The Gen Z-style content was originally on YouTube. This engagement will profit Brat TV in expanding its reach to over 200 million viewers on ad-supported streaming TV.
“Through its business and technology leadership in distributing streaming TV content, Amagi allows us to reach millions of households, both in the United States and abroad,” said Rob Fishman, a co-founder of Brat TV. Amagi has created technical integration for streaming TV platforms which has simplified distribution for companies like Brat TV to launch linear channels. With the help of Amagi’s Dynamic Ad Insertion solution that comes with analytics and reporting features, Brat TV gets visibility on its ad impressions and viewership to drive content and monetisation strategies. Amagi clients include CuriosityStream, Discovery, Fox Networks, MGM, NBCUniversal, PeopleTV, Tastemade, Vice TV, Tegna and Warner Media, among others.
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AUDINATE audinate.com/dante-av operations. In one of the largest Cerebrum projects to date, the new system will enable Canal+ to UPGRADING A MEDIA IP INFRASTRUCTURE French broadcaster Canal+ has done a major overhaul of its in-house master control and transmission playout workflows. Vivendi-owned Canal+ is one of the first customers to implement an infrastructure solution by live video tech provider EVS since it acquired media network infrastructure specialist Axon in May. Canal+ will use EVS’s Cerebrum broadcast control and monitoring system to centralise and streamline its broadcast IMPLEMENTING DANTE AV Another business update comes from Audinate, developers of the Dante AV networking solution. It has announced a new authorised implementer programme for manufacturers who are looking to fast-track the development of new Dante AV products. The programme is ideal for manufacturers seeking to add Dante AV-based products as quickly and efficiently as possible. It gives manufacturers access to turnkey ODM products such as full-featured PTZ cameras and receive/transmit AV-over-IP video endpoints that can be ‘white-labelled’ with their brand. Manufacturers will also get expertise in developing new video products,
upgrade its legacy technology and improve its production workflows. The French broadcaster realised there was a need to upgrade and automate its existing operations with a centralised and unified broadcast control system. The new solution will automate and simplify workflows enabling a cost reduction while also improving the quality and reliability of operations. With Cerebrum, Canal+ will have the flexibility to control both legacy SDI products and modern IP equipment. For this project, EVS also developed a new licence option for Cerebrum called CRBM Scheduler, which provides Canal+ with a bespoke timeline for its scheduled events.
IMAGINE COMMUNICATIONS imaginecommunications.com
BIG PLAYOUT SCALING DOWN UNDER
Imagine Communications recently completed the second stage of an extensive, phased update of Australia’s National Playout Centre (NPC).
When Nine Network established the National Playout Centre in Sydney in 2012, the facility served 18 regional channels across the country. The venture between Nine and Seven (NPC Media) kicked off a scale-up of the playout centre, with the ultimate goal of transforming the single-station facility into an IP-based, multi-tenanted managed media services provider. NPC Media implemented an end-to-end broadcast playout chain – from a common ingest platform to software-based channel origination – based on Imagine’s Versio modular playout product suite. The first phase incorporated Seven’s key broadcast operations into the NPC. The second expanded the centre to provide playout services for Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), which broadcasts 106 television signals. The SCA channels went live from the NPC in April 2020. Today, the NPC supports more than 211 live terrestrial TV channels, and another 392 pass-through multiplexed channels. Watch Imagine experts share best practices for scaling playout operations here: myimagine.tech/ PlayoutTales
such as hardware design, software design development, supply chain management and regulatory compliance. For ODMs, the program provides access to the resources of the Dante product design suite, enabling them to build products on behalf of OEMs. Audinate have announced Patton Electronics and Bolin Technology as the first
authorised implementers for manufacturers looking to utilise Dante AV when creating products.
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NEW IN TOOLS AND TECH
TRICASTER 2 ELITE IP-based video technology firm NewTek has announced the release of the TriCaster 2 Elite. The new release enables broadcasters to harness every major calling application in use, delivering them a range of options. Both future- proofed video over IP and more traditional SDI are supported by the platform.
At the heart of the TriCaster 2 Elite is a high-speed 60x45 video crosspoint with 32 external inputs that automatically determine video format and resolutions up to 4Kp60. Each input includes proc amp tools, independent keying and cropping for crisper video, as well as triggers for automation. There are eight configurable mix outputs
in HD or two in 4Kp60, direct NDI out of media players, multiple streaming encoders, continuous NDI conversion of all eight SDI inputs and eight independently selectable recorders for immediate replay. This allows users to produce simultaneous mixes, deliver multiple 4K streams, feed video walls, record programme and line cuts, and more.
