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Pokémon, Star Wars & Candy Crush: How DLCs & Microtransactions Changed The Gaming Industry

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While DLC’s (downloadable content) and microtransactions are a commonly accepted practice in the gaming community, they are also still highly controversial. Some lawmakers around the world have even condemned these types of business models, likening them to child-targeted gambling. In the United States, Republican Senator Josh Hawley has proposed a bipartisan bill that would ban a type of microtransaction in games aimed at minors. 

The topic of DLC’s and microtransaction is also a hot topic among fans, with many saying that while these features can help a game, a lot of times, they feel like companies abuse these practices. We want to know: What are YOU, as a consumer, willing to pay for?

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Meghan Rienks’ Channel Hack Highlights YouTube Support Issues

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  • For two months, YouTuber Meghan Rienks has been struggling to get YouTube Support’s help to recover her hacked vlog channel.
  • After several confusing email exchanges with the company that presented her with no real solutions, Reinks said she only began to see more helpful and rapid responses when Shane Dawson and Gigi Hadid spoke up or offered their own connections.
  • Rienks said she spoke on the phone with YouTube on Wednesday and learned she may not be able to get her videos back. She also said that she worries about smaller creators who are left with even fewer options when they have issues with their channels.

Rienks Battles with YouTube After Hack

After months of battling with YouTube to regain access to her hacked channel, YouTuber Meghan Rienks said that a call with the company revealed that she may not be able to get her videos back.

On Tuesday, she confirmed via Twitter that YouTube agreed to talk over the phone. The sudden help from the platform came just one day after she posted a 45-minute video detailing the company’s disappointing response to her vlog channel being hacked in January. That call, however, did not go in the direction she was hoping.

She posted on Twitter that the call “wasn’t great.” On a Wednesday night Instagram story, she told her followers that she would likely lose the content she had on the channel, some of which is a decade old.

Her problems with YouTube’s support stem back even further than this phone call. Rienks’ Monday video starts with her explaining that in October, she realized her main channel was not appearing online for viewers, despite it looking fine from her end while logged in. Solving this with YouTube took roughly two weeks. During that time, they had back and forths where they told her nothing was wrong with her channel. 

The company eventually realized they had been looking into her vlog channel instead and had also sent her the wrong link to solve her main channel issues. During this time, she did notice a suspicious upload on her vlog channel but kept that on the back burner so she could focus on her main channel. 

Her vlog channel came back to the forefront on January 2, when Rienks realized it had been fully hacked and rebranded. Her videos were gone, and even though the channel still had her URL, it was now called “Beauty Dior” and has new logos and images.

The page was now full of several newly posted videos, all of which appeared to be re-uploads of beauty tutorials which she suspects are also stolen. On top of that, the email she had associated with the channel was deleted, preventing her from recovering it and regaining control of the account.

Exchanges With YouTube Continue For Two Months

Rienks reached out to YouTube the following morning, thinking this would be an easy fix seeing as the hacking was very obvious. Instead, it led to a series of seemingly empty-worded exchanges between YouTube, Rienks, her manager, and others on her team. In some emails sent from YouTube, Rienks was not even included and had to be kept in the loop via her manager.

In one, the YouTuber support person addresses the email to “Alex.” However, no one involved in these communications is named Alex, or even a name remotely similar to Alex. Rienks stated multiple times that she felt she was not in contact with a real person. 

Substantial news did not come from YouTube until February 22, when YouTube told Meghan they found no signs of abnormal activity on the channel. When she followed up, emphasizing that the channel had been fully rebranded, they maintained their findings in a grammatically messy email. 

“Hi there, thanks for your reply. I understand why you’re wondering that the investigation resulted that no highjacking activity happened on the channel,” they wrote. “However, I can assure you that our internal team carefully investigated this and didn’t found any.” 

They advised that she increase her password and account security, a measure she had actively been taking on all of her channels and social media accounts since the original incident in October.

Rienks Takes to Twitter

The next morning, she emailed them at 9 AM to request a phone call so she could guarantee swift, immediate contact with a real person. She also hopped on Twitter to express her frustrations.

At around the same time she sent her email, she shared YouTube’s response alongside proof that her account had been clearly hacked on Twitter. She also said she had seen a substantial loss in subscribers on the channel since January. 

While those posts gained a decent amount of traction when she uploaded them, they blew up when YouTuber Shane Dawson shared one a little after 2 p.m. Dawson mentioned several YouTube Twitter accounts in his message, which included a plea for help.

Just 45 minutes after Shane sent his tweet out, Rienks saw action from YouTube. She received an email saying that phone support was not an option, but her case was now being marked high priority. She also began direct messaging Team YouTube, which led to more confusing back and forths.

After initially claiming that YouTube had looked into her main channel instead of her vlog, an excuse similar to one give during the first situation in October, Team YouTube they were “not sure why [internal teams] came to that conclusion” that there was no abnormal activity on her vlog. They assured Rienks that she had been in contact with real people at YouTube, and apologized for the delay in solving her problem.

