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Pornhub Will Ban Uploads From Unverified Users After New York Times Exposé

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  • Pornhub is banning all uploads from unverified users, instead only allowing them from content partners and members of its Model program.
  • It’s also blocking all downloads of content, with the exception of paid downloads within its verified Model program, and launched a new team to look for potential content violations on videos that have already been uploaded.
  • Pornhub says it made the decision after an independent review it launched in April, aimed at eliminating illegal content on the site. However, it actually comes days after an explosive NYT report about videos of child sexual assault on the site that Pornhub allows and profits off of.
  • It also comes after Visa and Mastercard promised to investigate and potentially end their relationships with Pornhub’s Canada-based parent company, MindGeek. The site also drew criticism from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Pornhub’s New Changes

Pornhub announced sweeping changes Wednesday, including a ban on uploads from unverified users, in an effort to prevent illegal content from spreading on its site.

The change to its upload policy is major for a platform that has built itself on non-professional uploads.

In an official statement it released online, the company explained that uploads can now only be made by content partners and members of Pornhub’s Model program. However, the company said it plans to roll out a broader verification process for regular users sometime next year.

Additionally, Pornhub said its blocking downloads of content effective immediately, with the exception of paid downloads within its verified Model program. 

The site also announced an additional layer of content moderation efforts that work alongside the manual and AI tools it already uses. For instance, the company has formed a “Red Team,” which is dedicated to “proactively sweeping content already uploaded for potential violations and identifying any breakdowns in the moderation process.”

Finally, it pledged to publish its first transparency report in 2021, which details the results of its moderation from the previous year.

Changes Follow Allegations of Child Abuse on the Platform

Pornhub attributed these policy changes to an independent review that it launched in April, aimed at eliminating illegal content on the site.

However, what Pornhub didn’t say is that the move actually comes just days after an explosive op-ed from The New York Times.

That report highlighted a number of young girls who appeared in videos on the site without their consent. For instance, it points to the story of a missing 15-year-old whose mother found her after the teen appeared in 58 sex videos. Another 14-year old’s sexual assaults were allegedly found on the site and were reported to authorities by a fellow classmate. 

One exploited victim was quoted saying, “Pornhub became my trafficker,” after she was trafficked by her adoptive parents and forced to appear in pornographic videos when she was as young as 9.

In some cases, even after videos were flagged and removed, downloaded copies continued to circulate and bring these victims more harm. 

Though offenders are sometimes arrested for these assaults, the writer, Nicholas Kristof, notes that Pornhub escapes all responsibility for sharing and profiting off them. While Pornhub has made some attempts to fight off this type of content, Kristof claimed that they dragged their feet for a long time and aren’t really doing enough.

Expose Prompts Outrage and Investigations

In the wake of the article, Pornhub’s business partners faced a ton of pressure to cut ties with them, with many saying they too were profiting off abuse.

Payment processors like Visa and Mastercard promised to investigate and potentially end their relationships with Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek. 

Since MindGeek is a Canadian based business, the country’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, expressed concerns about what was written in the piece. In fact, he pledged to work with police and security agencies to address sex trafficking and child pornography.

Pornhub and MindGeek, for their part, denied the allegations and said they were committed to combating this type of illegal material. However, they ultimately announced these new changes, perhaps to combat the growing outrage.

In response to this, the Times reporter who published the exposé tweeted about the new policies.

“A great deal depends on how responsibly Pornhub implements these, and it hasn’t earned my trust at all, but these seem significant,” Kristof said.

A great deal will also depend on whether past content, already on the site, is vetted or removed,” he continued.

Still, Kristof emphasized that continued monitoring and pressure will be necessary and added that this lens should be widened to other porn hosting companies.

He also later noted that according to Pornhub, the policies will apply to all MindGeek sites. For reference, MindGeek owns more than 100 websites, production companies, and brands.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Verge) (BBC)

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Nike To Clean and Resell Used Sneakers at a Discounted Price

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  • At least 15 Nike retail locations in the U.S. are participating in a new program the company calls “Nike Refurbish,” which is aimed at reducing waste.
  • As part of it, Nike will restore shoes with manufacturing flaws, as well as donated or returned shoes, and resell them at a discounted price.
  • Shoes at the end of their wear will be recycled into Nike Grind materials that are used to construct running tracks, gym floors, playgrounds, other Nike products, and more.

Nike Refurbish

Nike announced a new program on Monday called “Nike Refurbish” that will help boost sustainability and reduce waste.

As part of the program, the brand will take donated and returned shoes that are like new or gently used, as well as shoes with cosmetic manufacturing flaws, then clean and restore them to resell at a discounted price. Returned shoes must have been brought back within Nike’s 60-day return period in order for them to be resold. 

Nike employee restoring an eligible pair of sneakers. Source: Nike

All the refurbished shoes will have labeling on the box with information about their condition grade. Plus, they are also covered under Nike’s 60-day return policy. 

Nike Refurbished Footwear Sustainability Initiative | Well+Good
Source: Nike

Nike’s Recycling Efforts

Nike didn’t say what it previously did with returned sneakers in its announcement, but the new plan is part of its wider attempts to recycle materials.

On its website, it markets the initiative as a way for customers to “help keep shoes out of landfills.” and join Nike’s efforts towards, “Zero carbon and zero waste to help protect the future of sport.” 

Shoes that are truly at the end of their wear will be recycled into Nike Grind materials that are then used for tons of other projects, including running tracks, gym floors, playgrounds, outdoor courts, as well as other Nike apparel and footwear.

Nike Grind | Nike Purpose
Nike Grind material that was used to create an outdoor track. Source: Nike

So far, 15 Nike retail locations across the U.S. are confirmed to be participating in this model, but there are plans in place to expand this list over the course of 2021.