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SCALING VIDEO WALLS Matrox has announced the availability of its QuadHead2Go Q155 multi- monitor controller card. Capable of driving four displays from one signal, the QuadHead2Go provides video wall scaleability and flexibility. The single-slot PCle card is designed to power any video wall configuration from any HDMI source, delivering high image quality across its video wall displays. With preset configurations and built-in images, the installation of the card is simplified. “Compatible with any source and platform, these controller devices
provide video wall professionals with a new level of design efficiency,” commented Fadhl Al-Bayaty, business development manager for Matrox. The card delivers HD displays of up to 4Kp60 and 8Kx8K at RGB 8:8:8 and YUV 4:4:4 colour support. It also is able to create a video wall from any content source, including professional graphics cards and integrated GPUs, video wall controllers, digital signage players, media players, decoders, laptops, NUCs, set-top boxes, gaming consoles and more.
TAKING A NEW ROUTE The designer of software- based control and monitoring applications for third-party video tech, Rascular, has announced an upgrade to its RouteMaster router control app. Expanding its virtual routing capabilities for NewTek’s NDI streams, the upgrade also introduces a new user interface. This upgrade makes RouteMaster faster and suitable for manual intervention and other applications, where a quick response is vital. It also now benefits from a clearer GUI, including resizable video previews and audio metering of the video and chosen source. Because the NDI signals are not processed RASCULAR rascular.com
directly by RouteMaster, it can be used with a large number of NDI sources and destinations, and the computing requirements are negligible. RouteMaster can also construct MultiRouters – where several
physical routers are joined together with tielines to form a larger routing system, potentially spread over multiple sites or even continents. RouteMaster can also display tieline status and automatically allocate tieline resources.
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TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ANNOTATIONS Iconik revealed that it has added
This new function therefore allows users to search through all the spoken dialogue stored in the asset’s metadata. This in turn enables them to easily search for the best clips of an athlete, actor or location, just from audio mentions. The review and approve function, which enables teams to feed back on projects remotely, has also been enhanced. The draw-on annotation feature includes free-line and shape- based drawing tools, a colour chooser, and a select and move tool.
transcription and draw-on annotation features to the latest version of its cloud- based media management hub. The new feature uses AI to convert audio dialogue to text, and attributes it to a speaker. The transcriptions are displayed as closed captions in the Iconik player, but are also visible in formats that separate the text by speaker or display individual lines of text against a time code.
FOLLOW THE YELLOBRIK ROAD Another announcement comes from Lynx Technik, provider of modular signal processing interfaces, which has introduced a new Yellobrik module to LYNX TECHNIK lynx-technik.com
its series of fibre transmitters, receivers and transceivers. The Yellobrik reduces the cost of transmitting and receiving uncompressed video signals in both real time and over fibre between equipment
in a broadcast. By using a single and bidirectional fibre link for transmitting and receiving video signals simultaneously, facilities can use this module to eliminate the expense of dual-fibre cabling costs. The OBD 1410 also saves space by reducing the number of fibre-optical transceivers required for signal transmission. The Yellobrik OBD re-clocks any SDI signal up to 12G and the two fibre input channels are independent, allowing different rates and formats to be carried on each channel over a single fibre link. All SDI formats are automatically detected so no user settings are required, ensuring a plug-and-play toolset.
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INTRODUCING GLIM Telestream has revealed its new GLIM remote media player, designed for ingest QC, engineering, master control, news, post-production and more. Built to solve remote working challenges, GLIM allows users to play files immediately from a browser interface, without the usual delays caused by transcoding and uploading. Features it supports TELESTREAM telestream.net/glim/overview.htm
include playback, frame scrubbing, and the stepping and display of file properties and metadata. The GLIM engine is built for remote playback of common broadcast quality containers, codecs and resolutions, including varying fps, audio channels and colour space combinations. It also leverages proven standard technologies to display media in a browser that
requires no additional software to be installed by the client. “Saving your team time and resources by remotely viewing large and tricky files has never been easier, even if those media files comprise one or more high-definition formats, codecs and containers, such as MXF-wrapped DNxHD,” said Scott Matics, the company’s director of product management.