“I am sorry you had to take to twitter to get more help with this,” one of the messages read. “That shouldn’t be the case at all.”

Around the same time, another well-known face slid into Rienks’ DMs –supermodel Gigi Hadid. Hadid, who is a follower of Reinks, told her that she was sorry about her situation, and had a friend at YouTube who could be able to help. 

“This is the only time that I’m getting help,” Rienks said frustratedly in her video. “Is when Shane Dawson and Gigi Hadid help me. Thanks guys.”

On this day, Beauty Dior was still posting content on her channel. She also noted she saw that the account was being sold on a site for $500.

Rienks’ Frustrations with YouTube

While Rienks was recording her video, she got an update from YouTube. 

“The email YouTube just sent is that I can have my channel transferred over to me, I just have to agree to not sue them,” Rienks explained. “And also, I can’t have any of the videos that were privated. Which is all of them.” 

She spoke to her attorney about the email, who said that nothing in their message to her contained a legal document or legally binding clauses. 

“This is a failed system and it’s not working,” she said, explaining her overall anger about YouTube’s response. “And also through all of this I found, if it’s not working for me, it is not working for so many creators who have much smaller channels.” 

In the description of the video, she further expressed that while she wants her channel back, she also wants larger-scale change at YouTube. 

I want a meeting at Youtube. With REAL HUMANS. With the ‘people’ who run the support team & *personally* investigate hijacked channels,” she wrote. “Because it is a broken system and it needs to be changed. I know this is a long shot, but this has been happening for far too long, to far too many creators.”

“There’s no way that Youtube has coded & built software to pickup on less than 10 seconds of skewed pitch copyrighted song, yet they’re still unable to accurately verify a compromised channel,” she added. “This needs to change.”

When heading to Rienks’ vlog channel today, viewers can still find it as Beauty Dior.

Update: This article was updated from its original form to include new information about Rienks’ phone call with YouTube.

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An Activist Hedge Fund Wants Jack Dorsey Out as Twitter CEO. Could That Change the Site?

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  • Last week, it was reported that conservative activist investor Elliott Management had purchased over $1 billion in Twitter shares, or about 4% of the company.
  • Now, Elliott Management wants to replace Twitter’s co-founder, Jack Dorsey, as CEO. 
  • This is largely viewed as an attempt to boost Twitter’s stock, which has been underperforming since Dorsey reclaimed his CEO position in 2015.
  • According to Fox News, a Dorsey ousting by Elliott Management could “raise the prospect that some of the changes to Twitter could make the platform a friendlier place for pro-Trump users.”

Hedge Fund Plans to Push Dorsey Out of Twitter

Twitter employees took to the platform Monday night in support of CEO Jack Dorsey after it was reported that an activist investment fund was trying to unseat him.

Last week, the fund known as Elliott Management announced it had bought roughly $1 billion in Twitter stock. According to Business Insider, that’s nearly 5% of the company and also enough to allow it to pressure Dorsey out of his CEO role. 

Elliot Management wants to oust Dorsey for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most significant reason is that Twitter is underperforming. Dorsey previously served as CEO of Twitter until being fired in 2008. He then returned in 2015. Since then, Twitter’s shares have fallen by 6.2%. Facebook, by contrast, has gained more than 121% in that same timeframe.

In November, Dorsey also announced that he’s preparing to move to Africa for 3-6 months this year.

That’s on top of Dorsey already splitting his time between Twitter and Square, Inc., where Dorsey is also CEO.

Elliott Management’s main argument here will be that a full-time CEO would be able to devote more time to the company to help raise its stock value and grow the company. 

This, however, isn’t the first time someone has announced a plan to oust Dorsey. In fact, such a move seemed bound to happen because unlike Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel, Dorsey does not have voting control of Twitter. 

In December, New York University marketing professor Scott Galloway penned a letter calling for Dorsey’s removal.

“As of 12/6 I am the direct and beneficial owner of approximately 334,000 shares in Twitter,” Galloway said. “To be clear, my primary objective is the replacement of CEO Jack Dorsey.”

Weak governance, a part-time CEO, relocation to Africa, damage to the commonwealth, and poor returns,” he added. “Stakeholders deserve a board and CEO that command the opportunity Twitter occupies.”

Could A Dorsey Oust Make Twitter More “Trump Friendly?”

The reasons why Elliott Management is trying to push Dorsey may not stop there. 

The hedge fund is owned by Paul Singer, a conservative billionaire mega-donor. In 2016, Singer donated $24 million to Republican and right-leaning groups. 

It is possible, as Fox News points out, that Elliot Management’s increased presence within Twitter could, at least in part, ease conservative’s concerns that Twitter has a left-leaning bias. 

Elliott Management’s stake “[raises] the prospect that some of the changes to Twitter could make the platform a friendlier place for pro-Trump users. ”

Last year, California GOP Representative Devin Nunes filed a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter and several users. In that lawsuit, he accused the platform of “shadow-banning conservatives” and hiding their posts. 