See what others are saying: (FOX Business) (Footwear News) (Miami Herald)

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Uber Sees Record Ride Demand But Doesn’t Have Enough Drivers Available

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  • Demand for Ubers outpaced driver availability in March, according to a Monday statement from Uber.
  • On top of seeing its best-performing month since the beginning of pandemic closures, the company also received more bookings last month than any other month in its entire history.
  • In an attempt to attract more drivers, Uber announced a $250 million, one-time stimulus payment last week to “boost” driver earnings.
  • While Uber said it believes it will turn a profit for 2021, the company could be set back more than $500 million because of a U.K. Supreme Court ruling that gives the country’s drivers minimum wage, holiday pay, and pension.

Uber Posts Record-Setting Growth

Uber announced Monday that its ride requests for the month of March were the highest it has ever recorded in its 12-year history. 

According to a filing with the SEC, last month, the company crossed “a $30 billion annualized Gross Bookings run-rate.” Alongside that, average daily Gross Bookings grew 9% from the previous month. 

Notably, this also marked the company’s best month since March of last year, when pandemic closures began in the U.S.

On top of that, Uber said its delivery business crossed “a $52 billion annualized Gross Bookings run-rate in March, growing more than 150% year-over-year.”

In fact, that demand over the past month was so high that Uber didn’t have enough drivers to meet it.

As vaccination rates increase in the United States, we are observing that consumer demand for Mobility is recovering faster than driver availability, and consumer demand for Delivery continues to exceed courier availability,” the company said.

$250 Million Driver Stimulus

Monday’s filing is in line with another announcement from Uber, which said last week that it is opening up a $250 million driver stimulus to “boost” earnings for drivers. 

“In 2021, there are more riders requesting trips than there are drivers available to give them—making it a great time to be a driver,” the company said at the time. “We want drivers to take advantage of higher earnings now because this is likely a temporary situation.”

“As the recovery continues, we expect more drivers will be hitting the road, which means that over time earnings will come back to pre-Covid levels.”

Can Uber Become Profitable?

In February, Uber reported $6.8 billion in losses for 2020, and for years, many have questioned if its business model is even profitable at all; however, in this latest filing, Uber said it believes it’ll become profitable by the end of 2021.

That said, last month, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom handed drivers a major win by ruling that they need to be reclassified as “workers,” guaranteeing them minimum wage, holiday pay, and pension. 

While big news, the U.K. classifies “workers” and “employees” separately. As a result, U.K. drivers still aren’t granted full benefits. 

The decision will also likely be a setback for Uber, as Bank of America has estimated that it could cost the company more than $500 million. 

Uber’s Vaccine Access Fund

In other Uber news, the company — along with PayPal and Walgreens — has launched a “Vaccine Access Fund.”

Through that fund, customers can donate money that will be used to help people who normally lack transportation get to their vaccination appointment.

Notably, all three companies have said they’ll donate a joint $11 million. 

That’s on top of the $5 million PayPal previously donated, as well as the 10 million free and discounted rides Uber promised to give in December. 

Uber users are able to donate in-app, and PayPal has launched a donation page on its website.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CNBC) (CNET)

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China Hits Alibaba With $2.8 Billion Antitrust Fine

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  • Chinese regulators slapped Alibaba with a $2.8 billion fine for monopolistic practices on Saturday, which amounts to 4% of the e-commerce mega-giant’s domestic sales.
  • Regulators accused the company of specifically engaging in a policy known as “choose one out of two,” where Alibaba would penalize sellers who also used other platforms to sell their goods.
  • CEO Daniel Zhang believes the company won’t be negatively affected by the fine, which could have been set as high as 10% of all sales.
  • Despite the fine, the company’s stock rose over 6% by Monday’s closing of the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Dominating the Marketplace

The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba was hit with a $2.8 billion antitrust fine by Chinese regulators on Saturday for using its dominant position in the market to punish merchants and rivals.

In particular, it engaged in a policy known as “choose one out of two,”  where a seller on Alibaba would be penalized in a variety of ways if they were found to be selling on another platform.

While the $2.8 billion fine seems large, it only accounts for 4% of the company’s domestic sales. The fine could’ve been far worse, as antitrust fines in China can go as high as 10% of the company’s annual sales.

Alibaba has agreed to take the fine, not fight it, and will fully comply with the demands of the regulators. Those demands include three years of “self-examination compliance reports” to ensure the company isn’t engaging in the same practices.

The news comes after the company’s founder, Jack Ma, has been under intense scrutiny from Chinese officials. Ma has not been seen in the public eye for months and his Ant Group, a sister company to Alibaba, is being forced by Chinese regulators as of Monday morning to become a financial holding company; therefore facing much stricter banking regulations.

Clear Sailing From Here

Fortunately for Alibaba, the company has managed to dodge much of the scrutiny Ma faces as he isn’t really involved with the business anymore. Its current leadership also doesn’t think the fine will really affect the company at all. Unlike Ma’s past rhetoric that was dismissive of regulators, CEO Daniel Zhang released a statement on Saturday that struck a conciliatory tone.

“Alibaba would not have achieved our growth without sound government regulation and service, and the critical oversight, tolerance and support from all of our constituencies have been crucial to our development,” he said.

Zhang added Monday morning that he doesn’t expect any negative impacts from the situation, which possibly helped Alibaba’s stock to rise sharply from $223 per share to $241 as of Monday’s closing of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, where the shares are traded.

There are a plethora of reasons that could explain the stock’s rise just after it was the target of a major antitrust fine, but notably, there doesn’t seem to be any more antitrust fines in the pipeline, leading investors to be confident that the worst is behind the company.

See what others are saying: (Investors) (New York Times) (Wall Street Journal)

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