DISGUISE R17.3 Disguise announced the software release of r17.3, which delivers improved workflow and succession completion of projects post-lockdown. Some of the new features include indirections, multilayer editing, object assignment hotkeys, crossfaded loop section mode, and improvements and bug fixes. The most notable aspect of the release is indirections, which provide new flexibility to change keyframe objects. Users can now easily change keyframe objects such as mappings, video clips, textures and configurations remotely via third-party protocols such as OSC, DMX or a dedicated API. The new multilayer editing feature allows users to edit multiple layers quickly, saving time by assigning common parameter values across layers. The ability to select multiple layers and keyframe values to layers simultaneously allows users to respond to feedback fast and ensure time on-site is maximised.
CUSTOM CONSOLES customconsoles.co.uk
BROADCAST VS COVID-19 Custom Consoles has announced a new addition to its range of technical control furniture. Acting as a response to Covid-19, the Operator Safety Screen reduces the risk of airborne infection or direct physical contact between control room personnel without restricting their forward- or side- view video monitor displays. “We responded promptly to the challenge with a space- efficient screen that can be installed quickly and easily wherever control room staff
are working in close proximity. The Operator Safety Screen is designed to fit our Module-R series of technical furniture, but fits all other desks in our product portfolio and those manufactured by other furniture companies,” said Custom Consoles’ managing director, Neil Reed. “The Operator Safety Screen has already generated orders totalling several hundred from broadcasters such as Al Jazeera, Amazon, BBC Studio Works, IMG, QVC, STV and Timeline, as well as many others,” added sales manager, Gary Fuller.
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CP COMMUNICATIONS cpcomms.com
OPERATING AT EASE CP Communications has made its CamStream2 and CamStream2B fully available for rent or purchase. The second generation of the company’s Red House Steaming (RHS) all-in-one live production system, both systems support content acquisition, on- board recording and livestreaming in integrated turnkey packages. Both of the systems are also configurable to serve cloud streaming and user-hosted playout workflows. “These systems will allow content providers to shoot and stream broadcast-quality video direct to Facebook, YouTube, a CDN and/or studio-based playout servers with
virtually no advance labour or local production expenses,” said Kurt Heitmann, CEO of CP Communications. Once shooting commences, the Agile Airlink device streamlines connectivity by bonding Wi-Fi, Ethernet and mobile data paths into a single stream. The CP Communications team pick up the production from their network operations centres (NOCs) in New York, Florida or Nova Scotia, with remote control and management supported through Mobile Viewpoint’s LinkMatrix system. “Anyone that can remove a TV from a box, set it on a tabletop stand and plug in a power cord can operate either system,” concluded Heitmann.
JPEG XS ADDITIONS Appear TV has added JPEG XS compression to its X Platform. This means operators can now make use of the low-latency capabilities of the platform. The Appear X Platform is codec agnostic and serves as a flexible and low-latency broadcast network. Designed to allow customers to execute a panoply of applications, it is capable of contribution, remote production, video networking and distribution, too. With a backplane latency of less than 1ms, the X Platform supports the implementation of both current and future IP video standards, such as SMPTE 2022-6 and SMPTE 2110. In addition to the new JPEG XS, the platform can also receive compressed or uncompressed video from 12G SDI and 40G IP, and offer support for a spectrum of codecs. This includes AVC (H.264), HEVC (H.265), TICO and JPEG 2000. APPEAR TV appeartv.com/product-overview
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20 SPONSORED CONTENT AWS
A new digital platform helps cancer survivors access health and fitness support right in their own homes
n estimated one in three people will develop cancer in their lifetime, but steady advancements in medical research and technology
and meditation training – led by instructors who come from gyms that specialise in working with survivors. Content is typically shot in a studio in Norwalk, Connecticut, with 45 to 50 classes produced each week. Behind the scenes, the website is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and AWS Elemental Media Services power the site’s video workflow, a combination of technology that keeps content running seamlessly 24/7 regardless of viewer device type or bandwidth. All video content is ingested into AWS Elemental MediaLive for processing and sent through AWS Elemental MediaStore before it’s distributed to Amazon CloudFront for delivery. At its core, MyVictory is a social platform, allowing caregivers, family members, and friends to join for free as sponsors and take classes alongside a survivor or cheer them on. Users can set goals, rate classes, and as they move through classes, earn badges that are shared and celebrated with supporters and other users.
