- 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)
Thousands of Students at Nearly 100 Virginia Schools Staged Walkout Over Anti-Trans Policies
More than 20,000 comments have been submitted to the Virginia Department of Education over the rules.
Public high school students in Virginia are protesting new Department of Education guidelines issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin that could impact transgender students.
Among other measures, the guidelines dictate that a student will only be referred to by the name, sex, and pronouns listed in the district’s official records. The only way to change the records is by written request from the student’s parent or guardian.
Students would also require a court order or legal documentation if they want to be referred to by a different preferred name.
Versions of these guidelines are set to be adopted across the 133 school districts in the state after the 30-day comments period expires in late October.
This prompted more than 12,000 students in nearly 100 schools across Virginia to participate in a walk-out in protest on Tuesday.
“Our main goal is to ensure that we get enough pushback to these regulations so that they don’t get passed, and even if they do get passed, that school boards will be under enough pressure to reject them,” one lead organizer said.
Concerns About Guidelines
Supporters of the guidelines believe these policies will give rights back to parents by keeping them informed about and responsible for this aspect of their children’s lives.
“The guidelines make it clear that when parents are part of the process, schools will accommodate the requests of children and their families,” a spokesperson from Governor Youngkin’s office said. “Parents should be a part of their children’s lives, and it’s apparent through the public protests and on-camera interviews that those objecting to the guidance already have their parents as part of that conversation.”
Students and others who oppose the measures fear they could lead to bullying or harassment of trans students, who might not be able to go by their chosen gender and name while in class.
As of the evening of Tuesday, more than 20,000 comments have been submitted to the Virginia DOE. Upon closing the comment period on Oct. 26, staff at the DOE will review submissions and recommend any changes necessary to the draft.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (USA Today) (Guardian)
Actor James Earl Jones Gave Green-Light for His Voice to be AI-Generated in “Star Wars” Properties
What does this mean for the future of actors and AI in movies?
James Earl Jones Hangs Up His Hat
At the age of 91, actor James Earl Jones has decided to step back from his role as Darth Vader in the famous “Star Wars” trilogy, allowing Skywalker Sound to use voice archives to create AI-generated dialogue for the character in appearances moving forward.
For the prequel series on Disney+, “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Skywalker Sound hired the Ukraine-based startup Respeecher to craft the dialogue using their AI technology and Jones’s recordings from previous performances. Essentially, they take the recordings and “teach” an AI how to replicate the patterns and tone of Darth Vader that scared so many for so many years.
AI in Hollywood
AI voices have been a point of controversy for a while. For example, “Roadrunner,” the documentary about the late Anthony Bourdain, used AI technology to replicate Bourdain’s voice, reading letters he had written during his life. This sparked backlash online from those who found it unethical to use someone’s voice posthumously.
“Star Wars” has gone beyond generating just voices — using AI to achieve a variety of feats. In 2016’s “Rogue One,” filmmakers digitally resurrected Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, for his role as Grand Moff Tarkin. In the same movie, they used CGI to put Carrie Fisher’s face on a double. They later used the same method after she passed away.
That same CGI was also recently used to digitally de-age Mark Hamill for his role as Luke Skywalker in the Disney+ show “The Book of Boba Fett.”
It has not been confirmed if Jones will be paid for the continued use of his voice in this manner, but his family did say they were pleased with the work done on “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
See what others are saying: (Vanity Fair) (ABC News) (AV Club)
California Lawmakers Pass Bill Protecting Children From Manipulative Tech Companies
The bill’s proponents liken it to other consumer welfare rules like nutrition standards and car seats, but opponents warn it could endanger users’ privacy.
The First State Children’s Code in the Country
California state senators passed a bipartisan bill Monday that would require online sites and apps to proactively design their products with child safety in mind.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has not voiced his opinion on the bill, but if he signs it into law, it will make California the first state to implement legislation of its kind in the country.
AB 2273, the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, does not give many specific directions to tech companies, but it may create the potential for legal challenges if they don’t take adequate steps to ensure the safety of their younger users.
Some of the bill’s measures intend to block minors from viewing explicit content, limit the collection of their personal information, and restrict web services from gathering children’s geolocation data unless “strictly necessary.”
The law would also clamp down on “dark patterns,” a general term for manipulative design features meant to encourage minors to give away personal information unnecessarily.
“The digital ecosystem is not safe by default for children,” democratic state lawmaker Buffy Wicks, who co-sponsored the bill with Republican Jordan Cunningham, told The New York Times. “We think the Kids’ Code, as we call it, would make tech safer for children by essentially requiring these companies to better protect them.”
AB 2273 forces web services to enable the highest privacy settings by default for minors.
Additionally, it requires services to establish the age of child users with a “reasonable level of certainty.”
If signed, the law would go into effect in 2024.
Are the Internet’s ‘Wild West’ Days Over?
California could set the example for other states, or the federal government, to build digital guardrails for minors, and tech companies may find it easier to proactively update their child protections across the country to avoid the difficulty of enforcing different policies in different states.
Another bill, AB 2408, which would let parents sue social media companies over addictive features, failed to pass the California legislature earlier this month.
The United States already has a 1998 federal law that protects children’s privacy, but it only applies to those under 13 years of age and only when they use online services specifically targeting children.
AB 2273 was based on similar legislation passed last year in the United Kingdom, the “Children’s Code,” which created comprehensive safety standards for minors, such as preventing adult strangers from contacting them or disabling social media features that could show a child’s exact location on a map to other users.
Baroness Beeban Kidron, a key figure behind the U.K. law, leads a nonprofit that sponsored AB 2273. He and other advocates have compared the law to nutrition labels, testing for cribs and car seats, and similar consumer welfare regulations.
The bill, however, has its detractors.
Eric Goldman, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, has argued that AB 2273’s age verification requirements, though well-intentioned, could become intrusive on the very users whose privacy the bill is seeking to safeguard.
“The actual process of age authentication usually involves either (1) an interrogation of personal details or (2) evaluating the user’s face so that software can estimate the age,” Goldman wrote in an op-ed. “Neither process is error-free, and either imposes costs that some businesses can’t afford.”