#WeBackJack Trends on Twitter

Following all of this, many Twitter employees supporting Dorsey in his role as CEO posted stories of their interactions with Dorsey using the hashtag #WeBackJack. Later Monday night, that tag began to trend. 

“I’ve worked [for] many major corporations,” one user said. “Never did the CEO take 3 minutes to talk with me 1:1. Jack did (more than 3 mins might I add) & he didn’t treat me like someone below him. Ppl speak highly of him in rooms he’s not in. He’s not pretentious or egocentric. So yea #WeBackJack”

Telsa CEO Elon Musk also offered his support for Dorsey on Twitter Monday night, saying Dorsey “has a good [heart].”

Elliott Management Nominates Four Directors

While Elliott Management has not yet ousted Dorsey, it has nominated four people to Twitter’s board of directors.

Notably, there’s only going to be three seats available at this year’s annual meeting, but Elliott Management reportedly wants to ensure that it nominates enough people to fill all three seats and any vacancies that may unexpectedly arise. 

Elliot Management’s move to remove Dorsey comes in the face of several major events including the worsening situation with the coronavirus, U.S. presidential elections, and the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

Those events will likely attract more users to the site and could, in turn, drive more advertisers, thus increasing the company’s stock value.

Twitter, however, has fallen behind other social media platforms despite its widespread use. Reportedly, it has decided to focus on its core services even though other platforms have added features such as filters and stories.

It is unknown if a Dorsey ousting could change that policy as Twitter’s board of directors tries to increase its stock value.

See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (Business Insider) (Fox News)

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Appeals Court Rules YouTube Can Censor Content in PragerU Case

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  • A federal appeals court ruled YouTube is not subject to the First Amendment and can censor content on its platform as part of a long-running lawsuit filed by conservative nonprofit PragerU.
  • The lawsuit alleged that YouTube demonetized and limited some of PragerU’s videos because it is biased against conservatives.
  • PragerU called the move censorship and discrimination, arguing that YouTube should be treated like the government, not a private company, in matters of free speech.

PragerU Lawsuit

A federal appeals court in California ruled that privately-owned tech companies like YouTube are not bound to the First Amendment and can censor content.

The decision comes from a 2017 lawsuit against YouTube and its parent company Google that was filed by PragerU, a nonprofit headed by Dennis Prager. The company filed its complaint after YouTube demonetized and restricted some of its videos. 

PragerU accused YouTube of being biased against conservative views, arguing that the decision amounted to discrimination and censorship. The lawsuit claims that YouTube had intentionally demonetized and restricted the videos “as a political gag mechanism to silence PragerU.”

The lawsuit also argued that YouTube regulates free speech on a “public forum,” and so it should be subject to the same scrutiny that the government is under the First Amendment.

To argue this point, the lawsuit cited the Supreme Court case Marsh v. Alabama. In that case, the court ruled that a Jehovah’s Witness had the right to give out leaflets in a town fully owned by a corporation.

A District judge dismissed the lawsuit in March 2018. In her decision, Judge Lucy Koh cited a more recent Supreme Court ruling in Lloyd Corp. v. Tanner, where the court decided that a mall could ban people from distributing anti-Vietnam War fliers on its property. 

In that ruling, the Supreme Court also clarified that Marsh v. Alabama could be only be applied to the town in the case.

Appeals Court

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Koh’s decision, again ruling against PragerU.

“Despite YouTube’s ubiquity and its role as a public-facing platform, it remains a private forum, not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote in the panel’s decision.

“PragerU’s claim that YouTube censored PragerU’s speech faces a formidable threshold hurdle: YouTube is a private entity. The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government— not a private party— from abridging speech.”

In their decision, the appellate judges pointed to a Supreme Court ruling from last year, where the highest court found that, “merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints.”

The judges also shot down a claim that YouTube was guilty of false advertising. 

Response

A YouTube spokesperson defended the social media platform and its parent company in a statement following the court’s ruling.

“Google’s products are not politically biased,” the spokesperson said. “PragerU’s allegations were meritless, both factually and legally, and the court’s ruling vindicates important legal principles that allow us to provide different choices and settings to users.”

PragerU, however, appears to believe the fight is not over.

“Obviously, we are disappointed,” the organization’s lawyer told the Wall Street Journal. “We will continue to pursue PragerU’s claims of overt discrimination on YouTube in the state court case under California’s heightened antidiscrimination, free-speech and consumer-contract law.”

But many have noted, that the ruling was not unexpected at all. According to the Journal, no court has supported PragerU’s legal argument, as it is widely accepted that free speech constraints are applied only to the government and not private entities.

The argument that social media companies like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook should be pinned to the First Amendment is one that has been growing more and more prominent, especially among conservative circles. 

Those who support this argument often believe that certain efforts by large tech companies to regulate content on their platforms are tantamount to censorship.

These arguments are almost certainly going to remain in the polarizing political discourses around free speech and social media. However, as the Journal argues, the appellate court’s decision is “the most emphatic rejection of the argument advanced in some conservative circles that YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other giant tech platforms are bound by the First Amendment.”

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (Ars Technica) (The Washington Examiner)

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