are improving treatments, condition management, and recovery outcomes. Evidence suggests that a dedicated post- recovery exercise regimen can help survivors cope and reduce the likelihood of cancer recurrence. Staying motivated and on track throughout this process, however, requires encouragement and support, which emerging platforms like MyVictory are working to provide. The company’s mission is to guide and motivate cancer survivors with accessible live and on-demand fitness classes and a social platform where they can share their achievements with family, friends and other survivors. Glenn Houck co-founded MyVictory with his business partners in hopes of advancing the health and wellbeing of those affected by cancer. “In talking to our friends and family who had survived cancer, we realised that there’s a real deficit in affordable post-treatment fitness options that give cancer survivors the flexibility to exercise safely outside the gym, and we wanted to fill that void,” says Houck. “Fatigue, weakened immune systems and image self- consciousness can be struggles for survivors keep them away from the gym. Our vision was to create an interactive platform with a good mix of classes that would help keep them moving and motivated from home.” MyVictory includes more than 500 classes – a mix of yoga, cardio, strength, balance
THERE’S A REAL DEFICIT IN AFFORDABLE POST-TREATMENT FITNESS OPTIONS THAT GIVE CANCER SURVIVORS THE FLEXIBILITY TO EXERCISE SAFELY
21 SPONSORED CONTENT AWS
Building its workflow on AWS has enabled these features and more. “Live and on-demand video streams were always a part of the plan for MyVictory, as were class ratings and an interactive live comment feed. AWS gives us the video hosting and streaming functionality we need to support this and more with custom coding and the ability to pay as we go,” Houck says. “With AWS, it’s easy to go in and change streaming settings or make tweaks to add new features. There are so many options and settings that we haven’t even explored yet that I’m sure will play a role in how we shape the future of the platform.” Content quality was also a key consideration in building the platform. As Houck notes, “To differentiate ourselves from other online and mobile fitness offerings, we wanted to ensure professional quality, low-latency video experiences for our subscribers. The enthusiasm we’re seeing for the quality of the content and interactive component has been outstanding, and we attribute that in part to AWS.”
AWS provided additional value when MyVictory opted to accelerate its launch ahead of the original target date as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, offering free access to survivors when gyms began to close. It had already produced more than 100 classes, but needed to upload and prepare them for video-on-demand (VOD) viewing. Using AWS Elemental MediaConvert, the team was able to transcode 120 classes, each three to five gigabytes in size, in under two days. “As a small company, we appreciate how simple and quick AWS made the process of getting our launch content staged and ready; we were easily able to scale the VOD transcoding to meet our needs,” says Houck. He concludes, “With AWS, setting up and managing a workflow is so easy, especially with the drag-and-drop functionality. It’s also
incredibly reliable; we don’t have to sit and watch it. Everything just works.” myvictory.com
22 SPONSORED CONTENT AWS
AWS introduces a powerful, simple-to-use device for instantly streaming video from anywhere THE MISSING LINK
WS Elemental Link is a new hardware device from Amazon Web Services, which allows anyone, anywhere to stream live
LINK IS DESIGNED TO MAXIMISE VIDEO QUALITY AND ACCOUNT FOR THE UNPREDICTABLE NATURE OF NETWORK CONDITIONS for $995 and shipped, preconfigured for the user ’s AWS account, to the point of use. On arrival, the Link device only needs to be plugged into power, a video input – via 3G-SDI or HDMI – and an Ethernet connection. When connected to a video source, the Link device sends the associated video, audio and metadata streams to AWS Elemental MediaLive with automatic, hands-free tuning that adapts to available bandwidth. Link is designed to maximise video quality and account for the unpredictable nature
video to the cloud. Link offers a simple solution for high-quality encoding and streaming at a price point within reach of just about any video team. Most productions that have to be budget conscious – from local sporting clubs and classrooms to enterprise events and small performance venues – usually don’t have the resources or experience to install, configure and run high-end hardware and software for delivering video to the cloud. But not anymore. AWS Elemental Link is a plug-and- play solution for connecting video sources directly to AWS Elemental MediaLive and to a cloud distribution workflow. AWS Elemental Link has a small, pocket- sized footprint and weighs less than 450g. It draws very little power (less than 10W) with silent, fanless operation and can support inputs of up to 1080p at 60fps with a bit rate of up to 50Mbps. The device can be ordered directly from the AWS Management Console
23 SPONSORED CONTENT AWS
of network conditions. The device uses an advanced video compression system that continuously adjusts to bandwidth conditions to deliver the best possible video across all networks. After the device powers up and connects to the camera, the network and AWS, users simply open the AWS Elemental MediaLive Console and click ‘Devices,’ where they can create a MediaLive input, selecting AWS Elemental Link as the source and choosing one of the listed input devices. Users can manage and monitor inputs from multiple devices operating anywhere in the world from one central point of control. The simplicity of Link means that technical operators aren’t required to be
at event sites to set up and configure the live streams. The user can simply create a channel that references the input and set up an output group to stream, archive, broadcast or package the video coming in, and use the full power of AWS Elemental Media Services to process, store, distribute and monetise it. In a time when remote video production is taking off in a way no one could ever have predicted, AWS Elemental Link is an affordable, powerful and easy-to-use
IN THE LINK When connected to a video source, the AWS Elemental Link connects to AWS Elemental MediaLive with automatic tuning
solution for plugging video into AWS, no matter where it’s coming from.
