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Why you don’t want Tumblr sold to exploitative Pornhub – TechCrunch

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Tumblr has been squandered ever since it was bought for $1.1 billion in 2013 by Yahoo, now part of Verizon Media Group. Without proper strategy or talent, the blogging tool and early meme-sharing network fell into decline while Medium and Instagram soared. Yahoo wrote down Tumblr’s value by $230 million in 2016. Then last year, Verizon evicted Tumblr’s huge and loyal base of porn bloggers, leaving no viable platform for independent adult content creators and curators.

Now the Wall Street Journal reports that TechCrunch parent company Verizon is considering selling Tumblr.

Many immediately hoped it’d change hands to an owner who’d embrace pornography, such as social media darling Pornhub. BuzzFeed quickly reported that Pornhub VP Corey Price told it “We’re extremely interested in acquiring the platform and are very much looking forward to one day restoring it to its former glory with NSFW content.”

But given Pornhub parent company MindGeek’s record of exploitation of adult performers, that could be a disastrous proceeding for the world of kink.

Outside of Pornhub, MindGeek owns many of the top porn streaming sites like YouPorn, RedTube, and GayTube. Widespread piracy of porn films by those sites has made it tough for performers to earn a living. Many smaller studios or performers don’t have the legal or financial resources to file constant copyright infringement takedown notices, and MindGeek’s sites have been accused of allow re-uploads of videos days after taking them down.

The truly insidious part is that MindGeek has also bought up a bunch of the top porn production studios including Brazzers, Babes.com, and Digital Playground. MindGeek has been accused of allowing those studios’ films to be pirated by its own streaming sites. That lets MindGeek earn and keep streaming ad revenue without giving performers a proper cut.

The result has been a massive decline in the wages of porn performers and the number of films being made. This is turn pushes performers into more rough and extreme porn genres they’re not comfortable with, or into other sex work like prostitution that can be dangerous. We reached out to Verizon Media Group which told us “we don’t comment on rumors”, and we’re awaiting comment on piracy issues from MindGeek.

If Pornhub and MindGeek succeed in acquiring Tumblr to strengthen their near monopoly, they could end up exploiting porn bloggers and the performers they post about too. You could imagine the photos and GIFs in diverse porn genres that populated Tumblr getting scraped and shared across MindGeek’s network of sites beyond the bloggers’ or performers’ control. Or Tumblr’s porn blogs could be used to funnel traffic towards MindGeek’s crooked streaming sites, exacerbating the piracy problem. A more optimistic view is would be that Pornhub’s newer features that let performers set up their own paywalls could help Tumblr curators earn money for themselves…and MindGeek. If Pornhub managed to turn Tumblr around, it would deal a stern lesson to platforms that were quick to ban adult content.

Since many of the puritanical US government’s elected officials likely see porn performers as godless heathens undeserving of protection, they’re unlikely to try to safeguard the profession with anti-trust or fair payout regulation. The SESTA-FOSTA law that went into effect last year intending to stop sex trafficking ended up pushing sites like Tumblr, Facebook, and Patreon towards tougher crack downs on porn, nudity, or even innocent discussions about sex within support communities for LGTBQ people and other underprivileged minorities.

Unfortunately, MindGeek’s massive footprint means it might be willing to bid the highest price for Tumblr. If Verizon does sell Tumblr, it should seek a buyer with an upstanding record for how it treats creators. But Verizon could also modernize Tumblr to emphasize what’s differentiated about it in today’s tech landscape versus when it was founded in 2007. Obviously, it could reopen to porn. But there are also family friendly opportunities.

Tumblr was one of the first big meme-sharing communities, even spawning its own format of screenshots of progressively crazier replies to a short text post. Yet in 2019, the top meme networks like Instagram, Reddit, and Imgur aren’t actually built for distributing massive ‘dumps’ of memes. They don’t understand which you’ve already seen to prevent showing re-runs, or how remixes of an original meme all relate and should be linked. Tumblr could build meme-specific features that give users more curational power than Reddit and Imgur, but more freedom of expression under less pressure than Instagram.

Tumblr could also be repurposed into a “your Internet homepage” platform. Most social networks are so desperate to keep users on their apps that they restrict or deemphasize the ability to promote your other web presences. They also often focus on a narrow set of content types like photos and videos on Instagram. This leaves users who don’t have their own dedicated websites without a central hub where they can freely express their identity and link to profiles elsewhere. This is a huge opportunity for Tumblr, which has already established itself an open-ended self-expression platform open to a variety of content formats.

AOL, which was combined with Yahoo to form the Verizon Media Group, previously owned a web profile platform called About.me, but sold it back to its creator Tony Conrad in 2013. Tumblr could assume much of About.me’s functionality as a directory of someone’s presences on other apps, and add that to its blogging platform. Instead of being locked into Instagram and Pinterest’s grids and standardized designs, Tumblr could let people create a homepage collage representing their prismatic identities.

