- YouTube will begin only showing abbreviated subscriber counts on its platform starting in August.
- The change is expected to impact third-party sites like Social Blade, that track real-time subscribers losses and gains.
- Though it’s unclear why YouTube has decided to make the change, many note that it comes during a time when subscriber changes have been heavily focused on in several recent online feuds.
Abbreviated Sub Counts Announced
Youtube announced a major change to the way it displays channel subscriber counts on Tuesday, which could stop third-party analytic sites like Social Blade from displaying real-time subscriber losses and gains.
In a blog post on YouTube’s support page, the company said it will soon display only abbreviated public subscriber counts across the platform, instead of full counts.
“To create more consistency everywhere that we publicly display subscriber counts, starting in August 2019, we’ll begin showing the abbreviated subscriber number across all public YouTube surfaces,” the post reads.
“For channels with fewer than 1,000 subscribers, the exact (non-abbreviated) subscriber count will still be shown. Once your channel passes the 1000 subscriber milestone, we will begin to abbreviate your public subscriber numbers on a sliding scale.”
The company laid out a few examples of what the changes will look like. For example, if a channel has 7,237,932 subscribers, then YouTube will display the count as simply 7.2M.
Impact on Social Blade
This might not seem like a huge deal, but it could potentially change the current culture on YouTube.
Whenever social media influencers are involved in any online controversies, viewers first jump to third-party sites like Social Blade to see if the drama is negatively or positively impacting the creators involved.
In the announcement, YouTube specifically states: “Third parties that use YouTube’s API Services will also access the same public facing counts you see on YouTube. Creators will still be able to see their exact number of subscribers in YouTube Studio.”
When asked by users if this update will affect its numbers, Social Blade didn’t appear to be too concerned, tweeting that it should still be able to present accurate data on the site.
But minutes later, Social Blade followed up with another post, writing, “Upon closer look, it might affect our data display, but only time will tell.”
Social Blade later tweeted that it had reached out to YouTube for clarification and is waiting to hear back.
In a statement to the Verge, the CEO of Social Blade Jason Urgo confirmed that he was still waiting on a response, but added, “it appears like it will hit any third party which would include us as well.”
Subscriber Counts & YouTube Drama
Though YouTube has not directly given a reason for the change, many have noted that it comes at a time when YouTube sub counts have been closely monitored by viewers. Unsubscribing from a YouTuber after any scandal is one of the easiest ways viewers can pull back their support and it’s become a bigger and bigger focus in recent months.
The focus on real-time subscriber changes were seen all throughout PewDiePie’s battle with T-Series, during all of the drama that unfolded in the beauty community between James Charles, Tati Westbrook, and Jeffree Star, and even more recently after popular gamer Turner “Tfue” Tenny sued the gaming collective FaZe Clan.
During all of these massively followed feuds, sub counts have even been live streamed on channels dedicated to tracking the changes, often using data from Social Blade.
The public’s growing interest in taunting creators over subscriber losses has helped sites like Social Blade rise in popularity. Earlier this week, the site thanked its visitors for the increase in traffic that has poured in during the last few weeks alone.
What's even more impressive then that though, I was looking through the list of sites in the top 500 in the US and they list "Daily Time on Site" (basically "watch time" for websites, and guess what… We are NUMBER ONE! WOW!!!! (and #2 in the global list!!)— Social Blade (@SocialBlade) May 21, 2019
It’s unclear if any of the community’s drama or the rise in online cancel culture playing any role in YouTube’s decision. Regardless, it could change the way users follow subscriber changes in future online controversies.
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Tubefilter) (9to5Google)
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TikTok Refuses to Testify at Hearing About Chinese Influence Amid National Security Investigation
- TikTok denied requests by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) to testify under oath during a Tuesday Congressional hearing concerning fears that the Chinese-owned social media platform is sharing U.S. user data with the Chinese government.
- According to reports, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S opened a national security investigation into TikTok’s $1 billion purchase of Musical.ly in 2017.
- For its part, TikTok has repeatedly said that its servers are all outside of China, and therefore, outside of Chinese law. Because of this, it also says it does not censor content.
Sen. Hawley Invites TikTok to Testify
Executives for the social media platform TikTok refused to testify at a Congressional hearing on Tuesday amid ongoing fears that it may pose a national security risk regarding Chinese counter-intelligence.
On Friday, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States reportedly opened an investigation into TikTok, which was created as an international version of the app Douyin and is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. According to anonymous sources, the investigation involves TikTok’s 2017 $1 billion acquisition of Musical.ly.
Both the hearing and the investigation are the latest in a series of concerns that TikTok is sharing American data with China’s Communist Party, particularly that is sharing the data it collects on users’ locations and censoring content.
Tuesday’s hearing organized by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) focused on two main concerns. The first was business deals between American tech companies and the Chinese government and the second was rapidly growing Chinese companies in America and how they collect U.S. user data.
“[As] these Big Tech companies try to get into the Chinese market, the compromises that they have to make with the Communist Chinese Party — who, let’s not forget, partner with or control every industry of any size in China — what does that do to American security?” Hawley told Axios ahead of the hearing.
Also prior to the hearing, Hawley blasted TikTok’s decision to decline appearing in a series of tweets.
Is TikTok Sending Americans’ Data to the Chinese Government?
Last month, Senator Marco Rubio actually asked the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to open an investigation into TikTok because of concerns that the platform was censoring content.
A couple of weeks later, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) then echoed those concerns by asking U.S. Intelligence officials to open a national security review of the platform.
“With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” both Schumer and Cotton said in a joint statement. “Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the U.S. and brief Congress on these findings.”
TikTok representatives responded in a blog post the next day saying, “We store all TikTok US user data in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore. Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law.
“Let us be very clear: TikTok does not remove content based on sensitivities related to China,” the statement read. “We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period.”
Despite TikTok’s assurance that China does not intercept its data, Schumer and Cotton said they fear that TikTok “is still required to adhere to the laws of China” and that could “compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”
U.S. Opens Investigation into TikTok
Following reports that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States had opened a national security investigation, TikTok declined to speak on the confidential matter, but it did issue a statement.
“While we cannot comment on ongoing regulatory processes,” the statement reads, “TikTok has made clear that we have no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the U.S. Part of that effort includes working with Congress and we are committed to doing so.”
Schumer then praised the news of the probe, saying it was “validation of our concern that apps like TikTok…may pose serious risks to millions of Americans and deserve greater scrutiny.”
Similar Concerns Over Apple
TikTok isn’t the only social media platform under fire. Hawley also invited Apple to Tuesday’s hearing, but like TikTok, it denied the request.
Regarding Apple, Hawley is particularly interested in the tech giant’s business deals with China and where it stores encryption keys for iCloud data.
“My question is, are they storing encryption keys in China? “ Hawley asked ahead of the hearing. “The answer to that is yes. Then what kind of data are they storing in China? Whose data? Any American data? What about people who have Chinese relatives or business partners or other ventures, so they’re communicating with people in China? Does that expose American users to potential surveillance by the Chinese state?”
Although Apple did not directly respond to Hawley’s question, in the past, it has said that it retains its encryption keys, not its Chinese partner.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (Washington Post) (BBC)
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