24 SOCIAL MEDIA Fighting Disinformation
TAMING THE TROLLS From coronavirus consipiracies to fascistic
rhetoric, disinformation is going global with the help of social platforms. How much of it can democracy withstand?
25 SOCIAL MEDIA Fighting Disinformation
or years now, the media industry has looked with envy at the social media giants, but what once seemed a licence to print money
and ‘disinformation,’” says Puttnam in the UK report’s foreward. “If allowed to flourish, these counterfeit truths will result in the collapse of public trust, and without trust, democracy as we know it will simply decline into irrelevance. In the digital world, our belief in what we see, hear and read is being distorted to the point at which we no longer know who or what to trust. The prospects for building a harmonious and sustainable society on that basis are, to all intents and purposes, non-existent.” This problem is not new. In 2016, the UK referendum and US presidential election highlighted how vulnerable the online information space is to manipulation, but Lord Puttnam hasn’t seen action commensurate with the gravity of the problem. “We’ve been remarkably toothless,” Puttnam, accompanied by committee member and Paralympian gold medallist Lord Chris Holmes, tells FEED and other publications in a briefing. “I’d even go so far as to say that governments have been nervous about tackling this issue for 20 years. When I first talked to Jeremy Wright [former UK secretary for culture, media and sport] almost three years ago, he was passionate about it, but somehow that passion has evaporated.” Both the UK Conservative and Labour parties declined to give in-person evidence to the select committee. The Liberal Democrats did send a representative. Given that the same tools used for disinformation are also used by political campaigns, often in a race to the bottom, this shouldn’t be surprising. “We were very, very disappointed by the unwillingness of the two main political parties to engage with this. They didn’t turn up for their oral evidence, and some of the evidence they gave us in writing proved to be questionable. And this points to parties wanting an edge – ie. they have to skate along what’s legal, and sometimes cross it, in order to be effective,” says Puttnam. The committee’s report makes 45 recommendations, chief among them that
is becoming a toxic battleground being used for disinformation and bullying on an industrial scale. Investigations into the Leave.EU campaign and its partnership with Cambridge Analytica have shown that Facebook was a critical tool in swaying voters in the run-up to the UK referendum to leave the European Union. And evidence from the Oxford Internet Institute suggests that one third of all Twitter traffic just prior to the EU referendum was actually produced by bots, not humans. Disinformation disseminated on Facebook-owned WhatsApp was implicated in disproportionately boosting Jair Bolsonaro prior to his election in Brazil. Messages that included doctored photos and fake ‘fact checks’ were widely spread in a country where mobile devices are the main portal for information. Brazil’s highest court has since established an advisory board on internet and elections to investigate disinformation. The coronavirus pandemic has proved fertile ground for the planting of rumours and the spread of disinformation. The European Commission has devoted a page on its website to addressing widely circulating disinformation about the virus. The page alerts citizens to common coronavirus falsehoods, including that ingesting disinfectants can treat the virus, that the pandemic is a deliberate act of biological warfare, and that Covid-19 has been caused by 5G technologies. On the face of it, a society interconnected by instant communications technology should be in a stronger position to share information to solve common problems, but – at least in their present configuration – the opposite seems to be true. Our ‘social’ media seems to excel at undermining society. RESURRECTING TRUST Last summer, the UK’s House of Lords formed a Democracy and Digital Technologies select committee, chaired by Lord David Puttnam, legendary British film producer and a dogged campaigner for a media space that benefits citizens. The committee has just published its report, Digital Technology and the Resurrection of Trust , which makes no bones about framing online disinformation as an emergency. The report advises the UK government to take action “without delay” to ensure tech giants are held responsible for harm done by falsehoods spread on their platforms. “This is a virus that affects all of us in the UK – a pandemic of ‘misinformation’
WE WERE VERY, VERY DISAPPOINTED BY THE
UNWILLINGNESS OF THE TWO MAIN POLITICAL PARTIES TO ENGAGEWITH THIS
26 SOCIAL MEDIA Fighting Disinformation