Tumblr’s already been waning in popularity for years, so Verizon might not have a lot to lose by giving Tumblr a year to execute on this strategy before selling it for surely much less than it bought it for in 2013. Tumblr’s remaining users deserve better than the platform fading into nothing or being sold to the unscrupulous.

If any pornography industry professionals want to weigh in, please contact this article’s author Josh Constine via phone/text or Signal encrypted messenger at (585)750-5674 or joshc ‘at’ techcrunch dot com.

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Walmart Onn Android TV streaming device almost ready for launch

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In its efforts to compete with Amazon, Walmart has started investing in its own mobile and entertainment hardware. Unlike Amazon’s Fire devices, however, Walmart’s Onn brand has stayed directly under Google’s blessed Android ecosystems, which means access to Google Play Store and services. That was true for tablets and now it seems it will be true for Walmart’s first streaming device. That might not be the HDMI stick we’ve seen before but will instead be an Onn Android TV box.

Although we were expecting Walmart to jump on the streaming bandwagon, the first device we saw in that direction was an Android TV stick that passed by the FCC last March. That, however, was not the device that suddenly popped up on Walmart’s own website a few days ago. Instead of a stick, the first Onn streaming device might be a branded Google ADT-3 instead.

Google’s ADT-3 Android TV developer kit is more than a year old, nondescript, and pretty boring visually. That’s exactly what the Walmart Onn Android TV device looks like, save for the Onn name engraved on top. It even has the same positions for the HDMI port and the micro USB power port on the opposite side, the same as the Google ADT-3.

The most interesting part of the package is, in fact, the remote control that is completely different and new. Unlike the ADT-3, it has a lot more buttons to offer, including dedicated ones for Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, and HBO MAX. There is also a button for Google Assistant, of course, but it has been enlarged and relocated to the top.

The listing has been up for days, suggesting that it wasn’t just an error. The page also puts a $30 price tag on the Walmart Onn Android TV UHD Streaming Device and all that’s left is for the retailer to officially launch the product.

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Galaxy S21 FE, Galaxy Z Fold 3, Galaxy Z Flip 3 might launch in August

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It seems that Samsung is really trying to step up its schedule this year, but perhaps not too early as expected. Initial reports claimed that Samsung’s next Unpacked event would take place in July, considerably earlier than it had ever done in the past years. A new report now says that the event will instead be in August again but, more importantly, Samsung will reportedly have three phones to launch, all of which are meant to fill in the gap that the Galaxy Note will leave this year.

Samsung already made it more or less official that there will be no Galaxy Note this year. That decision was partly blamed on the global semiconductor shortage, and probably indirectly because of the Galaxy S21 Ultra that already has S Pen support. Ironically, that shortage won’t change the fact that Samsung will launch three phones in its place instead.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 are already expected, of course, and they might still be launching earlier than they did last year despite this August schedule. The Galaxy Z Flip 5G did launch in August while the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Galaxy F20 FE followed later. That Samsung will just be announcing everything in August and make the devices available in the following months is also a possibility.

Unfortunately, the report from the Yonhap News Agency didn’t come with details about the Galaxy S21 FE or Fan Edition. If it will repeat the same formula from last year’s Galaxy S20 FE, it will simply be a watered-down and more affordable version of the base Galaxy S21 model. The report does estimate a 700,000 KRW price tag, roughly $624 versus that base model’s starting $799.

The Galaxy S21 FE might be overshadowed by the more expensive foldables, though, at least as far as attention is concerned. The Galaxy Z Fold 3, in particular, is expected to have Samsung’s first under-display camera and its first foldable to have S Pen support. The Galaxy Z Flip 3, which skips a generation to match its foldable sibling, is believed to have a bigger cover screen.

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Facebook really wants you to read articles before sharing them

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It’s a common Internet habit: reading an article’s headline and then sharing the work without reading it. There are multiple reasons someone may do this, not the least of which is making assumptions about what the article presents based on its titles. Facebook is taking steps to address this habit, which can be problematic at times, by rolling out a new prompt.

The problem with sharing articles based on nothing more than the title is the risk of spreading misinformation, coming to conclusions that aren’t supported by the article, and lacking key details needed to discuss the matter. Actually reading the article provides context that may give the person sharing it a more informed perspective about the topic.

Facebook has announced that in order to encourage users to read articles before sharing them, it will now show them a prompt if they attempt to share a news article link they haven’t opened. The prompt includes the option to open the article first or to continue with sharing it.

Facebook notes in its prompt, “Sharing articles without reading them may mean missing key facts.” The prompt is described as a test at this time; it’s unclear how widely it is available. As with any test, it is possible it may change in the future or, perhaps, be removed.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of feature appear on a social media platform. Last summer, Twitter introduced a similar prompt that encouraged its readers to read an article before sharing it. The feature first arrived on Android before rolling out in October 2020 on iOS.

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