the UK government should introduce online harms legislation within a year of the report’s publication. “Unfortunately,” says Puttnam, “the evidence we took indicated that it may not be until 2022 or 2023. That is crazy, given the pace with which this industry moves.” MOVE FAST AND FIX THINGS The report also recommends that UK communications regulator Ofcom has greater powers to police and penalise digital companies that aren’t acting in the best interest of citizens. “It is not just up to advertisers to ensure the technology giants deal with the pandemic of misinformation on their platforms,” says Puttnam. “The government also has an important role to play and should not duck its responsibility.” Lord Holmes, who specialises in new technologies, as well as diversity and inclusion, demanded greater transparency in looking at the companies that have developed such an intimate relationship with modern society. He and Puttnam also urged the government to hold platforms accountable for the amplification of messaging through fake accounts, bots and AI. He explains: “The reality is that the algorithms have to be auditable. But even before we talk about the auditing of algorithms, it’s high time that we put our foot down on sock puppets.” “One of the most interesting things in our report,” says Puttnam, “is how information gets amplified. So it’s not just a question of two or three people with nutty views. When that news get recommended, and the whole thing takes off in the search, it can create damage. We’re not coming down on the ability of an individual to have free speech and making their views known. But that free speech gets amplified in a very distorted and unregulated way. That’s when we all run into terrible trouble.” “The great claim of the companies is, ‘We don’t even really know what the algorithm’s up to,’” adds Holmes. “Well, IT’S HIGH TIME THAT WE PUT OUR FOOT DOWN ON SOCK PUPPETS
you absolutely do, to the extent of how it’s constructed and what its mission is. And its mission has been constructed in a way to drive extreme content because that content drives dwell time, and that dwell time drives monetisable views.” The report also makes recommendations on electoral reform, including clearly marking online political ads and requiring greater transparency about who is bankrolling them. Media companies should also provide easily accessible online databases of political advertisers. Mozilla provided the committee with guidelines and a suggested API for such an open advertising archive. PUBLIC INTEREST Implementing better public education was another important recommendation. The report cited the Open Society Institute Media Literacy Index, which ranked the UK 12th out of 35 countries across wider Europe at promoting societal resilience to disinformation. The committee’s vision for digital literacy goes beyond mere technological skills and includes education in being able to distinguish fact from fiction, including misinformation, understanding how digital platforms work and how to influence decision makers in a digital context. Estonia and Finland were cited as particular successes in providing citizens with digital literacy skills. It was noted that their proximity to Russia – a known wellspring of disinformation in Europe – was one incentive for keeping their societies well informed.
The report included research from Doteveryone that 50% of people surveyed accepted that being online meant someone would try to cheat or harm them in some way: “They described a sense of powerlessness and resignation in relation to services online, with significant minorities saying that it doesn’t matter whether they trust organisations with their data because they have to use them.” Holmes notes that the very business model of the platforms might not be congruent with healthy democratic discourse. “One of the core problems is that this isn’t a question of freedom of speech. It’s a question of freedom of reach. The difficulty is that if more radical content has a greater dwell time and can drive more revenues off it, then the algorithm gets trained to hook on to that and proliferate that content. That’s what makes this different to fake news and extreme views of the past. There’s nothing new in that. The difference is the pace and proliferation of those views.” Puttnam also points out the need for digital platforms to support the journalism that fuels them. “There is no question that the platforms feed off of the traditional news organisations. There’s a real need for some form of reciprocal relationship, where journalism gets underpinned and supported by the digital platform. That seems to me axiomatic, and I think those conversations are taking place. “It’s unlikely that society itself can ever build ‘herd immunity’ against lies and manipulation,” he concludes. Read the full UK House of Lords report here: bit.ly/3fF0sPN
28 GENIUS INTERVIEW Nina Jankowicz
29 GENIUS INTERVIEW Nina Jankowicz
FEED: How did you come to write your book?
FEED: Are the problems solely caused by foreign actors? What about internal disinformation? NINA JANKOWICZ: As I was researching and writing the book, it became an even bigger issue inside the US. It’s not just about foreign disinformation now. It’s also about domestic disinformation. If there’s one thing to understand about online disinformation, it’s that these tools are democratised and that anybody can use them. You don’t have to be a government, or even organised. One person or a small group of individuals can have a big impact. But we’re now inadvertently – or sometimes knowingly – supporting the goals of malign foreign actors. That’s where we’re headed now – to ‘information laundering,’ where, rather than placing ads and creating fake personas on the internet, bad actors can seed narratives in groups and private channels – encrypted messengers, for example – and those then get put out through authentic local voices. That’s a pattern I’ve seen in a couple of the Eastern European countries. The most important takeaway is that we can’t fight foreign disinformation unless we recognise the domestic disinformation problem as well. That gets us into quite a quagmire in the US. President Trump is a source and amplifier of all of this disinformation and that has stopped a lot of the common-sense, easy solutions we could be implementing by politicising the entire concept. FEED: How is this different from what governments have been doing for decades? NINA JANKOWICZ: There’s a difference between what the Soviet Union did during the Cold War, and what Russia does today. The USSR created spurious publications and fake experts to seed these narratives. If you look at, for instance, the fake story about the US creating AIDS, it got some traction, but compared to what can be done with social media using fake personas, it’s night and day. The tools that allow them to drill down and target the most vulnerable people is incomparable to what was going on in the 1980s. They also put out what the RAND Corporation calls a “fire hose of falsehoods”. It doesn’t matter if it’s supporting one ideological goal or another. We’ve seen support of candidates on the left and the right in the United States. The same has been true in other countries, including Germany. It’s not necessarily in support
NINA JANKOWICZ: I started my career in the democracy support space and my degrees are all in Russian studies. After I left graduate school, I was working for an organisation called the National Democratic Institute, a non-profit NGO that works to support democratic activists in Russia and Belarus. This was as the United States Agency for International Development was getting kicked out of Russia. Since we were partially USAID funded, we left, too. The Russian government did their propaganda gambit against us and that’s where my interest in all this stuff came about. While I was still working at NDI, the Ukraine crisis began, with Russia annexing Crimea and invading the Donbass. NDI was a fairly old-school organisation and they were happy to just stay out of it and let things be said about us. But I thought we should be taking a more proactive approach. In 2016-17, I got this Fulbright fellowship in Ukraine where I was advising the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on strategic communications – in the belly of the beast. I worked with the spokesperson at the Ukrainian MFA on messaging and how to keep western attention on Ukraine after ‘Ukraine fatigue’ was setting in. But more formative was the fact that the US election was going on while I was in Ukraine. The perspective of being able to see tactics that were already in use on the ground in Ukraine being done to the US information ecosystem was extremely alarming. As more came out through the US Russia investigation, it became clear that this was not going to go away. I was getting really frustrated with the way the US was looking at things, as if we were the first country this had happened to. People were ignoring the fact that this sort of manipulation had been happening in Eastern Europe since 2007. That’s what my book looks at, how five countries in Eastern Europe – Estonia, Georgia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine – responded to these influence operations. It’s important to look not just at the disinformation, but at how countries responded and what the best practices for responding are. Right now, the US is still very much playing whack-a-troll. We’re not imposing enough of a cost to make foreign actors stop, as we’ve seen over the past couple of months with not only coronavirus disinformation, but with the George Floyd protests, which bad actors are certainly taking advantage of.
Nina Jankowicz is an American expert on the intersection of technology and democracy with a speciality in Eastern Europe, as well as the Disinformation Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Her debut book is called How to Lose the Information War: Russia, Fake News, and the Future of Conflict THE US IS STILL PLAYING WHACK- A-TROLL
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